Queer humans have this spectacular way of finding each other. It’s like the world is this place and we’re all involved in its mundane workings as teachers, servers, buskers, doctors, and any other occupation, but we’ve got this secret inside us that only some people can see. We’re carrying around these little magnets under our skin, close to our hearts, helping us gravitate towards each other.
And it’s exciting to meet queers in random places in the world. It’s like when you find a book by your favorite author in the hostel’s exchange library like the universe placed that book or that person right in your path because it’s nice to know there’s someone out there with something in common with you no matter where you are AND it’s really great to have a good book to read, too.
You feel a pull towards that person maybe because of the way they look (asymmetrical haircuts or femme fierceness), the way they carry themselves (effeminacy, subtle body language towards members of the same sex), or their PDA if they’re a couple which entirely outs them and definitely confirms what one might otherwise just suspect.
You find yourself seeking ways to out yourself so to confirm for that person — YES, I’m here, I’m queer, are you? We aren’t really alone on this plane full of straight people, are we? (No hate on the straights, but in my normal life, I’m never outnumbered like I am when I venture anywhere else in the world. Besides work and my soccer team, I’ve created this queer bubble, and I forget that I made it until I leave it.)
I’m on a flight from Ft. Launderdale to Lima beginning a four-month adventure of solo travel after a false start in Cabo. My airline, which is rated the worst in the entire U.S., does not provide drinks or snacks unless you’d like to pay highly overpriced sums of money. So like any experienced traveler who saves all her money so she can travel more and more and more, I came prepared with my own tea bag and cup. When I approached the flight attendants about the cost of filling my glass with hot water, they laughed and offered me a ginger ale instead.
“Oh honey, we don’t really want to charge for every little thing,” one of them confided as he filled my cup from their spigot for free.
Normally, I’d go back to my seat and my book and the last three hours until Lima, but they were two maybe gay Latino men in their early 20s who were feeling chatty two hours into our cross Caribbean flight.
They asked what I was going to do in Lima, and I reeled off my next four months of travel plans because I’ve done it so many times the past few months and so many more times in the few weeks and days before my departure. I love saying it out loud because I’m so, so excited, and then when I’m done I shrug because all of it could change at any minute, and I love that too.
Next, I asked if they knew Ceecee, a flight attendant of the same airline. She is also my ex-girlfriend’s mother, and we had just hung out for three hours at the Ft. Lauderdale airport in between her flights. Ceecee is a fantastic woman who raised another fantastic woman, Carli. We had tumultuous six-month relationship awhile back, but I can happily count her as one of my dear friends nowadays.
Ceecee is also a person who loves love just like me, so I had gone on and on about my misadventures with a lover in Cabo. She’d hugged me and let me talk all about my yucky feelings, and I felt so lucky to have her to help me process what happened. Now it didn’t feel so hard to sit with everything on this long plane ride.
Neither knew her, but this launched us into a conversation about how to be cordial with your exes, and more specifically how much we love our exes’ mothers. The more loquacious of the two immediately described his ex boyfriend’s fabulous momma and her fantastic home cooked meals and how she remembered his birthday when his shitty boyfriend didn’t. Despite their break-up, he still adores her and calls her to say hello.
When the conversation turned back to my travels, I lamented the lack of information available especially for queer women who traveling alone. There are lots of travel web sites, but they all basically say the same thing and very few are helpful if you want to find your fellow queers. My new best friends sympathetically reassured me that they knew from experience that there are queers all over the world, and I was sure to find them.
For the next hour, the topics of conversation flowed as freely as the ginger ales. We discussed their home base of Las Vegas, the wonders of my adopted city of New Orleans, the cuisine of Peru, the benefits of being a flight attendant, all the places we wanted to travel in the world, and if it’s better to travel alone, with friends, or with a lover. I felt at home with strangers after a somewhat rough day and a half of traveling. (Did I mention my vacation girlfriend broke up with me in Cabo right before I left for this trip?)
Despite the benefits, being a flight attendant must be mundane at times. They ride a plane back and forth across continents and serve people drink after expensive drink and deal with crying babies and drunk bros; both of which were on our flight.
And then I walk up dressed like a weirdo I am with flower print high waist elastic-y pants, black socks that cover my ankles because the pants don’t, hiking shoes, a black tank top, and a very old, ripped, and bleached jean button up. My side shaved and coyly floppy almost mullet stands out amongst the tourists headed to Lima and the Peruvians headed home.
Maybe these two chat up all the fliers who wander back into their area when they’re bored, but I think they reached out and wanted to make that connection because of our shared affinities, our mutual experience because queer family is family no matter where you are.
When we hit some turbulence because we went through a storm to avoid volcanic activity in Colombia (crazy, right?), they gave me a handful of oatmeal raisin bars, and I went back to my seat to write about them. When I got off the plane, I hugged them both. We wished each other luck in the big world waiting out there. Somehow having these nice queers to chat with calmed my nerves and made me a helluva a lot more confident about finding my way as a queer woman by myself in South America and maybe finding more queer family along the way.
This is a column! It is written by Laura Burns and it is called “Queer Travelogue.” You can read it every month!
Laura Burns writes, teaches, and travels. She is a queer woman who is based New Orleans, but she’s also on the road quite a bit because there are so many interesting people to meet and beautiful things to see. She’s interested in queer politics, feminism, education, polyamory, and any and all discussions about race, class, and privilege.