When gender can’t be read upon first impression, all kinds of obstacles show up on your path. You can feel the burning eyes of bypassers and you see questions pop up on their faces. “Are you a woman or a man?” Westerners may be more accustomed to this than inhabitants of rural areas or other countries. Although I’ve come across these questions everywhere in the world. A lot of awkward situations are triggered by being unconventional in a very basic part of life. All categorizing in the world starts with gendering. This articles isn’t going to give an all time solution for this problem, since there isn’t one. But you might want to use it to see you’re not alone and this doesn’t need to control your whole life.
My girlfriend and I are both born and raised in Belgium, where we met seven years ago. Once together, we started our travels. First we took a small trip to Spain, but pretty soon, we were quitting our jobs and preparing for world domination. No, world travel of course! Friends and family didn’t fear for our lives because we were gay. They feared the destinations and they were convinced that our chosen destinations were lethal for any traveler, gay or straight. We believed all these locations were as safe as your own common sense and a little bit of luck. But the point actually is: being discriminated as LGBT was not their first fear. It wasn’t one of our fears either.
LGBT or questionable
Any gay or lesbian person can pass as a straight person, so there is nothing to be afraid of when traveling as a gay person. But I must admit that being gender-questionable is a different thing. My partner and I are both perfectly fine with who I am and how I behave, not that I behave weirdly or anything like that. It’s just that my physical gender doesn’t match my psychological gender and that happens to confuse a lot of people. It is said that people fear what they don’t know. So I guess I bring a lot of angst to the world.
Our travel decisions
We do select our destinations with safety in the back of our heads. We won’t travel to countries that have laws against gays, like prison sentences or worse. That’s a few countries we won’t be able to go to. While it might sound sad, we don’t really want to go there anyway. We don’t want to have to walk on the tips of our toes the entire time we visit a country. Travel is much better when you can relax and just be. While traveling, we also take little precautions and just watch as we go. Our decisions are taken intuïtively, which is usually a good way to do it. If one of us isn’t feeling comfortable at any time or place, we just leave and continue to feel good.
What skin shall I wear today?
Just for the record, I always wear the same skin. But I’m free to adapt myself a little to make things easier. For instance, when we walk home in the middle of the night, through a dodgy village, I might rather have people thinking I’m a tough guy who doesn’t like to be messed with. This way I can protect myself and my girlfriend from any negative attention. On the other hand, sometimes nature calls me urgently and I need to find a bathroom. In this case, I’d rather have people or toilet guardians know that I’m not invading the wrong bathroom.
Great idea! Does it work?
Well sometimes it does. It depends entirely on who’s interpreting and if he or she met their eye doctor recently. No, I’m just kidding. I rather depends on the fact if a person is willing to see or if they’re just trying to follow their stereotypes. Some people call everyone with short hair a man. I guess that will never change. Wearing another skin is a good way to stay safe at night when we walk home from a pub or party. I’ll be wearing a loose jacket and pretend to be fearless. Until now we haven’t been bothered, but it’s always possible whether you’re gay or straight.
Gender appears to be the number one point of dividing people into boxes. Since kindergarten it has been an obstacle on my path. All the boys stand on this side, all the girls on the other side. I’ve always dreaded joining the girls and it never worked, just staying with the boys. They always commanded me to go to the ‘right’ side. Of course, in ancient times, this was the main way of categorizing. If anyone ever needed two groups instead of one, they would just divide it up girls-boys. I really hope kindergarten style has changed by now, so the population can soon be divided in different groups, like eye-color. Are there people who were born with brown eyes, that are excluded from places because they behave like a blue-eyed person?
For daily chores and activities, I couldn’t care less if people are confused about my gender. It doesn’t really matter anyway, because I’m a person like everybody else and I deserve the same respect you give to every random stranger, whether I have blue or brown eyes. For heaven’s sake, my eyes might even be green. As long as I don’t walk into a gender specific location, nobody has anything to do with what’s under the hood. So in the end, people can get as confused as they want, as long as I don’t seem to break any rules.
Bathrooms are a recurring problem and the internet is filled with stories exactly like mine. They are the number one location where I can expect trouble. Runner up locations are far behind this one. Bathrooms are to be split up for very important reasons. Women use bathrooms as a safe haven to get away from all the annoying men on the planet. They expect to meet only other women while they perfect their make up in front of the bathroom mirror. Men are not supposed to witness this and they are definitely not welcome in the safe harbor. Can you imagine the mayhem? In short, I get a lot of angry looks and questions. It’s surprising how many women feel as if they have to chase me out or insult me. Bathrooms may be a safe place for most women, but they aren’t to me.
Our belief is that travel shouldn’t be constrained by whether you’re gay, straight or indecisive. Travel is for everyone. We encourage everyone to use common sense and expect to be safe. The same issues occur everywhere in the world. Going to a new place and discover different cultures and attitudes can be enriching and open you eyes to new perspectives. Don’t hold back and follow your dream. If seeing the world is your dream, like it is ours, don’t let anything hold you back. Happy travels!
As a young kid Inge roamed the land of Europe on the back of her mothers motorcycle; the lady bike. While her older brother was happily at the back of the mens bike. Sleeping in tents, discovering different places and making friends all over the world, these family holidays made a solid base for the free lifestyle she wants to lead as an adult. Her never-ceasing thirst for knowledge and her search for a way to leave the rat race of everyday existence behind she signed up for a course about web design. Now it is possible to combine her two biggest passions into one namely writing and photography. Always eager to expand her horizons she is looking forward to collaborating with others bloggers.
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