One of the things we’ve been forced to think about during our travels is our experience traveling as a gay couple. Though we’re married and super comfortable with who we are and who we are to each other, it’s been interesting and at times really challenging for us. We decided to share our experience about what it’s like for us in the hopes that maybe it will offer some kind of support for other LGBTQ travelers. We thought that maybe it will also open the eyes for others who don’t have a front row seat on what it’s like to be gay.
For starters, we don’t only travel to places that make it a point to be friendly to gay people. Though we LOVE those places because, well, who wouldn’t want to feel accepted and welcome, we also want to be able to go wherever we want. That means often traveling to places that sometimes don’t feel quite so open. Here’s our thoughts on what it’s like traveling as a gay couple.
There are many places around the world where it isn’t safe to be gay. Luckily in the US, we’ve rarely felt true fear or danger. There have been, however, numerous times when we’ve felt disapproval or disgust thrown our way. We hold hands everywhere we go and are so easy in our skin that it often surprises me when someone reacts negatively towards us. We’ll be minding our own business when suddenly there it is: an unwelcome stare, a look of disgust, a raised eyebrow (“You only want one bed?”) followed by a long pause. Twice we’ve had a carful of people shout things at us as we’re walking on the sidewalk. These things are meant to make us feel bad and unfortunately they often do. Sometimes we just want to be left alone without other people’s judgements impacting us!
Making Choices To Stay Safe
Depending on the situation – place, time of day, perception of real danger and threat, etc., we often have to navigate whether we should try to appear as just friends or just be ourselves. In the end, if changing our behavior (not kissing, not holding hands, walking a little further apart) is something we can do in order to make sure we’re going to be safe, we do it. Even if we die a little inside.
A lot of this has been really eye-opening to me because for most of my life I’ve dated men. Though I have friends in the LGBTQ community I’d never really been a part of it myself. To experience small-mindedness and hate because of who I choose to love has been a real lesson for me. We both try to make a conscious effort to remain open and not lose heart or hope towards people. At the same time, we sometimes are forced to act in a way that keeps us safe.
Tips for Gay Travelers
Listen to your gut.
Sometimes you can read the situation really easily. Sometimes you can’t. Make it a practice to fine tune your gut and then trust it. The little vice in your head that says, “meh, this place maybe ain’t so cool” is there for a reason. Do what you’ve got to do to stay safe. Sometimes that means downplaying your affection for your significant other. Sometimes it means keeping your true identity to yourself. It’s hard to do and it feels awful, but for us, we always put our safety first.
Choose how and when to have “the conversation.”
You know the one – often it’s masked in religious-speak. Sometimes it comes at you from a moral place, or a place of worry. Regardless of the slant, it’s the cannonball that can ruin a vacation (or at the very least an evening.) You’re an adult and no one needs to make you feel like you have to defend your choices. Especially about who you choose to love. If someone can’t support who you love, figure out what you have to do in order to have the experience you were trying to have. If you’re up for a hard conversation though, go for it. Sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed in order to open someone’s mind. You might not be able to change it, but it’s definitely a worthwhile thing to do if you can expend the energy without negatively impacting yourself.
Do some research before you travel.
Sometimes just knowing what you’re getting into can be helpful. Though we truly believe that travel can and does boost your happiness, if you’re not so sure about a place, ask around, google it and get a sense of it before you go there. That way you’re almost sure to get the most of out of your time and money. If you know you’ll be headed somewhere that’s a bit conservative, see if you can’t find a safe space or two. We’ve found that in almost every city we’ve traveled to, we’ve been able to find at least one place that felt like we could be ourselves. We’ve had the most luck with coffeeshops. For some reason they’re a little more progressive and often the one beacon of light (hope?) in places and we’ve entered them with a sigh of relief.
Look for the signs and symbols.
Do you see Trump posters and Confederate Flags in a bunch of windows and houses? Though we hate to over generalize, experience has taught us that when we see these symbols, we often need to be on guard. On the opposite side of things, when we see rainbows and equality signs we know we’re in a much more welcoming area. Those these aren’t hard and fast rules, it’s helpful to know what to look for. We use these signs and symbols as general indicators and love when we are pleasantly surprised.
How you can be an ally.
Share your acceptance with others.
We really appreciate when we take an assignment or book a place to stay and the person has on their site that they are a safe space for all people. It helps us not only look forward to the experience but also relax. Believe it or not, it gets exhausting constantly worrying about one’s safety. If you’re an AirBNB host, a Hipcamp host or a business owner, consider making it known that your place welcomes everyone.
Speak up when you hear discrimination or hate speech.
It’s awesome when we see and hear people speaking up for the LGBTQ community. It’s really appreciated. One of the single best things you can do is to speak up when you hear someone engaging in hateful speech that’s directed at the gay community or a particular individual.
One of the best things you can do to become an ally is to learn. Read up, watch videos … there’s so much information on the internet today that if you truly want to learn more, it’s there for the taking. For starters, check out the Human Rights Campaign‘s website. They’ve got both articles and videos.
Make informed decisions.
Think about who you’re voting for, which businesses you’re supporting, where you spend your money, etc. All of these things add up to make a difference in the communities with which we live and travel in.
Traveling as a Gay Couple Recap
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with us! This wasn’t an easy piece to write but it felt important to us. The things we mentioned above impact us daily.
If you’re gay, we hope that some of what we’ve shared will help you in your next adventure. We’d love to hear from you about some of your tips for staying safe. We’re also interested in hearing about your experiences traveling as a gay person. We’ve been really fortunate to do some writing and photography for dapperQ and are super excited about our upcoming assignments for them in the Florida Keys and St. Augustine. If you haven’t heard of them, give them a look. They are the most widely read style and empowerment website specifically for masculine presenting women and trans-identified individuals.
If you’re an ally, we hope some of this information has been helpful to you. We hope that you’ll continue to support the LGBTQ community. Also, thank you.
For those of you who may be reading this that don’t fall into either category, we hope that you will continue to open your mind, learn about LGBTQ people, take a hard look at your beliefs and do the work to become more accepting of the whole person. Though we may be taught certain things as children, as adults, it’s up to us to challenge that which no longer serves us and make up our own minds as to whether or not our behavior and beliefs are discriminatory and damaging. We only get one shot at this life and believe that though change can be excruciatingly hard, it can happen.
Inside each of us is a battle between two wolves: love and fear. The wolf you feed is the one that wins.
Please leave your questions and comments below, we’d love to hear from you.