Traveling gay in the USA- has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? But what is it really like to travel across the USA as out lesbians? June is a time to celebrate our pride in the LGBTQ+ community and the progress of the queer experience over the years. The freedom we have to travel as an out couple in the USA is based on the hardship of hundreds of thousands who have fought for recognition, equal rights and safety for queer people in America. It’s the month to come together and share our stories.
We acknowledge that our experience is that of two caucasian, cis-gendered, physically fit, fairly gender conforming females. Our experience is likely different from so many others, and just because this is our experience, it does not mean it is everyone’s experience. Still, we’d love to share a few surprises we’ve encountered as LGBT travelers in the USA. In the last year, we’ve been to 42 states, and 5 provinces. We’ve logged over 25,000 road miles together in Ruby (a 2001 Toyota Tacoma) and Rose (our T@b teardrop). Ruby Rose has been there through it all. And here are some surprises we’ve learned about traveling gay along the way.
We were most worried about Texas & Utah
We had our prejudices when we started this trip. Guilty. Let’s be honest, it’s not always safe, welcomed or comfortable to be a LGBT traveler in the USA. Valerie came out in Michigan in 2008 and was spit on for holding her then girlfriend’s hand in public. Not good, folks. And this is minor compared to the many people that have died in the name of hate and fear of the LGBTQ+ community. So we had real fears about traveling through some US states, particularly those with conservative reputations. But we decided to not let fear drive our lives. We decided that travel was more important than being scared to leave our San Francisco sanctuary. So off across the red states we went! Two of our first surprises were Utah and Texas.
With a large religious community, Utah is traditionally a conservative state, so it was one of the states we weren’t sure what to expect. Yet, of all the epic places we’ve visited so far, Utah may just be our favorite. So much majesty fills the breathtaking, awe inspiring expanse of the desert. Because of all of it’s natural beauty, we recommend Utah for everyone again and again. Zion. Arches. Canyonlands. The Great Salt Lake…the many national parks across Utah has so much to offer in terms of beautiful scenery, gorgeous hikes, and amazing camping.
The beauty of the natural world transcended our concerns about the political environment. We share a bit more of our experience in our post, “Lesbians Do Utah.” But all around, it wasn’t bad. Did we hold hands in public? Not often. Did we correct people when they asked if we were sisters? Sometimes. We walked through Utah cautiously. But when you’re in the mountains, no one’s there to judge. The people we did encounter were there to enjoy nature as well. With every gorgeous hike we took, we felt closer to each other and closer to nature. Win-win, we’d say.
Texas was another state we had our reservations about. We decided to stay in the middle of Texas during the month of February to save money and enjoy a warm winter. We weren’t sure how “out” we would be camping in rural Texas.
Our first interaction with Texans was with the Police. After 8 hours of driving, they pulled us over only minutes from our campsite. With blue lights flashing in the darkness, the cop informed us that our brake lights on our camper were out and our license plate wasn’t displayed correctly. Oops. We got out of the car to inspect why the lights weren’t working. Turns out that our cords had been dragging on the road, causing the entire plug-in to rip apart.
So what happened next? The police took the next hour fixing our trailer and helping us install our license plate correctly. Southern hospitality? Chivalry? White privilege? Is that what this is called? And would this have happened if we were not white females? Perhaps not, but we hope so. Let’s just say their kindness was a welcomed surprise.
We weren’t sure how we’d be treated as lesbians while camping in rural Texas. Surprisingly, we saw more gays in Texas than perhaps any state so far this trip (granted it is a big state :).) Sure, many people didn’t pick up on the fact that we were lesbian, but those that did were kind and accepting. And we even held hands in Austin and San Antonino with no problems. With the warm weather, great deals on camp sites, and warm friendly people, Texas exceeded expectations. If we stayed in another part of Texas would we have had the same expereince? Again, we hope so.
3. We’ve been welcomed and accepted
In the last nine months, camping all across the USA, we’ve been surprised how welcomed and accepted we’ve felt. While camping, you’ll meet people from all over the USA. We tend to tell only people we feel comfortable with that we’re a couple. We are obviously two women sleeping with two dogs in VERY close quarters so many people can deduct that we’re a couple. But some people just can’t seem to wrap their heads around it. Are you sisters? Cousins? Mother/daughter? Lesbian couple just doesn’t come to mind. But moral of the story, every single person we’ve met along the way has been kind to us.
While camping in California, we met Jennifer and Ray from Idaho and they have been the most inspiring couple we’ve met. While camping in Maine, we also met Missy and Rey, who shared their campfire with us, and we sat and talked about our lives for hours and hours. And we went deep ya’ll. This wasn’t just surface level stuff. This was a soul searching depth of vulnerability we rarely go to with our closest friends. And guess where they’re from? Texas. One thing we’ve learned again and again is to stop judging people if you want them to stop judging you.
4. Judging people is limiting
One of our many lessons we’ve learned is to open ourselves up to more conversation and less judgement. We left San Francisco with a feeling of “we-know-better liberalness” that we carried onto this trip. We were afraid to travel across post-election America, baffled and fearful of states and people whose world views were so different from our own.
This trip has challenged our liberal preconceptions again and again. We’ve met so many people from many walks of life, and guess what? Every single person has been kind to us. Even if our opinions of the world or politics are so different, we started listening more to people on this trip. Asking questions about why they believe what they believe and what their experience has been. And our life perspective has changed. Perhaps not our geo-political world views, but how we view people who have different backgrounds than we do.
We’ve come to realize that every person’s world view is a sum of their experiences and what they’ve been exposed to in their lifetimes. It’s easier to understand where people are coming from when we hear their stories, their hardships and their joys.
When we surround ourselves with people like ourselves, we only get one side of the story. And don’t get us wrong, we still feel we are right some of the time (ok most of the time…ok 100% of the time), but who are we to say that other people’s experience is wrong? Most humans all feel that what they are doing is right. We all feel like we’re the good guys. And turns out, most of us are.
5. People are kind, good, and generous
Human kindness is everywhere we’ve been so far.
It transcends any political perspectives. Try turning off the news, take a break from Facebook, and try seeing what we have in common with others, not just how we are different. Do bad things happen? Yes, of course, this is life and life is messy. Do people hurt each other? Absolutely. We’ve both been hurt by people we are close to.
Still, the over arching feeling we’ve gotten from this trip is that people are kind. People are generous. People want to help more than they want to hurt. We live in so much fear about the “bad guys” when 90% of people are good. Our fear of people has been crushed by their love. SO MUCH LOVE. We hope you, too, go into this world seeking the good in people and hoping that your kindness will transmit and more kindness will be spread.
The ultimate question: Is it dangerous to travel as a LGBT couple in the USA?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Live your life for you and not in fear of others. You can be cautious, and brave and authentic. Yes, be careful, always. If you feel scared or uncomfortable for any reason leave, always. But how do you know what a place will be like unless you try? People and places may just surprise you. And ALWAYS research a place to understand cultural nuances to stay safe.
6. The internet can be supportive
One of the things we were also afraid of was hate on the internet. We have been pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of love and support we’ve received online: comments on videos, on our blog, Instagram, and personal messages. People from all walks of life, countries, and political views have been supportive of us. Thank you for your supportive messages and sharing your inspiring stories about your lives, aspirations to camp, travel, and live freer, authentic lives. Your kind words keep us going day in and day out.
Happy and safe pride everyone.
Also, want to join us at Ella Lesbian Festival in Spain? Click below!