Allen and Kevin are a married gay couple from northern Britain who have enjoyed countless holidays while vacationing in many countries around the world. They would wish to travel to more beautiful countries like Jamaica, Gambia, Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, and the United Arab Emirates. Sadly, they can’t because of the anti-homosexuality stance in these countries. I interviewed them and we discussed their concerns as a traveling gay couple…
There are 78 countries that criminalize homosexuality and seven of them do so with severe punishments such as death penalty by hanging or being pelted with stones. Such measures have prevented gay holidaymakers from traveling there. Many western governments have warned gays against all travels to homophobic countries and in case they decide to, precautions should be taken to avoid becoming hate victims.
Despite the homophobia, Allen can’t resist Turkey’s green mountainous countryside, the warm weather, and its friendly people. They spent this year’s summer holiday while vacationing in the southwestern part of the country but they had to be extra-careful not to make public displays of affection. He decried the fact that what was meant to be their special holiday turned into something quite uncomfortable. “We just don’t show we are gay. Like while in the hairdressers’, we were asked if we were brothers or friends and I had to say that we are friends’” Allen said.
There are a lot of taboos that gay people should bear in mind while traveling to homophobic countries and Allen mentions a few of them: “You have to be very careful not to look like a couple, no holding hands, no tiny kisses, you have to just look and behave normally just like friends or brothers. Walk separately and not too close.” When asked if such scenarios restrict their romantic affection, Allen replied: “Oh yes very much so. There are times when all I want to do is put my arm around Kevin but I can’t and if we want to have a tiny ‘I love you’ quick pic kiss, we have to look around to make sure that no one is there and then we do. If we hold hands, we have to do it in places where people can’t see us”
The worst part of being a traveling gay couple is having strange faces looking at you with a lot of suspicions. Such encounters traumatize you and make you a soft target for all kinds of homophobic victimization. Allen and Kevin have had nasty experiences, notably with their hotel staff who on several occasions ridiculed them with disgusting name-calling such as ‘gay-boys, poofs, fags’. Much of this contention is about their accommodation arrangements. “Sometimes you’re allocated single beds and if you move them together the hotel staff moves them apart. If you ask for a double-bed, then you are looked at like you have 2 heads and then all the staff spends the entire day talking about you, some avoid you and some actually call you to other people “the gay boys”’.
“We just don’t show that we are gay. Like while in the hairdressers’, we were asked if we were brothers or friends and I had to say that we are just friends’” – Allen Johnson.
Such experiences restrict gays from enjoying the best of their holidays and this just shows how risky it is for gays to travel to homophobic countries. While defending his sexuality, Allen gives this explanation: “I didn’t choose to be gay because I was born this way. Who would choose to be gay to go thru a life of victimization? No straight person understands how hard it is for a gay kid to just do a simple thing like growing up. I was bullied all through school for being gay.”
While there are many theories as to why there’s so much widespread hatred for gays, Allen thinks that religion is the troublemaker. He says that religion has fueled homophobic attacks right from the start when the missionaries went came to Africa to convert people ‘who they knew where impressionable’. Allen asserted: “They said they were going to spread the word of God, no they were just spreading hate”. Allen says that people in deeply conservative countries need to understand why one is gay and that being gay is a not a choice because you cannot control who you develop feelings for and who you find attractive.
It would be meaningless to talk about a problem without discussing the possible solutions. Among the western governments, the United States has been influential in pushing for pro-gay legislations in countries where homosexuality is criminalized. Some of the measures have included withdrawing of foreign aid and threatening sanctions. But all of them seem not to be effective. Allen thinks that an internal solution needs to be applied such as having non-religious leaders who aren’t swayed by their own personal beliefs or by corruption and that this would solve the problem.
Additionally, it’s a well-known fact that gay couples tend to have more free money to spend while on holidays. This pink pound phenomenon is a real money earner for these countries most of which are languishing in absolute poverty. And it is because of this that they need to realize gay people can make a positive contribution in boosting the local economy.
Let’s admit it, some of the most beautiful places for a holiday are found in some of these homophobic countries. This puts gay couples to the test whether they should consider traveling there and then face the risks. It only limits their ability to move freely and enjoy the best of what this world has to offer just like the straight people.
For now, Allen and his partner have no intentions of traveling to some countries on their wish list until when the environment favors them to do so. “Only if it’s safer than now, then we will go, otherwise, we can’t take risks at the moment.”
What should be done to eliminate the homophobia encountered by gays while visiting deeply conservative countries that criminalize homosexuality? Leave your opinions in the comment box below…