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My husband and I are forced to pass as buddies when we travel, but our gay identity impacts every moment of our trips.

Timothy Moore   

My husband and I are forced to pass as buddies when we travel, but our gay identity impacts every moment of our trips.

Calypso music followed us down a winding resort path, emanating from speakers strategically hidden in the tropical landscaping. Our rum runners — mostly rum — were ice cold, a much-needed welcome drink as we adjusted to the humidity of Jamaica.

While we waited for our room to be ready, my husband Trent and I grabbed lounge chairs on the beach where we could watch the rough waters crash against the breakwall encircling the hotel's private bay.

The scene before us was romantic: crystal-clear waters, a sunny sky, and a horizon that stretched for miles. I wanted to drag my chair closer to Trent's and interlock our fingers or offer up my chest as a pillow for him, like the couple a few chairs down.

But when we travel to new places, far from the safe spaces we know back home, we're cautious about how we interact. An arm around a shoulder or a peck on the cheek can often invite unwanted attention and aggressive behavior from others.

Worse, we were in Jamaica, which has been called "the most homophobic place on earth" because of its ongoing criminalization of homosexuality and harsh resistance to repealing its anti-sodomy laws.

Here, we had to be extra careful.

Ordinarily, we wouldn't have traveled to Jamaica at all because of its history of discrimination, but two of our closest (straight) friends had invited us to be a part of their intimate destination wedding.

The greatest dangers lay in the airport and taxi ride to and from the resort, though we'd read on travel message boards that LGBTQ+ couples still need to exercise caution at all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica, where staff members could discriminate against us.

Throughout the long weekend, it was challenging watching our mostly heterosexual friend group enjoy the romance of this island. They'd cozy up in the hot tub, feed each other ice cream, or lounge together in a hammock. Trent and I knew the drill, though: We were here as buddies for our safety.

This is the cost of traveling while gay.

Our gay identity impacts all our travel decisions

Trent and I have long beards and regularly wear baseball caps and cargo shorts. We like sports, craft beer, and being outdoors. To the untrained eye, we're as hetero as they come.

When we travel outside familiar places, we lean into our perceived straightness as a safety measure. When we haven't, we've had drinks thrown at us and even received verbal threats because of who we are. If we can pass as straight while in unfamiliar locations to avoid that, we will.

During trips to romantic destinations, we always look both ways before stealing a kiss. When we arrive at an accommodation with only one bed, we often get strange looks from the person checking us in, which seems to communicate, "Y'all are going to share that?"

How we interact with each other (or don't) and even the places we decide to travel to are all decided by our sexual orientation. After all, engaging in homosexual activity is illegal in more than 50 countries — and punishable by death in at least nine.

On an upcoming trip to Spain, I'd love to dip into Morocco for a night, but homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment there. As a roller-coaster junkie, I dream of visiting Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates, but gay people there risk being fined, imprisoned, or killed in that country.

Homosexuality isn't illegal in Egypt, but the country is famous for its discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. When we visit, we will most certainly pose as buddies once again.

And although homosexuality is legal in 67% of countries around the globe, LGBTQ+ people still don't receive equal protection under the law. According to Equaldex, a collaborative knowledge base that offers LGBTQ+ resources, there are no protections against LGBTQ+ discrimination in 41% of the world's countries, and another 31% (including the United States) only offer some protections.

Even today, the US is a concerning destination for LGBTQ+ travelers.

"Not all states have equal protection laws, especially for transgender and gender-diverse individuals," John Tanzella, president and CEO of the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association, told Business Insider. "Recent legislative changes in some states, such as restrictions on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs and limitations on restroom access based on sex assigned at birth, highlight the importance of staying informed about evolving legal protections."

Since each state sets its own laws, members of the community often need to take a piecemeal approach to their domestic travels, prioritizing more progressive states.

Florida, for instance, has become an especially unsafe place for those identifying as transgender or nonbinary. Gov. Ron DeSantis introduced a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ measures, including the "Don't Say Gay" bill and a ban on gender-affirming care.

I'm fortunate to pass as "straight" when I travel to Florida for work, but others in my community without that luxury stay away from the state out of fear for their well-being.

Travel is for everyone, but only when you've considered your safety

Many gay and lesbian friends suggest Trent and I just set our sites on places known for welcoming the LGTBQ+ community — Key West, Berlin, or Puerto Vallarta.

But we don't want our ability to see the world to be limited by our sexual orientation. That does mean there are more safety tips we and other members of the LGBTQ+ community may want to follow.

For starters, Dan Leveille, founder of Equaldex, said travelers should first research the laws in the destination they're visiting. He also suggests looking into the general local attitude toward LGBTQ+ people and issues, which can paint a fuller picture of a destination.

"If you choose to visit a country that is risky, it's always best to be overly cautious," Leveille added.

"Try to avoid dressing, acting, or presenting in a way that could lead others to believe you are LGBTQ+," he said. "It's terrible that the advice is 'don't be yourself,' but this is the unfortunate reality of the world we live in."

He also suggested turning off LGBTQ+ dating apps that use geolocation, which can be used to target travelers, and booking rooms with separate beds when traveling with a partner.

Tanzella also suggested travelers look for destinations with established LGBTQ+ communities or work with local tour operators or travel advisors with experience planning trips for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

I'm hopeful for the future of travel with my husband — not a buddy — by my side

When traveling while gay — or bi, trans, or nonbinary — you often have to think twice about where you're going, how you may be perceived, and what you'll do if confronted by someone who carries anger with them as a weapon.

But it's not all gloom and doom. The community has made so much progress in the 15 years I've lived out of the closet. Airbnb hosts can indicate they're LGBTQ-friendly in their listings, and there are companies and entire cruise lines dedicated to gay travel.

Around the globe, rainbow flags are used to identify safe spaces in unfamiliar areas. More progressive cities have entire "gayborhoods" where Trent and I feel safe enough to hold hands.

There are also resources online to inspire gay-friendly travel. Perhaps the most comprehensive is the IGLTA, which has been helping members of the community travel safely since 1983.

According to Tanzella, the association has more than 13,000 LGBTQ+ travel professionals across 80 countries committed to planning fun and safe trips.

"The future of LGBTQ+ travel is bright," Tanzella said, though he cautioned significant hurdles still remain. "Growing acceptance, legal protections, and an evolving travel industry are paving the way for more inclusive experiences, opening hearts and minds along the way. Technology and social media platforms are empowering LGBTQ+ travelers to connect, share experiences, and discover safe and welcoming destinations."

Equaldex also paints a hopeful picture. In 1973, homosexuality was legal in just 61 states. By 2024, that number had more than doubled to 130. Protections against discrimination are also on the rise. In 1973, just seven countries offered full protection for LGBTQ+ people. Today, more than 50 countries do.

"It's really hopeful to see year-over-year progress," Leveille told me. "Across the majority of the world, public opinion data consistently shows that acceptance and support for LGBTQ+ rights are rising. While there's still so much work to do, most of the world is heading in the right direction."

As I reflect on how far we've come and how far we've yet to go, I'm drawn to the memory of the late morning on the beach in Jamaica, when my husband and I were inches from each other but unwilling to scoot closer for our own safety.

It wasn't long before our room was ready, and we were able to soak in the same views from the privacy of our terrace. Here, we embraced, finally sharing our collective joy over the absolute romanticism of this beautiful island.

Without the eyes of the resort on us, I put my arm around Trent, and he rested his head on my shoulder while we swayed together in the warm island breeze.

I hope someday to do that anywhere, without a second thought.




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