When planning a trip when young and naïve, I would ask myself just two questions: 1) can I afford it? and 2) is it going to be fun? For many years, those were really the only things I considered. But as I have aged, come out as a gay man, and have seen the world become a more and more complex place, I have started to ask myself this question before each trip: Is where I am going gay-friendly?
For those of you who are not gay, people really do notice when two men eat dinner together at a nice restaurant. They really do notice when only one of us pays the check, and it doesn’t go unnoticed when we check into a room with only one king-sized bed.
In fact, just a few weeks ago in Orlando, FL, my future husband and I checked into an airport hotel for just one night—booked a room with a king-sized bed—and was told by the clerk that the hotel was overbooked and we had to be bumped to a room with two beds. When we walked to our new room, we noticed the hotel was almost completely empty. We ended up snuggling up in one of the twin beds.
I never thought I would need to ask myself this question—is it gay-friendly?—when traveling. But now I do. Sure, being eyed suspiciously at meals and lied to about rooms is no big deal, but there are far too many gay couples, trans people, and people who identify as LGBTQ who have been assaulted, discriminated against, or even killed if they were in particular locations where being who they are is looked down on or is even against the law. We know we have to be careful.
Right now we are planning our wedding and honeymoon and my future husband is constantly pitching ideas of locations and all I respond with is, like a robot, is it gay-friendly? It’s deal breaker for us.
But when I think about it, it’s really kind of a strange question to ask. It’s not like we are going to assault people with our gay-ness (whatever that means). I am not sure what people are expecting: everything we touch turns gay? Glitter and sequins comes out when we sneeze? Our gay lisp will cause children’s ears to bleed and yappy dogs to howl?
It all seems so ridiculous to us. But we take it seriously because we know our safety and lives depend on being careful. So there are definitely places where we will never travel; parts of the world that will forever remain closed off because our fabulousness apparently threatens some people’s very existence.
And so what of this question—is it gay-friendly? It seems silly to ask, but in fact asking the question has caused me to grow in understanding and compassion for others. Travel is unsafe for many people. There are many who are restricted and discriminated against when it comes to travel. I of course will never be able to experience that discrimination like they do, but I at least understand what it’s like to be afraid.
I hope for generations of LGBTQ and trans people in the future, they will never have to ask this question or even consider whether or not they will be safe. I hope the only question they will even have to consider is: Will it be fun?
Artwork by Alex Nuñez, “I’m sleeping with my windows open. I wish you would appear. Remind me why I screen my calls and how I wish you lived near: an exercise in opulence,” 2016, 200 bananas, acrylic, mirrors, flowers, glitter, pom poms, sequins.