I’m writing this post because I’m curious how other gay travelers handle this. If you’re straight and have no interest in this post, I totally get it, no hard feelings — you can click out of this post now.
I wanted to talk about a situation I’ve found myself in constantly for years, and which has only become more common since being married (I guess since I now wear a ring, and that makes it obvious I’m married).
First a bit of background.
Coming out is a never-ending process
When you’re gay, you generally find yourself in situations where you have to “come out” daily. Typically several times per day. If you live in a big, accepting city, it’s probably not a big deal at all.
Most people are pretty accepting, and if they aren’t, that’s their loss. But obviously the level of acceptance isn’t as high everywhere in the world.
I think it’s important to come out
Before I get to the point of this post (this leads into it), let me also acknowledge that I think it’s valuable to come out to as many people as you safely can. No, I’m not saying you should wear an “I’m gay” shirt, and I’m not saying you have to introduce yourself by your first name and whether you’re gay or straight, though you can do both of those things if you’d like.
The point is a bit more nuanced than that, and it’s something I got at in a recent post. I tend to think that over time familiarity eventually leads to acceptance. We fear the things we don’t know, and sadly for many people that includes things like religion, skin color, and orientation. The more we meet people who are different than us and realize we’re all more or less the same deep down, the better.
Where it gets tricky…
This brings me to the point of this post. I’m an introvert, and generally I’m not into starting small talk with strangers. I’ll always try to be cordial, but I have little interest in having superficial conversation with strangers who I’ll never see again (though if you’re a reader and see me, please come say hi, that’s different). 😉
Those of us who travel a lot probably find ourselves having these types of conversations more often than most. We’re constantly talking to strangers, whether it’s someone working at a hotel, a tour guide, a taxi driver, someone out on the street, etc. The list goes on and on.
Generally when I’m asked a question by a stranger, my inclination is to just agree with whatever perception they have. I try to choose the answer that will get the least response or resistance.
So when Ford and I are traveling outside the US, Australia, most parts of Europe, etc., and someone says “are you friends?” we usually respond “yes.” That’s not because I’m ashamed of being gay or because I’m not comfortable sharing it, but it’s no different than how I approach many other things.
It’s the same as how when I’m asked by someone at a hotel what I’m in town for I say “meetings,” rather than saying “so that I could fly from Washington to Abu Dhabi to Ahmedabad to Singapore to Newark thanks to cheap business class fares.” 😉
This used to be a situation I found myself in once in a while, while I notice it has become even more common since I’m married, I guess due to wearing a ring. I never look at other peoples’ rings, and I didn’t realize this is a thing people pay attention to.
I’ve been on a four day solo trip around the world, and so far I’ve been asked 11 times about my “wife” in small talk.
Just to give a few examples:
- A taxi driver in Ahmedabad asked where I’m from, how long I am in town, and if I have a wife and kids. Do I say “no,” do I say “I actually have a husband,” or what?
- I’ve gotten two massages (one in India and one in Singapore) in the past few days (massages feel so good between nonstop flying), and in both cases the therapists were a bit talkative, and when they massaged my hand they asked about my “wife,” since I’m wearing a ring. More on that below.
- There are of course lots of other considerations. Are you in a country where there are laws against gays? Does what you say depend on whether you’re talking to a local or foreigner?
- Ford and I went through immigration in the US, where families can go together, but when we walked up together the immigration officer yelled at us, and said “one at a time.,” since he assumed we weren’t married.
I also think there are different reasons people ask and say what they do, and I don’t want people to feel bad:
- Being in a heterosexual relationship is the norm, so there are people who might assume you have a wife, but wouldn’t think any differently of you no matter what you were.
- On the other end of the spectrum, you have people who may have serious issues with it. That’s totally fine, but ideally it’s something I’d rather they don’t discover mid-taxi ride, mid-massage, etc.
Speaking of the two massages, I handled them in different ways:
- In one case when asked about a wife I just agreed with her and said yes. I was hoping to just enjoy the massage and minimize conversation. Well, that opened me up to a bunch of other questions, like “do you have kids?” and “why not? After this massage you’ll be nice and relaxed and can make babies soon.” LOL.
- In the other case I said “no, I have a husband.” She was confused. “You are husband, you have wife?” “No, I have a husband.” That was the end of that conversation.
Like I said, I’m writing about because it’s a situation I face all the time, and I’m facing it even more lately since being married. My current approach is to play it by ear depending on the situation.
So I’m curious what you guys make of this. To those who are gay, under what circumstances do you and don’t you come out? And straight people, am I overthinking all of this?