by Jason Dittmer
LGBT parents may experience challenges other households do not, but a family is still a family, and families need to get away every once in a while!
Planning a trip abroad with your family is an awesome opportunity to show your kids that the world is huge, to unplug and connect, and to kindle a sense of adventure. International travel destinations are becoming increasingly inclusive and welcoming to LGBT families, but here are a few things to consider prior to your departure.
CHOOSING YOUR INTERNATIONAL DESTINATION
As Americans, we all take certain precautions to either avoid or to be prepared for situations where we may be disliked due to our nationality. LGBT families have to be even more careful and selective about the international destinations we visit.
Although most LGBT travelers encounter no problems while overseas, the US Department of State advises,” …it helps to be prepared and research your destination before you go. There are a number of countries that provide legal protections to those who are LGBTI. Unfortunately, there are others that do not… Personal judgment and knowledge of local laws and customs before one goes will help ensure your safety.”
While planning a trip abroad, visit the State Department’s LGBT webpage (see RESOURCES). The advice from the Department includes: “before choosing one’s international destination, LGBTI travelers should carefully consider the laws and biases of their international destination and decide how open one can be regarding one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The most important legal questions to answer for your family are:
Is my same-sex marriage accepted in this country?
Will my same-sex partner be recognized as my spouse?
Even if marriage legislation is similar, there is no harm in carrying papers such as a marriage license and health care proxies with you.
Will we be recognized as the legal parents of our children?
Without a formal adoption certificate, a country could nullify your custody, so it may be best to clear any doubts with a lawyer or contacting the embassy at your destination.
TIP: leave a copy of all documents with relatives or friends back home. In case the documents you take on your trip get lost or stolen, they can easily send you a copy.
THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT
Despite dramatic increases in the visibility and acceptance during our lifetimes, being LGBT still means being treated differently in a surprising number of situations and personal interactions.
As many of us have experienced, the logistics of travel require a lot of interacting with people who are in positions of power or control, such as TSA agents, immigration officers, car rental agents, hotel desk clerks, restaurant servers, and tour guides.
“Typically, these interactions involve some exchange of information about who is in our traveling party and how we’re related to each other. For example, just last week a server asked my partner, son (a Hispanic young man) and I if we wanted three separate checks, thinking maybe we were buddies. While we took no offense, it was a reminder that to the general population we don’t look like a family unit.
“We’ve found many of these interactions to be businesslike: ‘OK, so you’re the dads, this is your son, got it.’ Other conversations have been pleasant—affirming, even—such as when a U.S. customs agent informed us that we now only need to fill out one form for our household,” says Steve Brister of GayFamilyTravel.com.
Odds are you’ve already had a conversation (or many!) with your family about why you are the same as -- but also different from -- other families. But, before leaving home, consider talking through questions or assumptions you may encounter in your travels.
GAY FRIENDLY vs FAMILY FRIENDLY vs GAY-FAMILY FRIENDLY
As H. Luiz Martinez explains in his article 8 Travel Tips for Gay Family Getaways for Passport.com: “When searching for amazing gay family getaways, it is important to understand that ‘gay friendly’ may differ from ‘gay-family friendly’. Some people may be okay with same-sex couples, but may be intolerant of LGBT couples with children.”
Whether traveling abroad, or within our boarders, being a parent means finding places that offer activities and attractions appropriate for the entire family. For many, the adult-oriented nightlife scenes don’t have the same appeal as they did ‘pre-family’.
Similarly, “…we’re no longer comfortable -- or in some cases, even allowed -- at many gay-focused accommodations we’ve enjoyed in the past, as they focus on gay singles and couples and sometimes allow clothing-optional sunbathing and alcohol-fueled partying. The same applies to some gay-owned restaurants, as we once left a popular hamburger joint when the drag queen brunch entertainer (we weren’t warned about that when we were seated) veered into explicit language and sexual innuendo that was completely inappropriate for our teenage son,” says Steve Brister.
[make TIP: pop] TIP: Before you book, call ahead and have a conversation with the resort, hotel, or attraction.
Whatever our family structures look like, our best vacations provide chances to unwind together, create lasting memories, and provide opportunities to experience new things.
We look forward to the day when LGBT parents traveling with kids will be considered commonplace to the tourism industry, our fellow travelers, and international hosts. Until then, we encourage families to be thoughtful and confidant during vacation planning, but most importantly, to have fun together!
Travel Gay Seattle
US Department of State