Queer Travel Safety

Updated: Dec 26, 2021

As queer folks, embarking on a lengthy trip through 'murica, safety has been a hot topic on our minds. Specifically, the "unwelcome" mat laid out before us by many places. Read more!

Beacons of Safety (or nah)

Cross-referencing maps seems to be a new hobby. Specifically, Rand McNally road map books with maps like Movement Advancement Project's (MAP) Equality Maps. This one, for example, shows whether state laws exist to define prosecution of certain hate crimes against LGBTQIA+ folks, and what, if any, protections the state law offers.

The federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act augmented federal hate crime law to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. This means that the federal government can prosecute homophobically (now a word) motivated hate crimes.

However, the same state where sweet Matthew's life was taken (Wyoming) has no local hate crime prevention law, similar to 3 other states (Indiana, South Carolina and Arkansas).

Does this mean victims of homophobic rooted assault, in these places, should call the federal police instead of local police to press charges? I don't get it. Either way, the places without hate crime prevention laws on the books are a no-go for me because it means that the elected leadership of the state hasn't contemplated the necessity of such protections, or it has in the past without much support.

While MAP's hate crime legislation map serves as an attitudinal weathervane, I'm going to need an overlay map of anti-trans homicides, which have increased by at least 300% so far in 2021. According to them, a media platform that covers topics through an LGBTQIA+ lens, "As we near the midpoint of the year, the number of reported murders of trans and gender nonconforming people has already surpassed the number of murders reported by the [Human Rights Campaign] at this point in 2020." Regardless of the circumstances of these homicides, it indicates a quality of "disposability" placed upon trans women, specifically.

Prior to and since Mama Marsha P. Johnson, our culture is in large-part unsupportive and aggressive toward trans humans, especially trans women. There is a glaring element of disposability from the workplace, interview seat, family units, and public spaces.

Furthermore, a 3rd overlay map of anti-transgender "slate-of-hate" laws would be helpful. For example, Tennessee's HOUSE BILL 1182 was signed into law requiring public or private building operators to publicly post whether they allow use of restrooms per the user's choice. Do I hear great things about Tennessee? Yes. Is a Governor Bill Lee-esque dude likely to show up to our road-side assistance call on

I-40? Also yes. Avoiding slate-of-hate states is the only rational, safe thing to do. Sorry Memphis and Nashville. You too, Asheville. Unless we fly directly in to your regional airport, hard tellin' what sort of homophobery (this too is now a word) we would encounter enroute by trailer.

On Privilege

Let us assume Google maps or Waze came up with a "homophobic" filter using all of this data. As queer travelers, we switch that feature on and say a big "phew." Right? Super wrong. Queer folks of color, trans humans, and trans humans of color would not benefit from a simple homophobe filter.

We fully acknowledge the privilege that comes with both our whiteness, and our cis-ness as travelers. Showing up as I am in the world does not require nearly as much defense as those of color and those who present outside of gender "norms." I am in no position to describe the lived experience and travel logistics for trans folk and folks of color. I wholeheartedly acknowledge that safety considerations are unique for everyone.

Here is a very privileged situation which my person and I got to walk away from. Other than Jackson and the national parks, there are absolutely no safety signals beaming out of the state of Wyoming. While driving to Jackson, our stomachs began rumbling as did our assumptions about the cost of dining in said bougie mountain town. What do I see on the left, but the Yankee Doodle Cafe. Seemed like a burger and apple pie joint to me. Yankee Doodle stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni. Snacks!

Me being a newbie to the area and guided solely by my hanger, convinced my reluctant partner to pull into the lot. At first, she thought my intentions were to order take-out. Why not sit comfortably and eat though? I was determined to have me some Yankee Doodle sit-down grub, and ultimately, she rejected the idea of sitting in the car by herself. Let's just say the place was plastered in anti-immigrant memes that your drunk, racist uncle posts on the Facebooks. There were abundant notices about the place's open-carry preference. The "keep holstered unless the need arises," clause was arguably open for wide interpretation. Long story short, my Yelp review read as follows:

Here I am regretting putting my person in this position, and smiling through the fact there was plenty of signage indicating our kind was 100% unwelcome. Let's be honest, our whiteness in a place like this made us at least 50% welcome.

Speaking of Firearms

Our household discussion on self-defense on the road has taken many twists and turns. A wise friend of mine recommended that I first contemplate whether I could envision 1) carrying and, 2) ultimately firing at a human. Firstly, what good is a fire arm for self defense if it's in a drawer somewhere. Secondly, as my friend pointed pointed out, once an aggressor has made the decision to harm you, there is no time to make a counter decision lengthier than, "shoot." If I was accepting of numbers 1 and 2, the next step would be to enroll in firearm training.

At present, I have not having enrolled in the training, nor are my person and I leaning toward gun ownership at this point. I believe the worst in people just as I do being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I also believe that heightened awareness and smart choices are key to safety. With antennae on swivel, and multi-layered homophobe maps, it is possible to reduce risk by avoiding Yankee Doodle spaces. I'd like to think that having a big crazy dog helps on the road. Odds are, my Jersey roots would enable me to - an minimum - leave a mark on someone whilst protecting my family. I am aware that fearlessness can be helpful, but who is to say that would be enough in a crazy situation?

In asking around Airstream forums, I learned that that there are LGBTQIA+ gun advocacy groups. Disproportionate homicide rates for trans women alone suggest that arming one's self, especially in the ol' wild West, is completely valid to ensure a better night's rest on and off the road. This issue makes me want to both pound my fists and give rides to the range to any trans woman who wants one.

The queer mind does get to wandering about safety, while thinking about wandering.

#queertravel #lgbtqsafety #safetravel #homophobery #rainbowrig #traveltips




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