In Which Shannon Wentworth of Sweet (Lesbian travel co) Stirs up My Brain

So a couple weeks ago I had a nice long phone interview with Shannon Wentworth, the CEO of Sweet, a lesbian tour company based out of Northern California. Shannon’s company is new, it’s going to specialize in ecologically and socially conscious cruises, and the first cruise on their itinerary is departing New Orleans in 2009. Okay. Now that I’ve covered the basics…

Lesbian travel is a new and somewhat random thing for me to write about–not being a lesbian myself, I didn’t ever feel particularly tapped into that market, or attuned to its readers’ needs. However, I’ve written about nudists and Plushies and swinger parties without ever dipping a toe into their waters (okay, maybe a toe), so if lesbians want me to write about them, then fine I’ll do it. Possibly part of the problem in this whole situation is that not enough straight women are writing about lesbians.

And there is a problem. I didn’t realize it before, but non-straight people have it rough when it comes time to travel–or even to go out to dinner, in some places.  Or, if we come down to it, to be treated like equals. (Did anyone see the presidential debates last nite? If so, please take my point.)

Anyway. Below I’m posting a few of my questions, Shannon’s answers, and then my responses, as I took a minute to think about some of these issues for the first time.

ME:  If lesbians move in faster than straight couples, do they also speed up the “holi-dating” process?

SW: Going away for the weekend happens all the time, but they often go to events that are accepting of the lifestyle. There are so many places where you have a getaway that’s not romantic because everyone in the restaurant is staring at you, and the waiters asking if you’re sisters because you’re holding hands and speaking softly to each other.

My thoughts: The waiters are asking you about your personal status? Whoah! They need to STFU and serve your dinner, as they’re paid to do. I’ve never had a waiter get all nosy about my connection to a guy I was at dinner with. Ever.

ME: How does the lesbian mindset change the vacation fling?

SW: It does happen that someone might have an intense fling for a week, but lesbians are much more likely to try to parlay that into a long-distance relationship and then one move to the other’s city. *chuckles*  Lesbians are not really prone to the fling. We as a community have been trained to behave better so we can garner the recognition and respect we’re looking for.

My thoughts: Hm. This is nice and optimistic. However, I’d wager that a lot of straight men out there have no interest whatsoever in recognizing or respecting you. They’d much rather buy into the mainstream porno version of you, which is that lesbians are mostly all giggling nymphomaniac college co-eds who are just making do with each other till a guy comes into the frame.

ME: What’s the deal with traveling as part of a huge group, anyway? Isn’t it sometimes nicer to get away a deux?

SW: There are still big chain resorts that cater to couples, that don’t allow gay and lesbian couples to book.

My thoughts: That. Sucks. And I had no idea!!! All those “couples getaway” and “mini-moon” releases that cross my desk, and it’s never once occurred to me to ask whether there were gender requirements. What are we, in the dark ages?

SW Part II: We were just at a lesbian event the company had booked a huge hotel block, and even though we were one of 200 couples, we were one of the first to check in, and had to explain it to them. And the people at the front desk didn’t get it.

My thoughts: How humiliating. How aggravating! I would have wanted to slap someone for putting me through a round of Twenty Questions like that.

And again–what’s up with these people who are supposedly in the service industry, but can’t manage to just keep their yaps shut and fulfill the customer’s request? If you’ve got a large group of lesbians in for the weekend, it should NOT come as some huge shock when two chicks show up requesting a king-sized bed.

ME: Are you going to be starting any destination wedding or honeymoon packages geared specifically toward your market?

SW: We would love to do a Mayan Riviera wedding. However, right now, same sex marriages are not universally recognized, and I think lots of couples feel like: Why bother going to the trouble of a destination wedding when it’s not going to be legally recognized back home? But  lots of people who already got married are waiting to take their honeymoon with us.

My thoughts: I can’t imagine taking a joint honeymoon with 17 other couples, so let’s shelf that for now. However, to the first point: This is so sad to me. Especially because the one thing that Biden, Palin, