Originally written for GaysWithKids.com
It’s funny. As I think about traveling as a gay man or as part of a gay family, I try to consider what makes our travels gay. Yeah, um, it’s just that we’re gay; nothing else. I was sitting here analyzing our adventures and writing and realized that our journeys aren’t any different than what a straight family does. We camp. We take the kids to Mexico and Disneyland. We take our own child-free trips. Nothing about anything of these things is exceptionally homosexual. So what is it that makes our travels gay?
I figured it out. It’s how we feel in the places we go. When we visit cities, we are sure to stroll through the neighborhoods and see the sights/people. We might try to hit the gayborhood too if the city has one. Nothing too gay about this I guess. What makes our travels gay is that as much as we try not to think about it, different areas give a different vibe of acceptance, and hence we feel like a gay family traveling.
Example: when you go to San Francisco, you don’t just go to the Castro. You venture into the Haight and into the Mission. Each place gives you a completely different feel. Each place embraces you differently. The Castro wants to hug you. The Haight is indifferent. The Mission wants to make sure you’re fed, but they don’t want to chat.
Some places you truly feel at home and you get smiles from everyone you pass and other spots make you feel a little less comfortable. With each location, you’re looking through the lens of “are people staring at us because we’re two dads?” or “awwww, people think our family is cute.” Ideally you just get to play tourist or go find a café to chill in, but it can be tough to not feel watched. Unintentionally I’m always catching the random glances and stares. This is just something that I’ve got to get past, but until I do, I’ll still feel like a gay traveler.
Recently we took our kids camping. It was our first camping adventure with all four of us. It went great. Everyone slept well and we had fun.
Here are two different interactions/observations about how people interact with us as a family:
As we were setting up camp though, we were being watched. A couple close by was just staring as we unpacked and shared responsibilities with two kids. It was obvious that we were not the standard family. Were they watching because they were curious if we operated differently and used magical powers or because they were waiting to see what sort of down the gay guys lined their tent with? We were being watched as a gay family, a novelty. Either way, they indiscreetly watched us until they checked out. It was enough that I was distracted and uncomfortable.
During the same trip we encountered a completely different type of traveler. An elderly couple set up camp directly next to us and paid no mind to us dads at all, but focused on the kids and just wanted to talk about kids and travel and food and… Upon us leaving after the weekend, the woman told us that our family was beautiful and she wished she had a dad like either of us. Through all of our interactions with them, we felt just like a standard family, traveling and showing our kids the world. We weren’t gay dads with kids, just a family out camping.
Wherever we go we’ll feel something; we’ll get some vibe from the people. I’d like to think that everywhere will only ever be welcoming or dismiss us as normal, but that may not be the case. In the meantime, I’m personally working on not paying attention to the eyes peering at us, but just on the little people that we’re responsible for. We are making sure the kids see the sights and meet lots of people, and through it, hopefully they’ll not feel like their family is a novelty but that there truly are so many different families out there.
Rob Taylor is the founder of 2TravelDads, the original LGBT Family Travel blog. Focusing on ecotourism and education, 2TravelDads inspires LGBT families (and traditional families also) to go beyond their usual getaways and use travel to learn about and be part of a bigger world. “Traveling the globe and giving the kids a broad worldview.”