The Never-Ending Process Of Coming Out While Traveling

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?

Comments

  1. On this topic, are there countries where you will get two double beds instead of one? Am I overthinking this issue especially since I stay mostly in US hotel chains (Starwood/Hyatt).

  2. If, as you write, “The more we meet people who are different than us and realize we’re all more or less the same deep down, the better,” then if you as an individual and through the leadership role you (like it or not) have taken upon yourself through this blog, then if you see yourself as part of our larger interconnected world wide human community then it would seem that it would be fulfilling in acting in ways to enhance the common good, you would take every possible opportunity given to you to share your truth with others. (And support political leaders who would have your back, rather than sowing division and animosity).

  3. My wife and I experience this all the time! Especially as two women, who are often presumed to be straight, we err on the side of caution when outing ourselves when traveling. Most of the time, you can make a pretty good judgement about when it is safe and when it isn’t. (Definitely no in cars and in massages, but more likely yes in a hotel or restaurant, especially when it’s the “one-bed-or-two” question at check in…) that said, sometimes it can be great to open up! On a recent trip to Vietnam, a millennial woman tour guide hinted to the fact that she knew we were married, and we kinda skirted around it. Now, I regret not opening up that conversation. She was young, talkative, and likely open-minded, and we didn’t give her the opportunity to have that conversation about it. I’ll be keeping that in mind when I decide how and when to come out in the future.

    Congrats on your recent wedding! Hope to see more content about traveling while gay-married in the future!

  4. I would say a little lie to strangers to avoid small talk is welcome to anyone trying to avoid the worthless conversation. Could be about going to the store, your job, or slip into personal details about home or your orientation.

    People are bored, you are exciting. You travel around the world. They know this because you just jumped into their cab, or their message table/chair in a 5* Resort. They are romancing themselves with the story you tell them.

    I would encourage you to be kind, which I know you always are from your writings over the years.

    From their point of view, your answer doesn’t really matter, it’s better than theirs. They just want to hear from you.

    I often have found in the beginning of both a message and the taxi ride (and many other long conversation periods) to excuse my self from conversation soon after the cordials/directions are done. “I’ve had a really long day and I have a lot to think about, please let me know when” …. we are at our destination, or …. about done with the session.

    Much better than slapping on a set of earpods, but that works great in some situations.

    You can’t always do these in advance, and if you do it too late then it can be taken as rude. Must be preemptively spoken to land the polite win/win.

    There are lots of people in the world. Most of them, especially in the service industries want to fantasize about the life you lead.

    Bottom line here is, any answer you give is correct. Play it by ear, stay out of danger, and …. Open up to some people, 1 in a 100 turns out to be an interesting conversation you never woke up thinking you would have!

    Travel well! (Typed in phone sry for typos)

  5. I’m with you usually and go along with people’s assumptions – I’m not married so don’t have a ring and the question I get is whether I have a girlfriend. I find taxi drivers are the worst for asking this, which usually leads to questions about why I don’t, good bars they know of to meet women etc..!

    I figure it’s none of their business so don’t feel obliged to tell them anything. I am also generally afraid of awkwardness which is probably the main reason.

  6. I completely agree with you that representation leads to understanding and acceptance. People fear the unknown, but meeting someone that is open about their sexuality can lead to understanding. Especially, in places where homosexuality is considered taboo. Acceptance has to start from somewhere. Personally, I am always open with my sexuality, but like you said I am not screaming from the roof top about it. I always answer honestly, that I am a gay man. Although to be fair, I have never been asked when I am in a situation where my safety was at risk.

  7. My wife is trans so we tread very lightly. And if I’m traveling alone and I mention my wife I still don’t explain that my wife is transgender unless it comes up. It is a constant source of concern. It impacts where we travel together. Mostly I travel to the Middle East and Africa alone. We travel together to highly developed Asia and Europe. She wouldn’t be comfortable on my other trips. Which sucks. I never speak of my husband. Which she thinks is funny because she says “but I was your husband for fifteen years.” Yeah I’m still not willing to be that disrespectful. Just no. But yes it is complex and difficult.

  8. I don’t like small talk much either, so in a lot of these situations I would just go with the flow and do as little as possible to prompt further conversation, especially in countries which are not necessarily the most gay-friendly.

    But, if I’m not worried about potential safety, I don’t mind correcting them to say I have a husband (as a man). Maybe it’s terrible, but I kind of a little bit like making someone feel awkward and perhaps think more carefully the next time they make that assumption about someone?

    I especially found it funny/annoying when I was getting married and several vendors — in a big very liberal US city — would ask me about my “future wife”. Which was both surprising given I can’t imagine gay weddings were a small part of their business, and because “fiancee” is perhaps the one relationship stage where the most common word is also already gender-neutral, and somehow they missed their chance.

  9. It doesn’t come up as much as it used to, and I don’t wear a ring. But, I am more open about it than I used to be. Part of that is I used to travel for work, and, at the time, it was taboo and could have gotten me fired.

    Then it became the 90’s and the 00’s and it wasn’t taboo and I was out at work, but I wasn’t comfortable with sharing my private life with strangers.

    Now, I am totally fine with it, and will ‘come out’ in most situations, but I am older and solo, so no one ever asks. LOL. Rings still mean ‘straight married’ to most people in the US and globally.

    On this last solo trip I took, it was in Tokyo, so, my conversations were somewhat limited due to the language barrier. But someone asked where I went out on Saturday night and told them I had a great time in Shinjuku Chome (the gay bar area). That raised an eyebrow, but that was about it.

    I agree with you that visibility is key and familiarity leads to acceptance. It has taken me a while to get there, but I totally agree with you. As an older guy who has been doing this a while, its been a long strange trip from the 80s where you asked the flight attendant who you thought might be gay, or the hotel clerk or a waiter in the hotel where to go or how to find a place in your Damron’s guidebook. It was so much more difficult and secret then.

    And, no one seems to care that much anymore. So, that’s a good thing.

  10. Might it bother you to take the ring off? Wouldn’t it be worth it in order to avoid all the awkward, unsolicited convos? You can have matching something else instead, like belts/shoes/socks. This is what my pal and his hubby does because their job takes them around and sometimes even to the deep south and they don’t want to risk anything that might jeopardise their safety

  11. “And straight people, am I overthinking all of this?”

    I assure you we have no valid basis to form an opinion on this subject. You do what works for you, and I’ll support it.

  12. The most annoying thing is that when I booked a hotel room with King Bed for me and my bf, But when you check in, when they saw you are two guys, about 80% of the hotel staff from various chains will ask if you want a room with two beds. I will always have to tell them no thanks. Maybe they should realize nowadays that there is a reason why people book a particular room?

  13. I’m single and have been forever, so we’ll see what happens when I’m finally not single.

    However, when I go traveling with my straight best friend it’s awkward because I always think people are thinking we’re a couple and am always afraid we’ll have to go through the awkwardness of him having to come out as straight and me come out as gay. Lol.

  14. Try being a gay pilot at a major airline with a ring on. Its just the way it is. Everyone assumes you are not gay. I do not hide or worry about anything. You never lived in the 80’s when many of us were going to a funeral a week. Be out and proud honey! Own it and never look back.

  15. I was in Austin Tx for ACL years ago, we stayed in a small hotel close to downtown and I booked for a king size, we arrived late friday and the front desk guy apologized many times because he didnt have a 2 bed room, I told him: thats ok, we need 1 bed only, he was so confused, I had to explained him we were a couple and he was still confused….

  16. In general I don’t proactively tell that I’m gay to strangers or people I barely know, but when they ask if I like a girl or do have a girlfriend or something I will tell them normally. I don’t want to make my sexual orientation a part of every conversation, because I believe this is something private but I feel I am betraying myself if I don’t answer these questions honestly. I have been in situations before where I did betray myself with a lie about this, and it spoiled my whole day.

    Furthermore, I try to only visit places that are not hostile against LGBT people, because why would I go somewhere where they think I am not worth living and where I have to hide and lie about a part of my being.

    Of course there are grey areas and safety goes above having a good feeling.

    Regarding the taxi driver and those kind of strangers, I try to limit these kind of conversations to a minimum, because I hate these conversations regardless of the subject.

