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Why I’m Frightened to Travel to Some Places

This is a difficult post to write, and I apologize ahead of time if not all of it comes out right.  I’ll probably hover over the publish button before I post this, if I post it at all.

A couple of years ago, a fellow frequent traveler found it strange (and a bit funny) that I wouldn’t travel to Dubai.  After all, I love Vegas, and he knew so many people who had gone there and love it.  (Edit for clarity: Dubai is an example here but not the only place I’m talking about.  I mean any destination where these rights aren’t respected).

I just feel dread when I think about traveling to certain places.

In 2008, an Australian woman was sent to jail for 8-months after reporting that she was raped by multiple coworkers.  Under the law, she effectively admitted that she had extra-marital sex, which was illegal.

In 2009, a couple was jailed for almost a month after a kiss on the cheek.

In 2013, a Norwegian woman was arrested for reporting a rape.

And today, reports are in that a Dutch woman was convicted of having sex outside marriage after she told police she was raped.

This scares me.  I know anything can happen when traveling.  I could be injured.  I could die while hiking.

But the idea that I could lose my liberty because someone else hurt me terrifies me.

I could travel to somewhere where someone disagrees with my race, religion, gender or sexuality, and not only be hurt for that–but have no protections in return.  More than no protections–end up in a situation where I need to make sure no one finds out what happened because the consequences of people knowing are even worse.

Dave Holmes wrote a post yesterday called the Cost of Being Gay that touches on a terror that most people never feel:

LGBT people around the world have been intimidated and coerced all our lives. Each one of us has moved to kiss our boyfriend on the cheek in public, or reached for our wife’s hand as we walked down the street, and each one of us has pulled back.

We have all needed to read the room, to think about how we present ourselves to the world, to determine how much of ourselves we are free to express. Each one of us, at least once, has worried whether we were coming off too gay.

It’s so easy for someone who has nothing to fear to brush off or laugh off the general feeling of terror some people feel on a day to day basis.  And I suppose it is difficult to understand a terror you’ve never had to experience (and don’t live in any fear of experiencing yourself).

But if a woman is in a country and is raped.

Or a transgender person is walking down the street and assaulted.

Or a gay couple is assaulted for holding hands.

Will the government at that destination make things even worse for them?

If so, I have no interest in traveling to that location.

I don’t want to lose my own liberty.  I don’t want to support a place that would take away someone else’s liberty for living their lives.

We can’t escape the hate, but we don’t have to support it.

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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9 comments

  1. Brooks Lambert-Slude

    I think the latest incident (https://t.co/HXW7UUHQEH) was Doha, not Dubai. I appreciate your point nonetheless

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      Yes it was, and I didn’t intend for the post to be solely about Dubai, so I apologize it wasn’t more clear.

  2. It’s not just visiting certain countries but also transit thru as-well. What if you were in-transit to a third country via say Doha and you got raped at the airport? Or you and your same sex partner showed some affection towards each other? Things to think about especially if you are considering flying some of the UAE airlines.

  3. It’s precisely this reason that I, as a gay man, will avoid certain airlines, countries, airports, and businesses. Nothing compels me to travel to Dubai and there is absolutely no reason for me to patronize their (and similar countries’) businesses to get where I am going. Plenty of other alternatives where I will, at worst, be respected, and at best welcomed.

  4. I (a female) have been to Dubai and didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. Liked it a lot actually. Though I was with a male friend 99% of the time. I’m excited about going back to the Middle East this summer, however this story absolutely terrifies me: http://nypost.com/2016/04/11/american-woman-held-in-dubai-for-refusing-to-talk-to-men-at-airport/
    Unlike the other stories, I can definitely imagine this happening to me as an introvert who generally doesn’t like new people. Nor do I like talking to people when I’m jetlagged.
    I’ll be traveling with a group of people, so my plan is to stick with them and I’m sure we’ll be fine in a group.

  5. It’s certainly a fair consideration. Not only where one might feel that they could end up in such a situation, but also where one doesn’t wish to patronize such a country because others are subject to such conditions. As @Bobby J says, there are so many other alternatives (airlines, connecting cities, destinations, etc), so why spend time and money in support of regimes like these?

  6. I just came back.from Thailand and travelled thru abu dhabi, staying there 2 nights. I am gay, was with my boyfriend and his mother and never once felt out of place or in danger. Would I return? Most likely not… generally I enjoy things that aren’t socially acceptable in that area of the world but it was interesting to see a bit of their culture while there. At the same time I respect their culture and customs enough to not hold hands or kiss my partner in public, obviously were not in NYC and I was well aware of all that before travelling. There isn’t much that would stop me from travelling to another country and my sexual is certainly not one of them.

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