Don’t believe all the negative propaganda about the South. The truth is that the metropolitan areas of Charleston , Beaufort, and Savannah  are tolerant of homosexuality, and gay and lesbian travelers shouldn’t expect anything untoward to happen. Outside the metro areas, locals are less welcoming to gay men and lesbian women, although overt hostility is rare.
The best approach is to simply observe dominant Southern mores for anyone here, gay or straight. In a nutshell, that means keep public displays of affection and politics to a minimum. Southerners in general have a low opinion of anyone who flagrantly espouses a viewpoint too obviously or loudly.
Contrary to many media portrayals of the region, Charleston  is quite open to gays and lesbians, who play a major role in arts, culture, and business. As with any other place in the South, however, it’s generally expected that people—straights as well—will keep personal preferences and politics to themselves in public settings.
A key local advocacy group is the Alliance for Full Acceptance (29 Leinbach Dr., Ste. D-3, 843/883-0343, www.affa-sc.org ).
The Lowcountry Gay and Lesbian Alliance (843/720-8088) holds a potluck the last Sunday of each month.
For the most up-to-date happenings, try the Gay Charleston blog (http:///gaycharleston.ccpblogs.com ), part of the Charleston City Paper.
Visitors often find Savannah  to be surprisingly cosmopolitan and diverse for a Deep South city, and nowhere is this more true than in its sizeable and influential gay and lesbian community. In line with typical Southern protocol, the community is largely apolitical and more concerned with integration than provocation. But they’re still very much aware of their growing impact on the local economy and are major players in art and commerce.
The Savannah Pride Festival  is held every September at various venues in town. Top-flight, dance-oriented musical acts perform, restaurants show off their creativity, and activists staff information booths.
The chief resource for local gay and lesbian information and concerns is the First City Network, features many useful links, though many might find its MySpace page (www.myspace.com/firstcitynetwork ) useful as well. Another great Internet networking resource is Gay Savannah (www.gaysavannah.com ).
For specifically gay-friendly accommodations, try the Under the Rainbow Inn (104–106 W. 38th St., 912/790-1005, http://under-the-rainbow.com , $109–155), a great B&B in the historic Thomas Square district, a former streetcar suburb of Savannah.