  17. IMO people are curious and make small talk to connect about work, family or the weather. gay/straight doesn’t matter but does cause confusion IME. i have different take on this – i’m a solo female traveler and have dealt with questions 20+ years and depends on culture just how much my “single at x age” doesn’t compute or they feel sorry or will pray for me. when younger was asked “where is your husband or why does your father allow you to travel alone” if i said single then the “why single etc”, then a layer of “how many kids do you have”? “why leave kids at home”? it got to the point I kept a photo of my nieces with me as “my kids” to show and chat about and all was right with the world.
    when i travel with my niece folks assume she is my daughter. we go with it now bc trying to explain was too much.
    i pretty much try to shift conversation to person asking but if pressed don’t get into the real details “single but in a long distance relationship” doesn’t compute. as i get older the questions have lessened but i still keep my nieces as toddlers in my wallet – bc soon i’ll be asked about grandkids!!

  18. I disagree Peter
    The most common Reason why two wo/men book a room with a king bed is probably still by accident. It never hurts for staff to clarify (in a respectful tone)

    Coming out daily is exhausting.
    I do it for all important or semi important or meaning I nteractions, or when I feel that the recipient could benefit from the interaction

    Otherwise, I just don’t have the time or energy

    You don’t want to come out in a crabby way, as you are the representative for all gays and lesbians.

    It is unlikely I’d ever come out in a Uber religious or repressive area or anywhere that does not have a modicum of human rights. (like Middle East, Uganda, Jamaica, etc).

    It isn’t safe based on my own travels, and it makes me nervous when Lucky thinks about it

  19. I’m personally accepting of people though I would still probably ask you about your wife if I saw your ring since that’s what were used to (not that I look at other people’s ring).

    I do agree with you how the more people know about this the more accepting they will be. You were the first openly gay person I knew well (as well as you can know someone from a blog, lol), and because of it I became for accepting as I come from a conservative straight family. Then when I met a gay person for the first time in person I was much more understanding. I personally wouldn’t be gay as that’s my opinion though I have no problem with others.

    Also, I’m sure Ford knew that when he married you he wouldn’t have to worry about you wearing an “I’m gay” shirt 😉

    P.s. You could say you don’t have kids yet because you just got married!

  20. We always ask ourselves the same question. For obvious reasons we got separate beds in Iran, but normally we ask for one bed and confirm at the check in. A couple of weeks ago the attendant at the Polana hotel in Maputo double checked if the king bed was good for us, but acceted the answer with a smile.

  21. SO many thoughts……I’m a hetero woman and I’ve never had to ‘come out’ as straight. It’s so stupid for people to have to announce their sexual preference, if any, at all. I care about your penis as much as you care about my vagina.

    As for the small talk, it’s just that and it’s also super duper annoying. I had a massage and it was going so well and I felt great then at the end she started to get chatty and asked about relationships. I simply said ‘I’m divorced’. She said oh why did you get divorced. Well that shot the massage right the hell didn’t it. UGH.

    I was raised Jewish and have no religion and do not like to discuss Judaism or faith with anyone, much less strangers. I won’t promote it but I won’t accept the assumption I’m a christian b/c of where I live and what I look like. For me it can be as simple as not responding to merry chrismas or happy holidays, I just smile and go my way (no lecture either about why do they think I’m christian nor do I say it back b/c I don’t assume anything about others either).

    I was working at a very small hick town that thought Lutherans and Catholics were a ‘mixed marriage’ and was frowned upon and gossiped about so an atheist Jewish-by-culture chick was not going to fit in. When talking about shoes randomly it came up that I don’t like patent leather. One woman said oh but didn’t your mom have you wear that at Easter. I just said, no she never did. Not a lie! But no explanation needed, it was stupid small talk.

    Overall though, especially with strangers or just stupid chit chat with random people awkward silence is my go to place and as an introvert it doesn’t faze me much anymore, it’s like a cozy sweater. I”m going to be feeling awkward anyway, I may as well have some control over it.

    To get to the point (yep there is one)……if someone is asking you uninvited personal questions for no reason other than being nebby or their inability to sit in silence, then you can be very satisfied not answering them and let that silence sit for as long as it needs to sit.

  22. My boyfriend and I just checked out of the st regis New York and we were given a bottle of veuve during our stay for our 2 year anniversary to “Mr. and Mrs. Thomas.” This was even though we checked in together. I think it was an innocent mistake so it didn’t bother me but I normally take the same action as you.

  23. Hey Lucky, my husband and I have been married for about a year. I agree with you: It can feel like I am continuously coming out when asked about my ring/partner/whatever, which can also feel like continuous moments of advocacy or activism. And that can be pretty tiring.

    My husband and I have traveled quite a bit since beginning to wear our rings (only in the U.S. and U.K., although quite a bit in the American South/Appalachia, for what it’s worth), and I do try to answer any questions with as much truth as possible. It just feels better to me—I don’t want to be part of perpetuating a culture of secrecy if I feel safe enough to avoid it.

    Whenever I feel myself chickening out, I think, “Maybe the person on the other end of this conversation has a gay son and is afraid of what other people will think about it if they find out. If I show this person that I think it’s no big deal to be open about my relationship, then maybe it will alleviate some of their own anxiety and foster a better connection with their son.” High hopes I know (and a little conceited to think this minor step of bravery would cause a deep revelation in some stranger’s mind), but it does provide fuel during those times when I’m sheepish and wish I weren’t.

    Always interested to hear your impressions of LGBTQ travel. Thanks for your transparency, curiosity, and thoughtfulness.

  24. You say you have a husband!!!! End of story!

    The immigration agent was wrong and should be reported

    People have fought for decades for LGBTQ Equality many were injured or killed

    While I understand concerns based upon personality, I am only too happy to everywhere represent gay People

    I am proud to be Iowa’s 1st Openly gay elected official, and I will be a role model anywhere

    The most important thing a person can do to further Equality is to come out whether LGBTQ or a straight alley!

  25. It’s a never-ending process, and I don’t think that will change. But as you point out, it is important to come out, however that is not how I always think of it As many of my projects are months to years long, which often entails trips of 3-4 week away from home, I often end up getting close the people I work with and it is not so much about coming about, but a natural development of getting to know people, when you work 10 hours a day with them, and they know you are away form home.

    When I worked in Hong Kong and had my husband come out to visit me I did have an interesting experience. The hotel staff was very cordial, but the lounge staff was clearly afraid of ‘outing’ us, by referring to us as Mr. and Mr, when we were in the lounge. A nice casual small talk, where I pointed out they should not be concerned removed whatever concern they had, and we were Mr and Mr from that point on. I much appreciated their initial effort to be discrete, as I was living in the hotel for 4 months and knowing the subject can be delicate in Hong Kong, but it was indeed much easier for all of us, after we had tuned in on each other.

    In the middle east it is different for me. When I travel to Dubai, I always travel alone and take my ring off due to safety concerns. Yes, on the surface Dubai is ‘safe’, but I’m not the one to be made an example off when they need a gay person to go after.

    One thing that I think is important to not loose sight of, is that our own concerns about coming out as gay people, can sometimes alter our own views and behavior to work against what we want to achieve. A few years ago I had a 2 year project in South Africa, and was working very closely to a few individuals who are very religious. This made me keep a very low profile, but a long story short, me being gay turned out not to be an issue at all, and still after the project ended we keep in touch.

    What is a paradox to me is that the least safe country to travel in has been the UK and US. In the UK I now avoid hotels in ‘diverse’ area of London – I have had staff from major hotel chains deny me and my husband a King bed, and given us 2 queens, solely based on their religious views. In the US it is a hit or miss – The problem I have when travelling in the US is that freedom of speech combined with freedom of religion seems to be your free ticket to come out against gay people. Whether it’s in the supermarket, CVS, hotels, restaurant or workplace you are entitled to express your dislike of gays, and you almost have an obligation to do it. So yes, I keep a lower profile in the US than in other places of the world – And weirdly enough, that does include my own corporate headquarter. (thankfully I work on-site with clients or from from 98% of my time.)

  26. I think it’s very important to be out while living my life, but there are some situations (especially when your safety is in someone else’s hands…like in a taxi, while zip-lining, etc.) where it’s easier just to say you’re friends. But as a general rule, I avoid frequenting places (countries, restaurants, whatever) where being gay could get me thrown in jail/asked to leave/disrespected.

    My partner and I travel with our parents (my mother, his father) fairly often, so sometimes people assume that our group is an older married couple and their two sons, which leads to some funny situations. We had booked three massages (one couples’ massage, two individual massages) at the same time at a resort, and they put our parents together and my partner and me in the individual rooms, even though we had explained the situation at booking. It ended up making everyone laugh, but I’m glad we were in a tolerant place where we wouldn’t have felt awkward correcting the staff about the error.

