When deciding on our next travel destination, the first question that pops in our minds is – where can we travel to that is safe for us as queer women? Neesha and I have been lucky in that we have never felt unsafe or targeted during our travels; in fact, we have been welcomed with open arms. Regardless, we are aware that traveling as a queer couple brings us additional concerns: Do we look like a couple? Can we show public displays of affection? Will we be denied service? We set our expectations and take some steps to alleviate our anxiety because we know that sometimes, our fear is not warranted. Below are some expectations and steps we take before we travel!
1. Do research on our destination.
Prior to even buying our tickets, we research where we want to travel to. We know that 72 countries criminalize same-sex relationships, but that doesn’t always mean the people living in those countries, are all bigots. We read through LGBT travel blogs and articles to give us an insight into traveling as a queer couple in certain locations. We refer to Dopes on the Road frequently!
2. Don’t display any forms of PDA until we felt comfortable.
Our first international trip together was to Belize. We were a bit nervous at first because we never traveled outside of the country together and we weren’t sure what to expect. We didn’t show any forms of affection on our first day together but began to ease up by Day 2. We held each other while we were in the water and exchanged kisses. While we were comfortable with some forms of PDA, we tend to hold off on holding hands when we’re walking together in public.
It’s important to do what you two are comfortable with. Neesha and I typically don’t show too much affection regardless where we are, so the lack of affection when we travel doesn’t really bother us. Listen to your gut and do what makes you feel safe.
This can depend on your destination. While we were hesitant in Belize, we felt super comfortable in Montreal from the moment we landed. At the same time though, we probably wouldn’t feel comfortable with PDA if we were in a conservative area of the United States.
3. Set an expectation that people might stare because of my gender presentation.
I know that it is inevitable that people to stare at me as a gender non-conforming woman. This is true when traveling to other countries, especially to countries that are not as progressive about sexuality and gender roles. Though, this doesn’t mean I don’t get stares when in “progressive” areas. In Cuba, I saw men stare in disgust at my presentation and then stare at my chest, trying to figure out what I was. But I’ve also been stared at when I traveled to Maine and even in New York City.
All of these experiences sucked but I am also conscious that this is my reality so long as I don’t fit the gender binary. I brush off comments and move on.
What other tips and techniques do other queer couples use while traveling?