I was recently interviewed about LGBT life in Key West, and the interviewer asked what makes Key West an LGBT-friendly destination.

I explained that we embrace the “One Human Family” philosophy that all people are created equal — a unifying mindset that promotes equality, inclusiveness and acceptance for all — and that residents’ kindness and respectful nature help foster a strong sense of community and security.

Key West visitor

Keys Voices is proud to introduce guest blogger Mandy Murray, who shares her insights into Key West’s acceptance of transgender visitors.

 Although the LGBT community has made great strides in gaining acceptance around the world, we still have a long road ahead. With that said, LGBT travelers know they can let their guard down, relax and feel free to be themselves in the Florida Keys.

Shortly after the interview, a transgender visitor from the U.K. asked if she could be a guest blogger, writing about what makes Key West a friendly destination in her eyes. I’m delighted to share her insights here.


Key West just might be the end of the rainbow.

My name is Mandy Murray and I know for sure that Key West is the most LGBT-friendly place on the planet. But I can tell you why it’s also the perfect place for transgender people to visit (and live if you’re lucky enough).

When in my home of England, one tends to go to TG clubs or events (safety in numbers) rather than venturing out in the “real world.” However, I prefer to go to regular places rather than hide away in safe clubs. In Key West there are no special tranny clubs.

The closest thing they have are the two drag bars on Duval Street, Aqua and 801, but these are more focused on drag queen shows for visitors (gay and straight).

This is the beauty of Key West: it is such a friendly and accepting place that it doesn’t need a safe club for T girls. So when out and about in Key West, you really are in the “real world.”

When I visit, I live full time as Mandy — which is something I can’t do in the U.K. Key West is the only place that I have ever been where I can do this and feel totally relaxed and safe.

Key West

Mandy enjoys a smile with a Key West friend.

So where to go on a night out, then? Well, Duval Street is the internationally acclaimed hub of entertainment with all sorts of bars, restaurants and music venues.

The south end of Duval (the ocean side) is the nicest part, in my opinion, and has some wonderful restaurants and bars — including my absolute favourite, La Te Da.

The north end of Duval, the busiest and noisiest part, is where you’ll find famous bars such as Sloppy Joe’s and The Bull, a place where great artists perform like my friends The Fabulous Spectrelles. It’s also where people gather to watch the sunset on the harbor. I have been to all of these places as my T girl self on many occasions without any problems.

Having visited Key West for so long, I have many great friends there — most of whom only know me as Mandy. I’ve made many of these friends at La Te Da, where I spend the majority of my nights.

And whenever I’m in La Te Da or one of the other places in town, I always meet new people. Why? It seems there’s always someone there on vacation who wants to chat to a T girl. For some reason people tend to be fascinated by us and, since being on vacation in Key West requires an open mind, most people aren’t offended by us. In fact, I have never come across anyone who was.

This leads to lots of conversations with new people (and, incidentally, lots of free drinks). Two great friends I made this way, who live in West Palm Beach, come to see me in Key West whenever I’m there.

Key West party

Mandy (right) and girlfriends chat over wine at a “little black dress” soiree.

One night I was in La Te Da listening to the best entertainer in Key West, Dave Bootle. I was spending most of my time on the dance floor (my favorite hobby) when I took a break to go to the ladies’ room. Yes that’s right — ladies’ room.

When I came back to the bar one of my friends, a local named Carter, handed me a cocktail. Thanking him, I looked around and realised that the 30 or so people in the room were all holding cocktails and standing up.

Carter and Dave Bootle then offered a toast “to Mandy,” which everyone in the room echoed. How’s that for being accepted? I was completely knocked out.

I hope this has persuaded any TG people out there to come to Key West and enjoy being yourself in the “real world.”

But is Key West the “real world”? Or is it the end of the rainbow?

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