As it’s LGBT+ History Month, I thought it may be interesing to explore what it’s like to travel as a queer person with your samesex partner. I travelled with my girlfriend and my family last December, and it was quite an interesting experience filled with slightly awkward moments but also really fulfilling ones. However, we were lucky as I had understanding parents, and we were travelling in the UK, which is relatively more tolerant of same-sex couples than other countries.
If you’re travelling in a country that is slightly hostile to the LGBT+ community, you and your partner will need to be careful. While it would be nice if we could all be ourselves and assume that society will accept us as we are, reality is much harsher.
If you’re getting angry stares from strangers, then you may have no choice but to tone down on public shows of affection. After all, you’re just a visitor, and it’s not worth fighting public discrimination if you’re only staying for a few days. Besides, if it’s just the two of you, or your family lets you have a room to yourselves like mine did, then you’ll have plenty of time to get romantic when you’re back in the room together.
It may also get frustrating when strangers assume that you two are just friends. Hotel receptionists will ask if you want separate beds, and tour guides may ask how you two became friends. Sometimes, if you sense that the other person is openminded and relatively polite, you may want to gently correct them.
Otherwise, it may be best to leave it. The good thing about facing discrimination when you’re on vacation is knowing that you won’t have to deal with that foreign society’s attitudes in the long run. While that may not help the fact that discrimination stings, it may make you feel better about picking your battles.
If you do feel like you need a bit of a rest from the uncertainty of interacting with locals who may or may not be accepting of your relationship, then there may be LGBT+ safe spaces that you could visit. For example, even in Singapore, a country with traditionally conservative views on the LGBT+ community, there are gay bars and clubs that one could head to, such as Tantric Bar. It might also be interesting for you and your partner to interact with the LGBT+ community in a foreign country.
On the flip side though, travelling with your same-sex partner can obviously be just as enjoyable as travelling with a partner of the opposite sex. For me, travelling with my girlfriend was great. If a woman was holding hands with a man, people would automatically assume that they were in a relationship. For us, however, people’s innate assumption was that we were just best friends. In that sense, it felt like our little secret.
I was seeing the world with my girlfriend, somehow unafraid of what people might think of us, while simultaneously being amused at the fact that some people assumed that we were friends. Travelling with her in the UK was also strangely empowering. We all see heterosexual couples taking romantic trips together all the time, both in the media and in real life, but getting to travel with my girlfriend made me feel like my same-sex relationship was just as valid as a heterosexual one.