Do you remember when the world was open? When we would scan the internet for deals to far-flung destinations – winter sun in Dubai, Barbados beach holidays; once-in-a lifetime trips to see the Pyramids of Giza or the ‘big five’ animals on safari in Tanzania or Namibia.
Well, none of those getaways were quite as straightforward, even then, for a family like mine, because they are all holidays in just some of the 69 countries where being gay is illegal. Travelling abroad as a family with two mums or two dads brings an extra layer of consideration, in a world where the UK – not that we’re perfect – leads the way when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights.
A global pandemic doesn’t have many silver linings, but one, perhaps, is shifting our thinking towards holidays right here in the British Isles. Not only have we been reminded of the beauty of our country – the dramatic fells and mirror-pools of the Lake District, the wide white beaches of Cornwall and its hidden, glittering coves, the deep greens of our ancient forests and the wild romantic coastlines of Northumberland – for LGBTQ+ families, some of the stress of going abroad, as much as a committed traveller like me loves to do it, has fallen away.
It must be said that many of the countries where simply loving someone of the same gender is against the law, don’t apply the rule to tourists; and, on occasion, my wife and I have overlooked it in order to visit somewhere we really want to go. Sri Lanka is one example, where the outdoor carriages on the Colombo to Kandi jungle railway, tea country hikes in Ella, perfect sunset walks on the ramparts of Galle Fort and beach beauty of a tiny hotel near Mirissa combined to produce one of our favourite holidays. But that trip was over 7 years ago, and, when thinking about it now, I increasingly feel uncomfortable about how I, as a tourist, was afforded rights that local people aren’t.
Whilst, before kids, my wife and I were willing at times to hide or play down our relationship when abroad, especially off the beaten track – on the high altitude streets of La Paz in Bolivia, perhaps, or deep in the Ecuadorian rainforest – it’s not something I am prepared to do whilst travelling with my children. I never want them to see their parents apologise for our family. Pre-children, I felt the same about our honeymoon. Yes, a trip to the Maldives or Mauritius might have been spectacular, but, even where romance-specialist resorts accept same sex couples, I would not have wanted to play down any aspect of our ‘just-married’ happiness. (We plumped instead for Brazil, where we danced until dawn broke on Ipanema Beach at neighbouring gay clubs La Girl and Le Boy in Rio, and found ourselves surrounded by fellow same sex couples on the paradise island of Morro de Sao Paolo.)
That said, I’d be lying if I claimed our decision, pre-Pandemic, to holiday with our young twins to the usual destinations of Western Europe was much motivated by those countries’ enlightened view of LGBTQ+ relationships. Like millions of parents with young children before us, we chose Italy, Mallorca and Portugal because they are kid-friendly, easy to reach and have food that our culinarily unadventurous daughters would actually eat. But knowing that gay marriage or civil partnerships are legal in those countries certainly gave us an extra level of comfort, and helped us feel that we could enjoy our holiday in the same straightforward way as any other family.
I’d like to visit far-flung places, when we are allowed to again. Indeed, probably the aspect of my pre-kids live I miss most is the freedom to explore exotic locations on a whim. But I don’t want to take them to places where families that look like ours aren’t welcome. I don’t want to take them to places where the rights of my fellow queer people are under threat or don’t exist. Honestly, it’s a conundrum, albeit one I am aware I am extremely lucky to be able to contemplate.
For now, though, it’s a moot point. With lockdown (hopefully) being over we are all overjoyed to be heading to Norfolk with my parents, my sister and her family, where we will ride the slides at the Bewilderwood and clamber in the trees at Go Ape; to have booked an AirBnB with friends in the Somerset countryside, where we’ll take turns sleeping in the secret treehouse double room, and to be spending my August bank holiday birthday with my wife and our daughters in a ramshackle, upside down house on the Devon coast.
The world may still be closed but let’s hope that in time, attitudes globally to LGBTQ+ love begin to open up.
Jodie Lancet-Grant is the author of The Pirate Mums, an inclusive pirate adventure picture book.
You can win a copy of Jodie’s book on Twitter this month too
Follow her on twitter @jodiemullish and Instagram @jodielancetgrant