  27. Lucky – it’s an interesting question, one that I’d thought about a lot when my husband and I honeymooned in the Caribbean, Peru and exceedingly remote Canada. I guess my own sage advice is really to just trust your gut. Sometimes I’ll have the conversation and loop someone in on my life, sometimes I just want to complete a transaction and get on with my day.

    Interestingly, I had an initial concern when my husband and I had our first child and traveled together we’d loose the option to ‘hide’ our relationship when we wanted to. I lost this fear on our very first layover as a family of 3 in MSP. What I noticed there, in the middle of America is most of the people we crossed in the concourse weren’t looking at us, they were looking at our son. I realized then the experience of parenting a newborn is so universal that it didn’t matter who we were or our sexual preferences are. Suddenly, nearly everyone could relate to us, had kind words and supportive comments. We lost our ability to hide then, but gained a whole lot more.

    Anywwho, congrats to you and Ford, it’s a long strange journey and given what I’ve read, I know you’ll do it in style.

  28. My best friend and I live 4 hours apart so we often book cheap rooms on Hotwire and meet in the middle. We book whatever room is cheapest. We have slept in a queen together which I booked on purpose because it was a steal. It wouldn’t occur to me to be offended when a clerk confirms/offers a different choice of beds. We always happily accept 2 beds when offered.

    I also occasionally request 2 beds when traveling with my husband, usually if we are exhausted and achy from theme parks.

  29. When people ask you about kids, I think you should respond truthfully, to wit, that you are recently married and don’t have kids as yet, but are looking forward to raising a family. You have written in past blog posts that – long term – you want nothing more than to be a family, have children and a home (and a dog). You have written nothing that would lead your readers to think you have had a change of heart and, in fact, we celebrate with you that your marriage to Ford is a first step toward this goal. It is important for people to understand and respect LGBT people raising families, which also leads of course to a greater understanding and acceptance of their children. (And we realize that this will eventually lead to the end of this blog, at least as it now exists).

  30. is it really “coming out?” i don’t view it so monumentally. Traveling abroad we book ahead with a king bed. if the hotel asks at check-in to reconfirm, a OK. in the more common small talk – which is more prevalant during normal at home life than traveling – i see little or no reason to raise up the topic, wearing it on my sleeve. Carry on. lets the people we chat with, talk to, ponder as they wish, ask if they want, conclude or assume as they wish. I don’t mean this to be misleading. rather, the nuances work both ways. of course there can be a presumption that i’m 53, my partner of 28 years is 5 yrs our Jr. (yes a man) we have no children, but the degree of my newly met small talk acquaitances wishes to focus on that topic, frankly i find mostly rare or mostly no issue.

  31. Currently in most countries people cannot recognize their own neighbours after living together for more than 10 years, so the answer might be nobody cares about you, your Life , or Who the hell you have sex with. Just think in a simple way if im taxi driver for 16 hours a day I might be bored… Thats It. Its not the nonsense i read that your Life is exciting……

  32. My partner and I were transiting Doha on our way to Bali. The layover was longer than 6 hours which entitled us to hotel accommodations as we were Business Class ticket holders. The hotel gave us two rooms on different floors. I told the desk clerk that we were together and only needed one room. He politely explained that it was not allowed in Qatar and gave us two room keys. Needless to say we only used one of the rooms.

  33. Since you asked, I don’t think you are overthinking it and this is a very good article that really made me think about how different and challenging even banal aspects of life are for you, even though I have gay friends. Literally no one will get upset if I, a woman, say I am married to a man. But if I was married to another woman (or, god forbid, a man married to another man) I’m guessing I’d get a very mixed bag of responses. Your article made me think about how women experience life so differently from men wrt street harassment. There’s a whole world out there we straight people don’t even see.

    Question for the nonhetro peeps:

    What percentage of responses to disclosing your sexuality are negative and what are the most outrageous replies you’ve received?

  34. I’m straight so I’m probably clueless on this but I’d just go with the most comfortable response given the situation. I’m single and I get asked often why I’m not married and I give an assortment of answers, all of which are humorous. I am not comfortable answering personal questions with strangers so I try to steer the answers away from myself.

  35. Lucky:

    To two of your questions:
    “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 suggest you simply say: I’m married but no kids

    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.
    Point out that you are a family unit — you don’t even need to be married. My husband and I would do this 20 years ago when we re-entered the US long before we got married. The immigration officers never gave us any grief

  36. To each his/her own. Your business and no one else. Most people are naturally inquisitive and without harmful intent, or those who are simply bored out of their skulls and seek to find a gossipy distraction. Simply fib and move on. Not worth the bother of countless folk who you come across in your lifetime. Again, you did not ask them to ask you any personal questions. You have every right to not answer or simply answer the way you want to. It’s called the individual and freedom. Happy travels.

  37. I used to be really self-conscious about it and very closeted, even with the first boyfriend. I would book rooms with two beds to avoid the questions, or if that wasn’t an option I’d have him stay back from the check-in desk. That was over a decade ago. Now I’m much more “whatevs” about it. Occasionally we’ll check in and the front desk will ask if we need two beds when we booked a king. I just say “No thanks” and move on. I’ve only had one front desk push the issue, and that was in Provo. Again, I assured the check-in staff we were fine and they didn’t take it any further. I can’t imagine we were the first gay couple to rent a room in Provo? Or maybe he was new? That being said, my travel doesn’t take me outside the US that much. If I was ever in the middle east, I’d probably be way more cautious about accommodations. Friend of mine traveled with his boyfriend to UAE and said they made sure both beds looked “slept in”.

    I’ve started being more open with people at work about it as well. Recently my boyfriend joined me for a weekend during a two week trip. He did a Thursday afternoon to Sunday trip. One of my co-workers asked me to join him for dinner and I asked if I could bring my boyfriend. He vapor-locked. The second week I never got invited out again. His loss. Working for a company rated 100% by the HRC I’ve decided to let it fly.

    That being said, I will substitute pronouns to avoid any prolonged small-talk if I see it easing the discussion. I had a similar interaction to your massage. I was on a plane and the girl beside me was being a little too chatty for my tastes, asking me if I had kids, skipping right past the wife part. Told her I had no interest. Then she brought it up again about what a joy and a blessing they are, along with a few religious platitudes. I told her that me and my boyfriend had been trying to get pregnant but both of our wombs are barren. That shut her up!

  38. If my gaydar is working correctly (it’s been unreliable as of late) I will be honest and say I have a boyfriend or life partner. Otherwise depending upon the place and situation I will tell them I’m single or widowed. Widowed works best as they tend not to ask many questions after that!

  39. I’m a single straight woman, so I can’t comment on what it’s like for gay travelers, but I can sympathize about constantly having to deal with confusion about who you’re married to.

    I travel alone a lot, but I also commonly travel with one of my parents. Traveling with my mom, no problem. We look quite a bit alike and people get that we’re mother/daughter. Not so with my dad. Since being an adult (I’m 36 now), at least once on every trip with my dad I get someone who either:
    1) assumes we’re married
    2) asks me if we’re married
    3) refers to us as married

    Ever since the first time, I deal with it exactly the same way. With a big smile, I say, “Actually, he’s my dad!” and then just stand there and say nothing else while they squirm/backpedal/try to turn it into a joke (i.e. “but he looks so young!”)

    It is true that my dad and I have the same last name…because he’s my dad and I’ve never been married. It mostly just grosses me out that people in hotels / car rental agencies / etc. see two people with a 33 year age difference and assume they’re in a relationship. Especially when there’s no PDA, we’ve reserved a room with 2 beds, etc. NOPE

    The all-time worst experience was on a cruise. I get that the employees are required to read from a script instead of providing personalized service, but they continued to call me “Mrs”, after I repeatedly asked them not to. (And we had to go through a whole song and dance to get them to make up our cabin as two beds and not one.)

    Anyway, I hope that some day in the future, gay travelers can say, “Actually, he’s my husband!” and the people saying “are you friends?” (or whatever) will feel equally embarrassed about mis-characterizing a gay relationship.

    P.S. congratulations on your marriage!

  40. I love this post, thank you.

    I am surprised you didn’t bring up hotel check ins when you travel together … “yes, 1 king. Yes there are two of us, yes in the same room”.

    I too am an extreme introvert. We have been traveling a lot in Eastern Europe lately (we live in Bucuresti right now), and I hate the constant coming out.

