Economy causes Florida lesbian landmark to welcome male guests

The Miami HeraldNovember 26, 2010 

Guests lounge around the pool at Pearl's Rainbow, soaking up the sunshine and tropical vibes typical of a Southernmost guesthouse. Not a man is in sight -- and that's the way these vacationers like it.

But over this Thanksgiving weekend, Key West's only lesbian-exclusive resort is going "all welcome."

The decision was made public about the same time Pearl's Rainbow was honored in October by Curve, the best-selling lesbian magazine, as the guesthouse that had the greatest impact on lesbian culture over the past 20 years.

Pearl's Rainbow's lesbian owner, Heather Carruthers, said it was a business decision based on tough economic realities, the request of some lesbian guests who would like to bring male family members or friends -- and on some good news. Lesbians are being more accepted and feel more comfortable in the mainstream these days.

``They can hold hands wherever they want to,'' Carruthers said. ``It's really the world we want to have. We don't necessarily want to be segregated.''

But that does not seem to be the case for gay men, even in super-gay-friendly Key West, a city of about 25,000 with a gay police chief, gay president of the Rotary Club, more than 400 members of its gay chamber of commerce and several elected gay officials -- including Carruthers, a Monroe County commissioner.

Key West has at least nine male-only guesthouses, and the general manager and vice president of three of them said there are no plans to convert them to all-welcome.

``Absolutely not,'' said Tinlin, who oversees a secure, clothing-optional complex that includes the Oasis Resort, Coconut Grove Resort and Coral Tree Inn. ``Our business is down because of the economy and BP oil spill, but it's very important for this destination to maintain its all-gay reputation.''

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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