Who doesn't need a vacation?
My fiancé and I carved out some much needed time to put work and school and all else aside and hit the road for a couple of nights away. For once, we didn't feel like dealing with trains to airports to TSA lines to flights to trekking to hotels and back. Rinse, wash, repeat. We've been to some amazing places, and we didn't want to hop on a plane to travel somewhere far this time around. We wanted to go somewhere we had never been that was nearby, someplace that would be quiet and rural and romantic. Road trip!
But where to go?
Vacation planning for us queers is never just about where we want to go and where we can afford to go. The question of "is it safe for us to go there?" is always lurking, and we often and with good reason seriously consider the gay-friendliness of our vacation destination.
We've traveled to some of the most homophobic regions out there - the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean, the deep South in the U.S. - and found the experiences to be eye-opening, life-altering, and educationally superior. But I wouldn't normally recommend traveling somewhere overtly homophobic if you're looking for a romantic getaway with your same-sex lover. An adventure, yes; a safe haven, not exactly.
We've also traveled to some of the most pristine and luxurious destinations on the globe, and some of the gay-friendliest as well, but this time I didn't want to choose somewhere that was safe. I didn't feel like going to the tried and true haunts: Fire Island and Rehomo Beach, P-Town and Woodstock. While all great towns, we've been to each more times than I can count, and really wanted to go somewhere new this vacation. Key West can keep its key chains.
Blame it on all the Supreme Court marriage business and the fact that our community is getting closer and closer to mainstream acceptance, but I'm getting more and restless about curbing my life because of homophobia. I'm tired of navigating my vacations - albeit, time that is supposed to be worry-free - around places and people that don't accept my desire to kick back and enjoy a couple of days with no alarm clocks, hearty local cuisine and more rural settings than my normal concrete jungle existence.
So shoot me for wanting to invade your little heterosexual villages and town with my big lesbian lover. Wait, don't actually shoot me. That was a joke. Put the shotgun away and take the opportunity as a learning moment. We don't want to convert your children. We just want to convert our stress into relaxation via your endless corn fields, sandy beaches or green forests. We don't want trouble any more than you do, so please curb your bigotry and let us spend our money in your establishments and be met with respect.
We decided to visit Pennsylvania Dutch Country. My friends raised an eyebrow (or two) when I told them where we were going. Aside from the well-known kitsch that Lancaster offers with quilts and smorgasbord dinners (why would you choose that over say, Costa Rica or Turks and Caicos?!) aren't the Amish like, the exact polar opposite of lesbians? Wouldn't you wind up in some Amish wood chipper if you went there, people asked?
We weighed the pros and cons, but not for long before I put my foot down and said, "We're going to Amish country!" I'll be damned if the horse-and-buggy riding, bonnet donning, daily farming, religious homophobes get in the way of our desire for a cheesy vacation!
We rented a cabin the woods just about in the middle of nowhere. No Wi-Fi, no other life in sight less the sounds of the country - peeper frogs, horses in the nearby farm - a fireplace and a hot tub, and most importantly, my love. It was idyllic in setting, beautiful and simple.
It was terrifying in reality.
From the moment we arrived until the moment we saw the billboard that read, "Repent! Confess your sins today!" to the moment when we found excess amounts of Mennonite literature around the cabin, to the time we noticed that we were staying in the middle of a forest during hunting season, I worried.
Would the owners learn that we were lesbians and come after us? Would I return from a shower to find my sweet love wearing a white robe forced into some bizarre Mennonite ritual to cleanse her sinful soul? We were, after all, in the middle of nowhere and no one would ever know where we were if we disappeared. We laughed nervously about the possibilities of getting murdered by the homophobic Mennonites while we quietly moved the wood ax inside the cabin and locked the doors.
After a couple of days of nature and quiet and homemade jams, and what appeared to be a relatively peaceful people in the Amish and Mennonites that we encountered, we loosened up a bit and were able to enjoy ourselves. Still, there was no butt pinching or stolen kisses in the aisles of the Amish market like there might have been in the grocery store on Fire Island. I was nervous in those moments even in private when we were intimate.
I combed through the guest book to find other signatures like might be gay, but every single entry was signed by "Jane and Dicks," with Psalms and "blessed this and that." A glimmer of hope as I came across two female names in the book, but further investigation revealed that sadly the two were sisters. I made sure on our way out to sign the guest book with our very female names and relay beyond question to the owners and to every straight couple that would visit for ever after that we were lovers enjoying a romantic weekend away in their lovely cabin.
Were we investing our money in homophobic communities by visiting somewhere that wasn't gay-friendly or were we planting seeds of tolerance by exposing same-sex love to those who rarely get to witness it? Is is better to visit the same friendly places, or to venture somewhere that might be scary, maybe even unsafe?
Where do you gay vacation and what considerations do you weigh in advance?