    I appreciate your attitude… I should try to be more like you in how I view this.

  41. You have MANY answers to your questions in this column. Please read them.

    You generated loaded questions, and I do hope you internalize the answers, ignoring the trolls as always, Ben.

    Keep up the great work!

  42. My boss and his partner have a daughter through surrogacy so you can imagine the questions he gets from people that do not know he is gay. We recently were at a business dinner and one gentleman keep asking my boss about “his wife” and telling him he should take “his wife” to Mexico on vacation. My boss just kept going along with it. I guess he didn’t feel the need to correct him.

  43. If you make the conversation/answer/reply normal it will be taken as such.

    IF I feel I am in a weird situation I might go along with the hetero “thing” with the notion that its an answer, done and we move on, or say Im single if traveling alone.

    Even with a wedding ring, I know a few gays and straights that wear a ring on that finger and are single never married.

    In suspect countries I might request 2 beds. Sometimes I share a bed with my male best friend (no sex) since most suites usually are King…this happened the other day in Rio and I just said “no no, the king is fine he is my friend”. Cut the conversation and move on. Polite, but its known it goes no further. Obviously its Rio de Janeiro and not Riyadh… but we all learn how to navigate.

    As for the “coming out every day”. Im sorry you see it that way, because I do not feel like that. I am not ashamed or anything like that. I just do not have time for nonsense.

    Also considering that most people are not even slightly aware of the TRUE nature of reality…. so yeah, from that perspective I keep it moving cause why am I going to engage with people that do not even know about the “no-thing”.

  44. respect local custom when you are overseas, do not expect them to be like here, they should not have to. the culture here is not any better than that of their country – in their opinion.

  45. If I’m not at a gay-owned establishment, i would always request for a male therapist as they are often more focused and have better finger strength/ technique. This is especially true in Asia since foot reflexology & different styles of body massages are widely offered.

    Even if the establishment does not have an available male therapist, you are indirectly signalling to the staff that you would prefer a ‘proper’ massage and hopefully, avoid any potentially awkward propositions by the ladies mid-massage, while you are already undressed, lying down & slathered in oil…

  46. Has never been an issue, nor have we ever been asked, in 21years travelling together (last several married). The bed situation provided is always what we ask for and conversely to some experiences above, we have been asked in conservative religious countries if we would like one bed.

  47. 1) Certainly you already do, but please continue to think about your safety first. There are many homophobes who will be unable to digest the idea and might react violently.

    2) Many, many, MANY people are not aware that gay people can be married to each other. There are places so insular that the idea simply has never come up, or the people are not worldly, or they’re not exposed to outside influence via the internet or via their TV’s. Even if they are open-minded about it there’s still a period of adjustment when they first realize and it is new and strange and different for them.

    3) In places like India, I get asked where I’m from and if I have children. I always ask the same (the ‘where are you from’ question gets a smile because they are almost always from India) and if they’re not married they’ll reply they’re not married in response to whether they have children. Because, you see, nobody could have children if they’re not married. It is truly a cultural difference. There’s just places in the world where certain situations aren’t commonplace or commonplace *enough* to warrant inclusion in the day-to-day psyche of the general populace.

    4) As a single gal, I get asked a lot if I’m married. Navigating the pitfalls of that question depends on a whole host of factors (do I feel safe? is this guy going to hit on me? can I get away from him if he does? do I have cash in local currency so I can skate outta here if need be? what time of day is it? etc. etc. etc.) and I have, in the past, traveled with a cheap gold band on my ring finger to ward off unwanted inquiries. Nothing like having a fictional man around because a lot of guys won’t take ‘no’ from me, but they’ll respect another guy’s “property”. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.

    Keep being polite, distant you and answering whatever seems right, in the moment. It seems to be working well for you.

  48. Whilst I am a straight man and don’t run into quite the same situations as you; I can certainly empathise. Telling your life story over and over again can get pretty tiring especially if you don want to get into certain areas, the nearest I can come to this is to questions as to why my wife and I don’t have kids.

    Two dissembling strategies I have employed to deflect or shut things down.

    Make shit up – I first did this when I was travelling around India and Nepal when I was 18 and I would be called on to tell my life story 50-100 times a day and explain what I was doing on bus/3rd class train carriage etc. Eventually I just started making up alternative identities for myself because it was more fun than saying the same stuff over and over.

    I speak good enough Italian to convince a non-native speaker that I can’t speak English well (or at all) an this can be used to good effect to slow conversations down to a crawl. You have the added option of being Herr Schlappig in many situations and Herr Schlappig can decide how well he speaks English.

    You are free to be whoever you want to be and to reveal as much or as little about yourself as you feel comfortable with.

  49. If you are in a non friendly country, I’d probably just have a fake story at the ready. It’s just small talk. You don’t need to “come out” to everyone. Don’t make up having kids cause there are complexities only parents understand. The moment you have a child you are in a club. Maybe there is a gay married club, maybe there isn’t, but there is definitely an unofficial parent club.

  50. I hope you reported the US immigration jerk. In any case unacceptable for a public servant to yell. Please have them trained in civil behavior.

    On the topic, I recognize it. I never volunteer. Sometimes people ask, like in the St Regis in Mauritius and we got upgraded to the presidential suite and got some champagne to ‘celebrate’ as the manager assumed we had something to celebrate. Obviously after seeing the suite we felt likewise.
    Many times when people dig I cook up a story about 2 wifes and loads of children. It is my experience that people like to hear some exciting/horny/unbelievable stories so that’s what I give them.
    Occasionally I throw in a second wife or a few girl friends on the side as well.

    My bf and me are different in age and color and that usually raises curiosity.

  51. As Emily says, this is even more of a thing when one of the partners is trans too. TWA are definitely unusually transphobic so it’s not just third world destinations which are difficult. And taking off a ring isn’t an option for trans travellers.

    The best advice I can give is “be nice”. If people have taken a liking to you then it’s less likely to be an issue. LGBTI travellers can’t be grumpy bastards because if the other side decides to respond in kind, sexual orientation or gender identity is often the avenue of attack.

    In your case, though, you are reaching an age at which if you travel without a ring you will also get questions. By late 30s,even men are expected to settle down and marry. If you aren’t then that will get questioned too. Just get used to it.

  52. Lucky, I have been a reader for a few years, and I just wanted to say how much I appreciate these more “personal” posts you have been writing. They are enjoyable to read and allow me to have a different perspective of the world around me.

  53. My experience has been to be open & out when we’re in hotels, on flights & in lounges, in most shops & restaurants — anyplace where there are other people around & good customer-service is the focus of the establishment. Safer if there is a bad reaction, and usually there is management that we can speak to / escalate with if things go awry.
    In situations where there is a question of personal safety or just intimate setting, like if we have a driver for the day, a chartered boat ride with just us & the crew, or in the middle of a spa treatment — we’d shut the conversation down or redirect the topic. But generally we’d arrange with the concierge at the hotel and let them know that we’re a couple and wanted to make sure they could do a little vetting for us as needed. Often they know how to navigate some of that concern for us.

  54. I never assume 2 men or 2 women are “together”. The subjects of the assumptions (if I turn out to be wrong) may not like or appreciate my assumptions. In some areas of the world it is a much more difficult subject to discuss. I appreciate if the couple would just tell me they are together. Gay or straight, its what on the inside that matters to me. I live in a largely gay town called Wilton Manors, FL (near ft lauderdale) I’m straight, but I love my neighbors and I love where I live.

  55. Wear the ring on the right hand. Most people will pick up on that and it will likely reduce the “wife” questions at least in half.

  56. Depending on the country/state/city/situation, I sometimes opt for spouse instead of husband. As much as I’m an open book in my day to day life, I want to err on the side of personal safety when travelling in places like the southern US states.

  57. @sam,

    Maybe he doesn’t want to just ignore it? Maybe it’s totally fine he’s a man in love with another man?

  58. I was once asked if I have a girlfriend by some street vendors, I said Nope! hoping it would end there..then the vendors started joking, Oh YOU LIKE IT I THE BACK?
    I responded Yes only if it is really big, How big is yours?

    Not so funny anymore as they felt super awkward.

    Lol

  59. My husband and I have been married for ten years now. When I travel I casually refer to my husband just as a straight man would refer to his wife. When I’m asked whether I’m married, I just say “Yes”–if I were married to a woman, I wouldn’t say “Yes, to a woman,” so I don’t say “Yes, to a man.” But if someone then asks about my wife, I say, usually smiling, “Husband, actually,” and it’s never yet been an issue. (Maybe I’d do something differently in a very homophobic country.)

