Travel + Leisure’s Openly Gay Editor Proudly Defends Ad That Some Attacked as ‘Unnatural’

Tolerance goes 'hand in hand with a love of travel'

The American Family Association calls it "unnatural and offensive," but a Hilton ad featuring a gay couple in Travel + Leisure is a point of tremendous pride for the magazine's editor.

Responding to an AFA petition that had nearly 50,000 signatures by Friday evening, editor Nathan Lump wrote a lengthy and personal note about his own experiences as an openly gay, married man. 

At issue is an ad in which Hilton showed two men in bed together, sharing a pair of earbuds and holding each other. The ad ran in the June edition of Time Inc.'s Travel + Leisure. 

The petition states: "I am offended by your ad in the June issue of Travel and Leisure magazine, featuring two men in bed together. If Hilton is going to advertise in mainstream media, at the very least, it should promote with images that reflect a family friendly atmosphere."

Lump said he received an angry voicemail about the ad earlier this week and guessed that the person leaving the message had no idea Lump is gay. "I could tell, based on what he said and how he said it," Lump wrote, "that he didn't know he was leaving a voicemail for one of those people that 'disgust' him so much."

Editor of Travel + Leisure since 2014 and named just this month as Time Inc.'s editorial director for lifestyle brands (including his own magazine, along with Food & Wine, Real Simple, Southern Living and more), Lump says he came out at as gay at age 19 and has been open about it ever since. Several times, he has mentioned his travels with his husband in the magazine.

"I write about Charles and the places we've gone together fairly often in my Editor's Note in the magazine, and I have been quietly pleased that there's been no hate mail or threats of canceled subscriptions," Lump wrote. "To me, that's a reflection of how open and accepting the Travel + Leisure audience is—qualities that I think go hand in hand with a love of travel."

Brushing off the conservative AFA's complaint that children shouldn't be exposed to an image of men sharing an intimate moment in a consumer magazine, Lump focused much of his response on why he believes tolerance and travel are so frequently aligned.

"I have written many times that travel works against bigotry and hatred," Lump wrote. "I believe few things more strongly. Everyone has a right to his or her opinion, and to express it in legal and respectful ways, but I absolutely, utterly reject bigotry of any kind, and I think most serious travelers do too. Bigotry works better for people who stay at home."

Hilton has also stood behind the ad, telling the AFA: "Hilton Worldwide is a global company of diverse cultures serving diverse guests. … We are proud to depict and reflect our guest diversity in our advertising."

Lump said Hilton deserves high praise for its willingness to openly portray homosexuality in its consumer advertising, at a time when many brands still limit such imagery to niche publications aimed at gay audiences.

"Despite all the progress we have made in recent years, it's still relatively rare to see depictions of gay life like what we see in that Hilton ad, including in 'mainstream' magazines like ours," Lump wrote. "Few companies have the vision or the courage to do it. I was proud to run that ad in Travel + Leisure. I applaud our partners at Hilton for creating it, and I thank them for placing it with us."

The full ad is below: