I feel this is a post I need to write, before I talk about other travel things here, such as plans of where I'd like to go and where I've been. Before I discuss the beauty of the beaches on my honeymoon, or the great little gems I've found for a cold winter break.
It is a post that means something to me, so with that I immediately feel stifled as to how to write it; my writing quality does not match the feelings of my words. I have that kind of block on writing it for fear it won't properly match my feelings. But I wanna write this point of opinion down all the same.
So instead, I'm just going to write, and not worry if it's not as long and reasoned as I'd like.
I'm gay. And married to a woman. Not civil partnered, but full blown married, using the same wording of union that all the boy-girl counterparts I've watched get married be respectfully allowed to use.
I found my forever girl, the girl I want to spend the rest of my life with, thankfully, at a time when the UK got a grip of itself and granted us that equality. It's like my marriage proposal timed beautifully to allow us to watch the laws pass and think, yes, we can so *ACTUALLY PROPERLY LIKE WE REALLY WANT TO* do this!
Now, I'm not a gay rights or equality campaigner and activist... a lot of heroic people of previous eras and more current ones are thankfully doing that bloody good job for me and all the other gays out there... but the reason I don't stand up and show activism is because day-to-day, or even more than that, maybe 99.9% of my life, being gay, being in a relationship with a woman, does not even occur to me as something I would need to stand up and show activism about. Because I so luckily live an easy, married life, where I feel very few people bat an eyelid about my none hetero status. We own a cafe, we serve customers every working day, together, and it never rears itself as something different... now I know it shouldn't, obviously, but not every gay around the world, or even around this very island country of ours, affords that easy living.
I have a good life, a life that doesn't make me feel any different. I can use the married word and the wife word, and sometimes I'll get a raised eyebrow like I've said the words in the wrong context, but people quickly back track as so gratefully I live in a modern country where there are no overarching archaic mindsets or religious laws governing. I can live, equally, among the masses, holding hands with my wife by my side. And I do feel grateful for my ease to love a woman because so many people in the world can't stand up and simply love who they want to... but similarly I don't feel grateful, because for me, it's a human right, and like any other gay person you'll speak to, it's a simple equality for us to live and love as we want to, so I feel I can take that for granted because it's just love and why should that need any particular law to say I can love another.
I love to travel, to explore new countries, to eat new foods, and to see new places beyond the usual. I won't go on about loving to travel, so many of us do in this interconnected world; just know I am one of those girls who loves nothing more than searching out great value flights, planning out different places to stay, and enjoying spending most of my disposable income on holidays!
But with that in mind, look at the title, why are there certain countries I won't holiday in?
I'm gay, and I love to travel, but I'm not going to holiday in a country where it is illegal to be gay, for a man or a woman. Because, yes, more daft laws, I have typed that right, in some countries it's OK to be gay if you're a girl but not if you're a man.
I'm not asking that the country I'm visiting will recognise my marriage, or allow me to renew my vows. I don't need that much recognition for being gay, I simply ask that the country I'm visiting sees being gay as remotely normal, and therefore legal.
Now, I know that legalities and cultural local feeling on ground level are very different. You can visit the most out and proud place in the world and still get looked at as different by the local community, or visit a country where other same sex couples are getting hitched and still provoke a heckle. That's at individual levels though!
Conversely, I'm sure there are wonderful resorts on the islands in the Maldives or in Barbados that would happily take my tourist cash and smile all the same when I sat at dinner holding hands with my wife... but there, should a witch hunt begin, we would be seen as acting illegally, just because we were in love and together. And that is just something I can't have in the back of my mind. I do also have some reservations of spending said tourist cash in countries where they could look the other way for tourists visiting, yet, the local population is unable to live an equal, and legal, out-the-closet life.
Now previously, I have traveled to some majorly anti-gay countries. Uganda, Kenya, Ghana. However, that wasn't with a partner, they were trips with friends or solo. Also, I was in a different kind of relationship back then that didn't really illicit much forever thinking (an ex obviously).
And I was younger and more naive too at the root of it. I remember taking a photo of a sign in a Kenyan guesthouse that read something like "no alcohol, no prostitutes and no homosexuality". I think back then I thought it was a bit of a joke, and I shamefully didn't realise how badly persecuted the local secret gay population was or that my gay living would be so illegal just from existing... thankfully I'm a lot better educated on the state of world wide gay rights now.
I obviously wish for all countries, globally, to take the equal step forwards, and allow their own citizens to live exactly as they wish in their own sexual preferences, with no legal questions or safety concerns. Because who doesn’t want a united, equal, modern world to live in for all humankind! But I am not so simple as to believe this will happen in my lifetime.
There are certain countries, in the world right now, where being gay won’t just land you in prison, but it will terminate your life with a death sentence. I am an optimist at heart, but these countries in question, well, I don’t think I’ll see these countries change…
But in the absence of such lofty hopes for global sexual equality, I can keep searching out new countries making the changes to laws and legislations I need to see to travel there. I can keep supporting just those countries where I can breezily hold hands without thought. I can keep hoping that India will turn itself back round again, as I so want to visit India, and it was legal to be of the same-sex relationship persuasion, until it took a frigging step backwards and reversed its laws!
My current travels must be to places where I can kiss my wife without worrying that we might be made an example of as tourists going against local laws. Who wants the ever present concern of arrest simply for existing with someone you love?
I’m not going on holiday to change the world through my sexual preferences and to educate the local law makers; I’m on holiday to swat my raging wanderlust for travel, to fall in love with a new place and to spend quality time with my love.
I’m aware many gay folk may disagree with my opinion penned here. I invite your opinions too though without judgement. You may believe we should be even more present in the countries that oppose our equality and support our fellow oppressed LGBT communities; or not live a life dictated by some small minded thinking. We should be proud, out and wherever… but when on holiday, this is not what I want. And I certainly don’t want to support those countries tourism industries when they can’t support me just being me.
For now, that means, before I get hell bent on travelling somewhere, I will have a quick scope of the gay rights in said country I’ve just found great flights to on Skyscanner. Because, I love being with someone who wants to hold my hand, and I’m not about to give that joy up because the local laws say so!