    At hotels I don’t specifically address the bed situation unless asked. That rarely happens–usually we just get the room we booked without anything being said. It used to give me a little anxiety in China, which can be rather conservative, but it no longer does–we’re usually in an American hotel chain, and it’s never been an issue.

    My favorite hotel incident was about 25 years ago, in San Diego. We had booked a room with a king bed. The clerk, looking at the reservation and then looking up and seeing two men, asked “Two queens?” I couldn’t resist–I smiled and said “Well, yes, so the king room we booked will be fine.” The clerk (who, incidentally, pinned my gaydar) looked baffled for a few seconds until he realized exactly what he’d said, then burst out laughing.

  60. I think it’s just what people do – they assume you’re “the most typical” like everyone else. Since most people are straight, they will always assume you are. I don’t think you have anything to prove and can be as honest as you want or not. I’m sure we’ve all gone along with the perceptions of others even if untrue just to save the hassle of explaining.

    P.S. People can be bi too 😉 …. it’s not a gay/straight binary.

  61. “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.”

    US Immigration is out-of-date even for heterosexual couples. We have been together 25+ years and we’re not married. My partner was pretty pissed off when the official asked if we’re married and said that we are not a family.

  62. Lucky, I look forward to the day when you no longer take an apologetic tone about your “gay” posts. Maybe that’s easy for me to say as a straight fellow, but it makes me a tiny bit sad each time you post something that mentions your sexuality and you put a disclaimer out there for readers who might find this somewhat uncomfortable or objectionable. You have created a very useful and informative site, for which anyone who travels should be able to find a good deal of value. And you do it in an approachable, likable tone. If anyone is bothered by your more personal posts, shame on them.

  63. When people ask “how are you”, usually we just respond “good” even when we had a terrible time. I think it’s totally fine if you want to avoid conversation you don’t want to start.

  64. While I’m pretty out and pretty down with small talk I used to be pretty vague answering these questions. I’m changing that, first because with a lot of countries making huge strides in the last decade I’m realizing I should have more faith in people and second because I realize that as a white male with an American passport it’s a lot safer for me to make this stand than a lot of other people and when I come out I might in some small way make them safer.

    Also I remind myself that a lot of other LGBTQ people are not facing this annoying question because they aren’t blending in like I am. They’re getting different questions (stated and unstated) and looks.

    P.S. I think it doesn’t occur to many straight people that telling a gay person that you “don’t care” about about us being gay doesn’t necessarily feel great to hear.

    P.P.S. Who ever wants to talk while getting a massage?

  65. If a complete stranger asks me personal questions I’m telling them that as much as I appreciate their genuine interest I prefer not to talk about my life. Seems rude, I know, but it’s simply non of their business.
    There’s enough daily snooping out there

  66. in many cases the way you handle it is the same whether you are gay or not. I see no reason to have a conversation with a massage therapist or a taxi driver about my spouse or kids. I politely (but firmly) change the topic if it comes up. Most of the time people just making small talk and will be just as happy to discuss the weather or their favorite restaurant instead of your family.

  67. @ Ben — You appear to be overthinking this. Not sure what to say other than who cares what they think?

  68. 1. Most people don’t care about someone’s orientation, the married thing is just a start for a conversation.

    2. So, asking if married and with kids and sharing their experiences is topic number 1 between parents, since wheather discussion is getting boring in the long run. And that’s quite universal.

    3. If asked about kids, I would just answer you’re trying to but it doesn’t work. Usually your interlocutor gets a bit embarrassed and will probably shut or change the topic.

    4. I get that you don’t want to start conversing with stranger like at the hotel, a driver, a tour guide etc. I’m very similar here. But starting a discussion with, for example, a farmer in the middle of nowhere and asking about what he’s doing and even asking more specific questions about his work will show him interest and will give you the opportunity to better understand little things in life that have been forgotten by today’s generation.

  69. On a note on the bed thing someone else commented about. Happens all the time. Just happened 30 mins ago when we checked into this hotel in shenyang China. Gave us two twin beds at a Hilton. I even booked a king bed. But yea that tends to happen in places like China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Nepal and Eastern European countries to name a few.

  70. When you mentioned about US immigration it’s the only place where I’ve been asked if we were a family and if yes we could come together. Also in US car rental company asked if the other person would be my companion so that additional driver fee would be waiwed.

    Also I’ve noticed that indicating that you are gay is the fastest way to skill conversation in massage (.. except some places in SE asia where they ask if he is travelling with me and if I would like to have a boy to ”finish” the massage..)

    I do travel a lot with friends, mostly men, and most questions are coming when checking into a hotel, especially if we had booked a double though issue usually goes away when I indicate that they don’t have any twins available and we have no interest to have 2 rooms.

  71. It depends on where I am. I do a lot of Scandinavian travel and if question pops up there, I just answer honestly, knowing it won’t be any issue. Same goes for most of the EU, except some of eastern states, where I tend to go Lucky’s way if I’m talking to someone I’ll probably never meet later.

    Non-EU travel is another thing. I’d be very cautious of coming out when traveling to countries such as Belarus, Ukraine or Serbia, because it can be dangerous. I would also avoid coming out in the US due to high risk of person being some crazy preacher who will try to “save me”, which is annoying.

    I’m not sure about Asia, I haven’t been there since my teenage years. But what I liked about trips to Asia is that in most countries, you are considered exotic just because of your race, so you can add anything to the mix and not worry about it. So I probably wouldn’t hold myself back in Asia.

    To wrap it up, it’s about location for me.

  72. It is usually small talk when people ask nosy questions and it is perfectly ok to give a socially acceptable answer, depending on the country you are in and the nationality of the person you are talking to.
    Then there are cases where the contact goes a bit deeper. For example we had a driver/guide for five days in Oman. I can’t imagine this guy being so naive that he didn’t know the relationship between me and my partner and I am sure that there is a mutual understanding to avoid any socially awkward questions or topics.
    As for hotel beds, I think we can manage to sleep in separate beds for a few days.

  73. I’ve had the same immigration issue almost all times I’ve come to the US. I simply tell the immigration officer “my husband will join me at the desk. We are a family”, and that shuts them up.

    I’m not a PDA person, and have a naturally straight-acting vibe. However, I do often slip in “my husband” in conversations. Eg; “my husband’s running a bit late, so could I just have a drink now and wait with the food order?” at restaurant etc.

    I seldom get any surprised looks anymore, and I think if we all just do it a small bit, people will adjust themselves.

    Perhaps I’m a bit lucky as we’ve always here in Norway used the non-gendered “kjæreste” (the dearest) as a term for boyfriend/girlfriend – however, for married it’s gendered “husband” and “wife” equivalent.

  74. I was in a buffet line at a hotel in Petra, Jordan when I struck up a conversation with a guy about my age (60s). After a bit he revealed that he’s from SF and traveling as a gay couple. He said that when people ask where their wives are, they say that they’re deceased. I assume that depends on the situation and location.

  75. I don’t care to discuss personal questions with strangers I will never see again. As a straight, unmarried person, I simply say I don’t have a wife, if asked. I don’t expand on the answer. If they wish they can make assumptions about whether I’m gay, never married, divorced or a widower. I’ll probably change the topic to something I’m interested in learning about or try to shut down the conversation politely. I don’t think it’s a question of being proud of being married or unmarried, gay or straight, or whatever. It’s simply a matter of not wishing to talk about my personal life in such settings.

  76. It’s the ring. People look for anything to make chit chat about. I’m married but never wear my ring and never get these types of questions. Just a whole lotta assumptions that I must give a crap about baseball.

  77. I’ve not yet actually had to deal with this overseas as we just started travelling out of the country, but living in the South it does happen very regularly.

    Generally when I’m referring to my Husband (making a call to a credit card, as an example) I always just refer to him as my “Spouse.” Not that I’m ashamed, but like you said, sometimes it’s just easier to get done what I need to get done without unnecessary conversation. Occasionally though, the rep on the other end will refer to him as my “Wife” and when that happens I always make a point to correct them. I do this mainly because I believe at this point in US society Customer Service Reps should be trained to say “Spouse” by default since it’s now impossible to know whether someone is married to a man or a woman. When I do this I always hear them get uncomfortable, and it’s probably because they realize they shouldn’t have assumed.

    On a different note though, again living in the South, we will occasionally attend Church with my Parents. When we are there, my Mother always introduces my Husband to other people by referring to him as my “friend.” While it may bother me some, I choose to ignore it, as she really only does it because she is still slightly uncomfortable with it in that setting, and I think she also wants to avoid certain conversations with people she probably doesn’t even like to begin with.

    Thank you for this post! It definitely made for an interesting read.

  78. The expanding legalization of gay marriage has had an interesting side effect for me as a single, middle-aged guy. Now, if I am asked whether I am married and I answer no, the answer to the next question “why” is no longer, “because I can’t legally marry another man”. I either answer “I haven’t met the right person” which is honest but nonspecific, or that I have a very demanding career and sole caregiver responsibilities for an elderly parent (both of which are true). Any of these answers generally generates enough discussion to sustain the conversation, particularly showing respect for an aging parent.

    The point for me is not to avoid directly addressing my sexuality, but rather to avoid any potentially controversial subject with a stranger, be it sex, politics, or religion. Although frankly I would rather be asked about wearing a pride t-shirt with a visible nipple ring at the moment than engage in a discussion of US politics. And that’s true here in the land of the free as much as in a cab in Tehran.

  79. Really interesting topic. My partner is usually very shy and he doesn’t want to have any confrontation. I am the opposite. We both come from Europe’s most conservative country – Poland. Whenever we are there I always demonstrate that we are a couple. It is because I know my rights and I know that if anything happens, newspapers will be happy to write about it. Besides that, there will be still a lot of people who will react and try to defend us. Poland is changing and people are more and more tolerant. I would even say that for the vast majority of them gay or straight does not do any difference. Last days we were buying a bed – two guys in a Catholic country buying a bed :). We were so positively surprised as we were served by several staff members and we didn’t experience any discrimination.
    I used to frequently travel to India. There, I wasn’t that sure about peoples reaction. However, when my colleagues from work came to visit us in Germany, we told them immediately. The reaction was very very positive. We even became very good friends.
    Once I have visited Marroco with my ex bf. After I book the vacation through travel agency I realized that this country is not really gay-friendly. I kindly asked the travel agency to check whether our hotel is going to be a safe place for us. In the end, they provided us a room with two bedrooms with single and double beds I guess just to avoid confusion. One of the animators approached us and said that she observed that I am with another male guest in the same room and warned us that if we are gay, we should not expose that out of the hotel. However, she did it in a very calm and friendly way.
    After this trip, I made a decision not to travel to countries having any kind of penalty just for being gay. I even avoid stopovers. This is my form of protest. In the end, everything is driven by money so no my money for them.

  80. I had a “reverse” (don’t even know how to classify this) questioning when at IST with my fiancee. My fiancee is Polish (blue eyes blond, etc.)woman, and I’m Korea (brown eyes, black hair, etc.) men. We are a straight couple. The security asked if we were traveling together, and I said we said yes, then she asked “Are you friends?” We replied “I guess so, we are…” She interrupted us as asked “Friends friends?” My fiancee said “We are engaged, he is my fiance”. The security lady gave a little chuckle as if she was embarrassed for asking. Me and my fiancee have no idea what happened or what was the line of questioning.

  81. I ask, “Is being honest going to get me killed, hurt, or worse service?” If no, I just say what I want. I would never tell a masseuse in most places until after the massage is over. But then again I won’t travel to places where they kill gay people whereas you don’t seem to have an issue with that.

  82. Got 500k+ in most of all the big chains each Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton I give them to family and friends 90% of the time, I make a reservation in the city hotel he wants, add them to my reservation as boyfriend to get the big king bd rm suite also noting it’s a special occasion (all travel is 😉

    My brother is a pro now, letting them assume He’s gay gets upgrades more than if I check in with my wife, he’s 8/8 im more 2/20

  83. For my husband and I, we just go with our guts. No matter the country, it depends on how “safe” the person we interact with made us feel. And we often have to “come out” more than others, because we look alike and a lot of people assume we are brothers. We won’t mention anything proactively though, it’s if it comes up. We never had any issues so far (knock on wood).
    However in certain situations we’ll make a conscious effort to hide it or not mention it at least; for instance we just went last month to St Kitts (the Park Hyatt deal!), and I read and heard many times that St Kitts immigration can be tricky for gay couples so we decided to go through that separately to avoid any potential problem. No issues whatsoever at the hotel though.

  84. It will never stop. Just wear your ring on your neck. If you want something to wear where you can see it all the time, get bracelets.

  85. Basically I agree to the headline that it’s finally a never ending procress of coming out. Well, not only when travelling, but esp. when travelling, since you get out of your established biosphere.

    But I think esp. gay people have long time acquired skills and quite a high empathy for such situations. This empathic manner needs often to be used, esp. when travelling. Which confirms then that it’s a never ending process. Although I understand, that beeing married it’s becoming even more a topic, since a marriage is also a public statement, which is a contradiction, when you need to hide your relation.

    When it ‘s coming to socializing and interacting with other people, it’s of course also a matter of personality. My bf and myself are more introverted persons, which prevent us quite often from such small talk situations. However, while on travelling, certainly you get often in such kind of organizational issues, such as the “classical” bed type allocation. So booked a king size, but got a twin. In such situation we insist on our booked king size and from my experience so far no issues, beside the fact that it was then alway a clear “coming out”. Of course, there are countries /regions where such opening might be dangerous or even impossible. We avoid those countries.

  86. There are certainly some fantastic, and varied ways of handling these situations Ben.

    My husband and I have been together for over 23 years, and have worn rings the entire time. We have adopted two sons, both of whom are now adults. We have a hyphenated last name.

    Our goal throughout travel is never to lie about who we are – we have to be role models for our kids. People ask if we are brothers, we simply and politely say ‘no.’ People have asked if we’re related, we say we are all a family, traveling together. With kids and hotels, the focus very easily and very quickly turns to adjoining or connecting rooms vs one room, which is convenient. We’ve been in one-bed rooms for all of our travels, or in ‘family’ rooms. Customs and Immigration officers have generally always allowed us to get cleared together. On the other hand, we respect the laws of other countries. Americans don’t rule the planet and shouldn’t always impart our values contrary to the laws of another country, regardless if we agree with it or not. We are diplomatic ambassadors with a chance to represent the best of our country while visiting or being guests in another.

    After 23 years together, in some cases, couples start to look alike. We have literally been asked if we are twins and also have heard the standard line that our kids ‘look like us’. People have gotten a kick out of it.

    The important part that serves as the foundation for any conversation is that first and foremost, both people in the conversation are human beings. Start there and build upon it.
    At the top of the comments, Scott Cate had some good things to say. I would counter that just a bit with this: be interestED, not interestING. Redirection is a handy way to do this and ask about them. What Scott says is true: foreign workers who view your life as more exciting as theirs are equally flattered and drawn in when you ask about them. It allows you to listen and get to know them and understand how much you and Ford wish to share about yourselves and your relationship.

    Each situation will be different based on a variety of factors, down to you simply being tired, in a bad mood, etc thus not being open to idle chit chat as well as who the other person (audience) might be. Perhaps we have been lucky, but we have never been presented with a negative situation tied to our relationship. In some cases, others have provided upgrades or better-than-normal arrangements or accommodations after putting 2+2 together, because we were respectful. Can’t stress enough at how connecting with another person first at a human level can be really positive.

  87. Thanks so much for writing about this. I was a little worried to read the comments, but I’m really encouraged by how many great responses there are here! I’d like to see you write more about your unique experiences in addition to your general travel topics. I really value and appreciate your perspective.

    My husband and I encounter this all the time when we travel. My attitude and response has changed a lot over time. I, too, am an introverted, private person, but I think that’s done me a disservice in life. I think a lot of my concern is irrational and comes from being self-conscious and growing up feeling uncomfortable about my sexuality. The more I become comfortable in my own skin, the more I’m okay with telling strangers the truth about who I am—when it seems safe and appropriate.

  88. People ask all sorts of questions that could be uncomfortable for either side. Usually, they are just looking for a conversation opener.
    If I ever ask, it’s usually just to figure out the right pronoun or as a “getting to know you” icebreaker.
    When I travel, people ask about (or make assumptions about) my marital status, parenting status, religion, politics, etc. I am generally open in answering them whether or not I think the answer would offend. My husband prefers to adjust his answer to avoid ruffling feathers.
    The ones who are really nosey will get what they deserve.

