Navigating the World as Me
Have you ever been on a travel adventure that was both your dream and a source of quiet apprehension? That’s exactly what our recent trip to Tanzania was. Imagine my girlfriend and I, both standing on the cusp of our 40th birthdays and celebrating our 15th anniversary together, embarking on an African safari that was as much about discovering a new world as it was about hiding parts of ourselves.
Our Adventure in Tanzania
Tanzania was always a country that held a certain magic for us. Its breathtaking wildlife, the remarkable spectacle of the Great Wildebeest Migration, the inspiring grandeur of Mount Kilimanjaro, and the legendary warmth and friendliness of its people—they all whispered promises of an unforgettable travel adventure. But we also knew that, as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we’d have to tread lightly, mindful of the country’s conservative society and laws against homosexuality.
We made the choice to err on the side of caution. A private safari tour offered a safety bubble. Although it was a bit more of a financial stretch, it would elicit fewer personal conversations than being trapped in a jeep with other travellers for seven days. In our interactions with locals, we became just two old friends from high school days, not the couple we truly are. It was a necessary facade, but each moment of pretense was a tiny, unspoken sacrifice.
Our safari guide was truly one of a kind. Our first impression of him, picking us up at the Kilimanjaro airport at 10:30 p.m., more than 24 hours after having left home, was a little disconcerting. He spoke very little, coughed constantly, and didn’t seem friendly. Finally, he would later admit that he had partied the night before, singing too much and damaging his voice. In the end, his contagious enthusiasm for Tanzania and its incredible wildlife sparked a joy within us. We still maintained a careful dance around personal conversations—a silent understanding that held steady throughout our journey. Amid the thrill of the safari, there was this nagging reminder that we were travellers carrying a hidden truth.
Travelling Despite Everything
Back home in North America, recent events have raised questions about rights and protections for the LGBTQIA+ community and women. There are attempts to restrict the rights of transgender individuals and women, like laws restricting access to abortion or healthcare for transgender youth. As a queer woman, these changes remind me that our fight for acceptance and equal rights is far from over, even in societies touted as progressive.
On the one hand, we have this insatiable curiosity to explore new cultures and landscapes. On the other, we need to navigate societies that may not accept or understand our identities. It’s this delicate balance that adds layers of complexity to our travels.
And then there’s the puzzle of how travel impacts local economies versus political regimes. Our tourist dollars help local communities thrive, but they could also inadvertently reinforce political systems that perpetuate discriminatory practices. Evidently, finding a way to support local people without endorsing restrictive policies is a tricky challenge.
Despite these quandaries, we are staunch believers in change. Our Tanzanian travel adventure was an eye-opening journey of contrasts. It reminded us that while the world is a beautiful tapestry of diverse cultures, it can be challenging for people like us. But we are not discouraged. In fact, every time we travel, it strengthens our resolve to keep exploring, learning, and sparking conversations that matter.
Going back home
Interestingly, this trip did something else too. It made me fall in love with Montréal all over again. Coming back home, I felt a renewed sense of freedom, a deep appreciation for the ability to be my authentic self without fear. I can hold my girlfriend’s arm as we walk down the streets, an act so simple yet so profound. I was reminded of the privilege of growing up white in a developed and liberal country. It made me realize just how much more we can and should do to extend these freedoms to everyone, everywhere.
As a queer traveller, I must navigate complexities, stand up for who I am, and appreciate the privileges I often take for granted. Hope and resilience continue to fuel my journeys and love brings me back home, time and again.
Revisit our Marketing Director’s article in defense of a less performative pride here.