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Gutierrez: Navigating spring break plans as a queer person

A. Pallas Gutierrez, Columnist

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As spring break approaches, many students are excitedly discussing their travel plans, whether they’re going home or abroad. But for queer students, that excitement can sometimes be undercut by fear. Traveling while queer often isn’t easy, both inside and outside the United States.

Newer travel books often contain sections on LGBTQ nightlife in various destinations, telling readers to check out Le Marais in Paris, Porta Venezia in Milan, or Soho in London, but rarely do they warn about the dangers queer travelers will face. In eight countries, homosexuality is still punishable by death, and in 73 countries, homosexual activity is illegal in some capacity.

While the easy solution may be to just avoid those countries, queer people can still be threatened even in countries without laws banning homosexuality. While being gay is legal in Armenia, for example, there are no provisions protecting queer people from discrimination, and anti-queer hate crimes have been on the rise in recent years. Even in supposedly safe travel destinations like Rome, queer people can face homophobic comments and actions, which can be incredibly violating.

Within the U.S., the experience is slightly different. People generally know which areas are queer-friendly, and, in general, big cities and the surrounding areas tend to be, if not openly proud, at least tolerant of queer people. Areas that are not as welcoming can be difficult to avoid, whether on a road trip which necessitates gas stops or traveling home to a homophobic place.

In June 2017, California’s attorney general blocked state-funded travel to Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas due to laws discriminating against queer people. While this action drew attention to these state’s queerphobic policies, it did not protect queer people in any way, especially those who have to be in those states either for travel or daily life. Traveling within the U.S. as a queer person is still wrought with danger.

As a country and a globe, we still have a long way to go as far as queer acceptance. So if your queer friends seem cautiously excited about their spring break plans, whether they’re going to Japan or Wisconsin, understand that they are just as excited to travel as you are, but have more dangers in their path.

A. Pallas Gutierrez is a Communication freshman. They can be contacted at pallas2022@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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