  89. People from around the world are friendly and do not have a phobia of making conversations, such as Americans and Europeans have.

    Just embrace the local culture and talk to people. It’s common courtesy. You’d be amazed with how common same sex partners are in many parts of the world. I certainly don’t think it’s that different from most of the US.

  90. But really, we don’t care and the people asking questions won’t remember after they are done with providing you their service. No one here is really that important nor impressive.

  91. I live in the US and still don’t reveal my sexual orientation, given how conservative and narrow minded (ignorant?) people generally are, in the US. I feel more at home and comfortable with my sexual identity outside the US.

  92. Great piece Ben.

    We always play it by ear as a couple and find that if we get into a conversation with others they generally work it out very quickly.

    For example, we’re two London Brits and a few weeks ago in Zagreb we started chatting in a restaurant to a straight couple from SFO, we quickly worked out they were a couple and they us though there was not a ring between us. We had a great evening and a great laugh as four adults enjoying each other’s company. We were going different ways the next day but it was a magic evening.

    Traveling alone which I do is more difficult but I don’t really want endless facile conversations about my life. I’d rather discuss the here and now with a stranger rather than personal info or more probably read a book! If people ask and I don’t want a conversation I tell them whatever comes in to my head and sometimes weave quite an amusing to me at least web of a story and so what, I’m never going to see them again but I quite enjoy it at the time!

  93. @Pierre: True, fiancé(e) is not gender-neutral in writing, but it is in speaking, the context about which I believe Bgriff was writing.

  94. I’m a gay person of color. For me, being a person of color poses more issues than being gay when traveling in other countries. The way I’m treated is sometimes condescending or ignorant and many don’t often deal with non-White tourists. Their perception of brown people in the media affects their treatment towards us.

    I think traveling as a White person is a great privilege that many don’t know about. I wish there were travel perspectives from other brown people online.

  95. My native Angeleno is probably showing here, but I tend to ask when referring to someone’s SO. If someone brings up that s/he is married, I will usually follow with a question like “what does your husband or wife do?” I think I was just raised not to assume.

    Again, also a native CA thing, but I know a lot of people who are pretty proactive about offering their SO’s gender orientation straight out of the gates.

    I acknowledge that this is a unique situation and that there are parts of the world where this wouldn’t be normal or make sense. However, I can’t imagine just assuming because I know too many people in too many different types of relationships.

  96. My husband and I have just travelled around the world on our honeymoon (Buenos Aires, Santiago, Easter Island, Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Hong Kong) and all the hotels and airlines knew why we were travelling. I was a little worried, but was surprised by the joy people had in helping us have a fantastic honeymoon. It obviously helps with friendlier destinations but I was genuinely surprised by how inclusive everyone was. Having said that it can be a little dull when travelling by myself to do that constant outing thing but in the end you’d do the same if you were straight.

  97. People just trying small talk can be annoying or even prying but they are mostly polite. If you and your spouse walked together casually most people wouldn’t know you were married. I am in a mixed race marriage. No one seeing my wife and I together will confuse us as friends. Most people are cool, and well if they have a problem then its their problem not mine. I know this gay marriage thing is new, and of course people all over the world aren’t used to it. You are not experiencing anything that others haven’t experienced before you.

  98. Funny, neither my husband nor I wear a ring, and people somehow still know we are married. Maybe after 35 years together it’s just obvious.

    I don’t have a comment about being gay, other than we probably should all start saying “do you have a spouse?” or “are you married?” instead of do you have a husband/wife.

    But I wanted to respond to the comments about not wanting to talk to taxi drivers. We’ve recently started using Uber a lot when traveling, and we’ve loved talking to all the drivers. We learned more about the places from them than anyone, and it made the trip interesting. Every time we were forced to take a taxi it was filthy, awful music playing, and there was no politeness or conversation, but the Uber experiences were great.

  99. You’re not overthinking it. It must be exhausting, particularly since you well know that your personal safety is at risk if you respond openly to the wrong person.

  100. Similarly, but with lower stakes: my wife kept her last name, but maybe a third of the time she gets “Mrs. Asdf” instead of “Ms. [her last name],” and there has to be some amount of explanation. Old cultural habits persist.

  101. I would never come out in Muslim (and most Conservative Catholic) countries. I had a very negative experience in Istanbul a few years ago with the employees at the hotel where I was staying. I truly feared for my safety after they threatened me very late one night. We left the hotel in the middle of the night with all my stuff and had to find a new place.

    My partner is from Malaysia and whenever we travel there, he always cautions me and we act as if we are just “friends.” It’s also very homophobic there. I’m used to it since I live in the Deep South. He lives in SF so it’s like two different worlds for me. I travel there every couple of weeks to visit.

  102. My friend and I have been travel buddies since the mid 1980s. We are both gay. We have been to over 70 countries together over the decades. We are not a couple. Our preference is to research gay travel resources in country when we feel we need it. It is amazing the great service we have received. More importantly we have a person on the ground either gay or gay friendly to guide us. When it makes sense to be discreet, we do. But otherwise we have found people even in less progressive countries welcoming and helpful knowing that we were gay. We often stay at Marriott Ritz properties due to frequent traveler status. Our two older male situation has never been a problem. We reserve rooms with two beds since we are not a couple and like our own bed. In India recently, the Marriott desk clerk looked at us and asked if we would prefer a king suite. We declined for two beds. He smiled and gave us a very nice room. Minutes later room service arrived with flowers, wine, sparkling water, fruit, and cheese. We saw the clerk on the way out, thanked him, and said “got to take care of family.” So, I agree with others… be open but discreet when it seems to make sense.

  103. Do you look up the laws on homosexuality before visiting a new country? Something I’d never considered as a straight person.

    “And straight people, am I overthinking all of this?”

    I don’t think you’re overthinking, but it may be useful to know that these kinds of things happen to anyone that doesn’t quite match the expected norm. I’m a 33 yo female that mostly travels alone and I get asked about my “husband” all the time (often in the form of, “your husband lets you travel by yourself?” ) I do the same polite dodge dance, based on situation and level of English. In taxi cabs, I usually just roll with having a husband. On a group outing, I’ll clarify. I also get asked about my kids too and any time I express disinterest in either a husband or kids I will be told I’m wrong, will change my mind, should be working on it faster or specific suggestions for procuring one or the other. People are just trying to find commonalities based on their own paradigms, and it doesn’t bother me.

    I think as much as you feel comfortable being out while traveling, you are making a positive impact in others’ lives. I’ve had guides in “repressed” countries tell me stories about “that one gay guy, he was gay, but he was a really nice guy” and I see that as the building block in a more open and accepting worldview.

  104. I feel uncomfortable discussing sexuality in the US, strongly Catholic countries, and Islamic States.

    I feel most relaxed, as a Caucasian gay male, when traveling across Germany, France, India, Thailand and Australia. There is a balance between curiosity and respect.

  105. I just share little information as, like you, I am more introverted. Professionally I tend to be more outgoing, but not much into sharing my personal life. I certainly won’t hide anything, but just not much into outwardly sharing things of my personal life is all. I’ll never be untrue, but I just tend to be quite cordial but keep to myself.

    I completely understand your interactions – I have the same type.

  106. As @Bour said, for those of us who have a spouse who is trans, just not mentioning it isn’t an option when we are traveling together. Being trans means not going a lot of places. While I am traveling to several places next year I consider not safe enough for my wife to go I am constantly aware that there are states in the US I don’t consider safe enough for her to go. She can’t just hide or take off her ring. I have always done our travel planning. Now I also have a safety plan wherever we go. I’m not going to have us on a layover at an airport somewhere I wouldn’t feel safe leaving if we got stuck for the night. I also maintain top tier status at a friendly hotel chain because I know that status means a lot. I have gotten out of serious issues with the Globalist hotline. But none of this is perfect. It still sucks. It still limits where she can go. What she will be able to see. I have seen the pyramids. She won’t. I hiked through rural Asia. She won’t. I spent time in small African villages on safari. She won’t. She loves the places she’s been. She’s looking forward to the trips I’m here panning for us. But she can’t just take off her ring. I can just go where I want. Tell people what I want. She will never have that freedom. That just sucks.

  107. Great post Lucky! I think you can see we all feel the same way. To each his or her own, in each situation.

    I’m a doc, and professionally when people would see my ring and ask about my husband or kids, I’d just let them assume, nod along, and focus the conversation back to them.

