5 Travel Tips for LGBT Parents
In our first year of marriage, my wife Kendra and I tested our relationship with a six-week trip to Europe. Fortunately it was a great tip and the first of many more. Not even with the birth of our daughter Addison in 2010 has slowed down. Our 2-year-old has been to more than 30 U.S. states, England and France.
Adding a little one to the mix has definitely changed how we travel. We now plan our adventures around naptimes and Addie’s ever-changing routine. Being lesbian moms requires some additional considerations, too. In addition to the possibility of having to deal with discrimination, harassment, and persecution during what should be a relaxing getawy, we need to deal with the practical fact that our legal marriage isn’t recognized in most states or foreign countries.
As Addison’s non-biological mother, I formally adopted her. This ensures that I can make medical decisions for her in Kendra’s absence. And if something happens to Kendra in a place that doesn’t recognize our marriage, I won’t have to worry about losing custody of Addie. Had I not taken that extra step, my parental relationship with daughter could be nullified in a place that doesn’t recognize our marriage.
Here are five other steps Kendra and I have taken to make sure our family is safe and protected when we travel:
In addition to the usual vacation clothes and child gear, be sure to pack health care proxies, birth certificates & adoption papers.
The ideal is to have an attorney draw up a health care proxy for each family member so each parent has the right to make medical decisions for one another and the kids. Before I formally adopted Addison, we had an affidavit drawn up and notarized in which Kendra gave her consent for me to make medical decisions on Addison’s behalf. Birth certificates and adoption papers prove parental guardianship and can help to quickly resolve any issues that come up if you’re crossing borders.
Tip: In addition to taking copies of these documents with you, leave copies with someone back home, too (including copies of your passports if you’re traveling outside the U.S.).
Know the Local Laws
It is actually illegal to be gay in some countries. This one seems like a no-brainer, but we try to avoid places where our family is not welcome. If you can’t do that, try to avoid behavior that draws attention to your status as a gay couple. The last thing you want is to have your children separated from you in a foreign land.
Hold a Family Meeting
Talk with your spouse about how you will handle anti-gay sentiments or awkward moments. Even with the best planning, you can’t always avoid the homophobic waitress or inconsiderate concierge. I will never forget a conversation I had with a little girl sitting next to us in an airport. She asked who Addie’s mom was and I replied that Kendra and I both were. Unfazed, she relayed the information to her nanny, who became very insistent that two women could not be married.
If your kids are old enough, include them in the conversation. Make sure they know that being gay is not universally embraced. Practice how they can respond to ignorant or aggressive behavior. Discuss possible uncomfortable scenarios and decide as a family when being safe will trump being out as a same-sex couple.
Leave an Itinerary Back at Home
Now that we have a child, we make sure our families know where we are going and where we are spending the night. And we give them secondary contact information in case they can’t reach us on our mobile phones.
Book a room at a Bed and Breakfast that caters to LGBT families, travel to an area with a large population of gay folk, or attend an event specifically for gay families, such as Family Week in Provincetown, MA.
Though we want our daughter to meet all kinds of people, sometimes it feels good to be surrounded by families like our own in a place we know for certain will be discrimination-free. Be careful to pick a place that is not only gay-friendly, but also clearly kid-friendly. Adults looking for a romantic getaway may not find your little ones quite as charming as you do.
Hopefully, you’ll never need these extra precautions, but if you do you’ll be glad you went to the hassle of all that extra paperwork and planning. So think ahead, travel safe, and most important, have fun experiencing the world with your children!
Jen Bauer started blogging when she and her wife took their first trip to Europe together in 2006. With the birth of their daughter in 2010, Jen’s writing expanded to include adventures in parenthood. Jen also teaches digital media and visual arts to inner-city high school students, drinks too many lattes, takes a lot of photographs, and hikes through the woods with her daughter leading the way. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.