When I was in college, my boyfriend at the time and I came out on campus in the newspaper. I went to a private conservative Christian university, and so this wasn't well-received by a lot of people. However, it brought so many fellow progressive campus members out into the open. I was suddenly flooded with congratulations and outpourings of love and support from peers I hadn’t expected to become allies. My boyfriend and I kind of became a beacon for people who were liberal and inclusive. If you were cool and accepting and didn't like the judgmental, hypocritical, bigoted message of many of the radical right evangelicals on campus, you knew that if you hung out with us, you would meet other people who were like you. I don't mean people who were gay, just those who have the same sensibilities, the same notions of right and wrong, and the same internal feelings of love and acceptance, not judgment and bigotry. Essentially, what I am saying is that if you hung out with us, you would meet other people who weren't assholes.
So what the Hell does the story above have to do with gay travel? The answer is, "everything" In today's changing world of gay travel.
Sexuality is something that has defined us for years, and the words “gay lifestyle" have been a common descriptor, a misnomer used to separate and isolate. My lifestyle as a gay man living in Chicago will very likely be much more similar to straight people living in Chicago, than it is with my gay friends who live in very small towns. Similarly my lifestyle as a gay man without children is much more similar to straight people without children than it is with my gay friends who have children.
The point I am trying to make is that straight people aren't joining a gay group because they have inklings of being gay. They are traveling with gay groups because they want to travel with like-minded people with whom they may share similar experiences. In the same way that years ago my open-minded straight classmates sought out my boyfriend and I to find solace and shared sensibilities and values, straight people who value acceptance and inclusion today find a home with Zoom Vacations, my gay tour company. Our company was founded on the principles of acceptance, and we welcome them with open arms. As a side-note, they are often our most appreciative travelers.
So how is a gay tour affected when straight people join it? Believe it or not, I truly feel that our tours are even better when we have a diverse mix of people, whatever that entails--the caveat being as long as all are accepting and allow their fellow travelers to be who they are. It is just more interesting. You have a greater variety of people, sharing their own life experiences which shape what they are seeing and doing on the trip. I also think that it makes a lot of our LGBTQ travelers, especially our older ones, feel especially good, "normal", and healthy, to have straight people on a gay tour who are so loving and accepting. It just feels right.
So how does this make our gay customers feel who have signed on to an all-gay tour? Most gay people join a gay tour because they want to feel that they can totally be themselves, and they want to travel with like-minded people. We have never had a straight traveler on our gay group tour who made our LGBTQ travelers feel otherwise. The fact of the matter is, when you are on a gay tour such as this, no matter if there are straight people on the tour or not, you can completely be yourself, make the jokes that you want to make, share a sweet PDA with your partner, and in general do what you want to do.
While most of our tours don't have straight travelers on them, in the past five years the number of straight people taking our gay tours has increased. Often times, a gay couple in the tour has invited a straight couple they know to join the tour, or perhaps someone brings their sister, brother, or other family member.
Personally, I like this trend. I like meeting different people from different walks of life, as long as they are cool. In fact, I fantasize about starting a new company called "Just Don't be an Asshole Vacations". I think it will be really popular.