    When traveling with my wife, if someone assumes or tries to figure us out, I just say “we’re married” matter-of-factly. You wouldn’t believe the graciousness that this has opened up in people.

    I remember trying to rent a car out of PHX, when my wife and I were standing together and I said “Can I add her to the reservation too so she can drive?” and the lady at the desk goes, “Why would you add your friend to the reservation, it will cost you!!” I said, “That’s not my friend, she’s my wife!” At which point all barriers went down and she was so kind to us – “Honey I’ve been married 5 times and it never worked out with men for me.” Ha!

  108. What a load of drivel. What’s happened ladies. Honestly. Who cares. If someone asks you, tell them the truth. The truth always works America.

  109. I’m a single woman. I sometimes travel by myself and sometimes with female friends. I was in Egypt earlier this year and we got the question frequently. Are you married? Why not? Do you have kids. Why not? It was so weird. I’ve never been asked those questions in the US by a stranger, family or friends sure but strangers no. Not sure if it’s a cultural thing but wondering if ppl have gotten that question mostly outside the US or inside?

  110. Although I am straight, I would suggest “yes I have a spouse and no kids and am happy with both”

    Kind of cuts down further questions and is truthful.

  111. In India and to a lesser extent Singapore people have much idle time to ask questions that are none of their business. Best answer that always changes the subject: “Fine thanks. Why do you ask?”

    In India however one generally accepts that all acceptable boundaries of human conduct will be overstepped. Therefore one plans accordingly to be asked endless annoying questions, including (this actually happened): “Excuse me where did you get that newspaper?” (answer: “At the newsagent, cost was 3 rupees, why do you ask?”)

  112. Lucky, stop reviewing trips and become a sex therapist. I am seeing a pattern, which of your posts get most responses.

    I personally loved your fall soups and holiday decorations post.

  113. I travelled for a year through all of the national parks in the US. I enjoyed my trip thoroughly but I found that Americans love to talk endlessly – especially with foreigners – and will reveal their entire life to a stranger. I am American, spend my time jumping between countries (last four years in South and Southeast Asia), but haven’t been home for fifteen+ years.

    Of course the conversations came to an awkward halt at the topic of marriage and I’d mention that I am bi and polyamorous. I did not experience this awkwardness regarding the topic in other countries. Here’s to thinking that we had caught up to the world…

  114. I have an interesting situation. I am 59 and my boyfriend of 6 years just turned 25. And I am widowed from a man I married. Boyfriend and I are frequently asked ” Oh are you father and son ? ” we dont look remotely alike. Our response is ” Friends “. Sometimes the person “gets it” sometimes not, and we dont really care.
    We travel to Russia about 3 times are year and are careful with PDA’s due to that countries sad history regarding LGBTQ people. But 90% of the time, people are kind, or at least appear to be

  115. As a straight woman I never assume. If I ask someone about a spouse I’ll say “your wife? your husband?” I include both options and if this person has reservations about how I might react, it let’s them know that I accept all. LOVE IS LOVE

  116. My husband and I went jointly to US Immigration and were screamed at “one at a time” and I was sent back to the main line. My husband is feisty and explained we were married and a family to no avail so he took down the badge number and name of the officer in Dallas and wrote to everyone: TSA, all Congressional representation, the White House, etc. We got responses to every single letter, letters from multiple divisions of TSA stating there would be more training aroung handling gay families at entry and a letter of apology from the actual immigration officer who had denied us to enter as a family. In this case we should always come out where it’s right and there’s a point of civil rights.

  117. Having to routinely “come out” depends on where you spend the majority of your time. I live in a Florida suburb and have to constantly make it known that I am married to a man. I spent the last 2 weeks in San Francisco and did not have to redirect anyone once. They don’t assume you are gay, but they use gender neutral pronouns or just don’t care.

    When I am traveling I take the path of least resistance.

  118. Be very nice to local but use your observation/judgement at all times when travelling to destinations where LGBTI rights are marginalized and oppressed for example use word “spouse” exercise caution and avoid long conversation, one way to do that is by listening your playlist or pretend listening. Another good example, during my visits to Persian Gulf countries, I speak French regardless of knowing fine Farsi and Arabic. You don’t need to come out to every one. There are solutions. Questions, like “do you have kids?” just say “No” or “we are working on it”.
    Also, If you encounter talkative person let him/her talk. This can be done by nicely and politely asking him/her questions about destination (could be any thing history, wild life, agriculture, education … rarely aviation). Research your destination​​. Equaldex dot com, Equaldex provides an accurate and comprehensive global view of LGBTI rights, with the use of maps, timelines, statistics, and historical data in each country and region. You are courageous and I am proud to be your blog reader.

  119. I wear a ring also and don”t recall ever being asked about orientation. I do correct someone if they say “wife” and I’ll tell them husband. I don’t bother to do this in extreme countries. The country and situation dictate my responses, although I’m out and proud, just not a flag waver.

  120. Are you overthinking all of this?
    Not at all. It’s perfectly natural, but try not to worry. Most people in the tourism industry are just curious as to the notion of the traveller, in the sense of where they come from, why they are here, and where they are going to next.

    Obviously in Europe / the US / South-East Asia, absolutely be yourself as being gay is nothing that they haven’t seen before. In countries where you know it might be an issue, be discreet, as flaunting a relationship of any kind, gay or straight, could be a cause of discord for the local community and one wants to remain respectful of local laws and customs.

    I live in Berlin, most of my gay friends are happily married, and some have children. Most are in bi-racial relationships (like myself), and generally nobody really cares. If they do, that’s their business not yours.

    People will always make assumptions, but they’re largely innocent ones..

  121. Thanks Lucky for raising this issue as its clearly something that is on readers’ minds and I think everyone has already pretty much covered the issues. But honestly I maybe wrong but I don’t think its about being gay. The questions come to anyone sitting in the back of a cab on their own or as two friends (either of same sex or mixed) or a mixed race couple and I have travelled as all of those. As someone who is a single, straight woman and has moved from the hitchhiking, backpacking overland Asia to Europe hippie trail through to corporate road warrior stage, I have dealt with those same issues forever throughout the world. I learned fast from a security perspective that truth was not my friend as a single young woman so before long I bought a ring which has long since gone. Nowadays its more a matter of whether I really feel I want a long conversation about something with a stranger. People still ask if I am on my own but now they ask where my husband is and how many grandchildren I have etc. Sometimes I tell them hilarious stories but mostly their interest is just because in Asia and other places, the family is at the heart of their existence and in their minds if you don’t have that spouse or children then they feel sorry for you. It is also usually quicker to make up a family or husband as going down the single route ensures a whole other more complex stage of conversation and in someone else’s country its always nice to try and operate with their social parameters if possible so often its just the best way to shut it down. This line of questioning is not new because of gay marriage, it has existed forever. As for the Mr and Mrs at the hotel – that’s just a whole other level of sloppy customer service the same way I can get Mr or Sir or goodness knows what, its not even a part of this conversation!!

    Worldwide, people have an interest in other people so like the weather question, they resort to the marriage and children question which if you don’t fit their so called norm of married with two kids then of course you are conscious of that each time it is asked but that is reflective of the person asking the question, not you (or me) who is fortunate enough to be at the front end of a long and happy life together with Ford. And as has been mentioned, mostly we are forgotten before the cab closes or the elevator closes!

  122. Although I’m totally comfortable with being gay, it can get exhausting – especially while travelling solo!
    Even at home, meeting somebody new, starting a new job etc. means you have to come out all over again… At least at home in Sydney people are usually fine with it (or, have to pretend they are because they’ll be the odd one!)

    While travelling, it depends on the situation as to how I respond. I try to respond in ways that aren’t lying, but isn’t confirming either way.

  123. Thanks for posting this. My experience traveling home and abroad w/ my husband has generally been okay although recently, I was traveling from Houston to Midland TX to see my husband’s parents and had an issue which left me pretty pissed off. We both wear rings and I guess it is clear to some or many we are a couple b/c some Bible Thumper woman sitting across from us starting muttering under her breathe “Disgusting! Disgusting! Disgusting!” while looking at us as we had landed.

    I wasn’t quite sure what her problem was so I ignored her and then as we were exiting on the jet bridge, she kept repeating that. I stopped and asked what her problem was and she went on a rant about how homosexuals are a disgusting abomination, etc. I told her to F*ck off but it did upset me and made me realize we still have a long ways to go and I don’t know if I will ever feel 100% comfortable traveling as a same-sex married person anywhere.

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