The redder an area’s colour on our government’s corona lists, the more I feel like going there. You know that feeling? The forbidden fruit. I had never heard of the Severoiz tours in Bulgaria or Southern Muntenia in Romania, but ever since the Foreign Office prohibited us from visiting these places, all I want to do is go there!
Don’t worry, I’m not going there. Not right now and probably not even when corona’s over. But let’s admit it: daydreaming about faraway countries and relaxing holidays makes the restrictions we have to live with today just a little easier to bear.
I know a couple who have their travel destinations determined by chance. Dice, cards, scrabble cubes or darts decide whether they’ll go to Luxembourg or India. The only condition is that it should be a place they haven’t been to before, and I suppose they’ll skip countries like Syria and Yemen for a while. This is how they travel the world year after year.
I am very jealous of them. I wish I could do the same with my family and just count on good luck to take us around the world. But this is not a possibility for LGBTI+ people. In about seventy countries, homosexuality is punishable by law; in some, you can even be sentenced to death for it. Of course, as a Rainbow traveller you don’t just go somewhere blindly and happily on holiday. And then there are the countries where LGBTI+ persons may be officially tolerated but subjected to lot of hostility from the society.
I know some LGBT people don’t care about all that. Most of us are – perhaps because of our years of closet training – able to blend in with the heterosexual masses for a while, and that results in nice holiday photos.
But a holiday romance or flirtation in such a country? The uneasy feeling that you’re taking a risk is constantly present. What do you do when they refuse you a double bed as a man-man couple and ostentatiously put a nightstand between the two beds you push together every day? Do you knock on the hotel manager’s desk, or do you swallow your resentment for fear of problems? As a lesbian couple, dare you ask a local to take a romantic photo of you and your partner? Unfortunately, travelling together will never be as carefree for us as it is for our heterosexual counterparts.
As a rainbow family, it’s even impossible to put up such a facade. How can you ask your children to treat one of the moms/daddies more distantly? How long would it take for them or for you to fail? I know: as a Western tourist we are much less at risk than the local LGBTI+ people. But even if you yourself can take a risk, you certainly don’t want to expose your children to such dangers. So our list of holiday destinations in non-corona times is a lot shorter than those of our straight friends.
Actually, the corona measures have ensured that heterosexuals also experience our limitations. There are countries that they’re banned from visiting (closed borders), there are countries where they are allowed to go but where they are at risk (code red and orange) and then there are the ‘boring’ places closer to home. There’s a clear parallel with what LGBTI+ persons experience on all their holidays.
Only we don’t complain about it that much, and maybe that’s wrong. Maybe we’re too fatalistic and too quick to jump to the conclusion: “we’re too small a group, we won’t change this anyway.” Let’s try to get our straight friends to take our ‘red’ countries off their lists until those countries conquer the homophobia virus.
This is necessary because the list of those ‘forbidden’ countries is far too long, and unfortunately seems to be getting even longer. The election of the new Polish president does not look promising, and in Hungary they’re proud of every measure that makes life more difficult for LGBTI+ people. However, these countries are in our backyard. For LGBTI+ Europeans in some parts of the European Union, the open borders don’t actually seem to be open after all. It’s unthinkable that we have to accept this as our reality.
COVID-19 has made a lot of people experience what it is like to not always be able to go everywhere, so they can empathise better with our situation. I therefore ask the European Commission and all our European parliamentarians to seize this new empathy and force this openness at least within (but where possible also outside) Europe.
That way in post-corona times we will no longer have to daydream about those fabulous holidays, but instead just pack our bags and head out on our next carefree adventure. I will be happy to send Charles and Ursula a postcard.
This text is a translation of a text originally written in Dutch. The original can be found here: http://brunodelille.eu/should-i-stay-or-should-i-go/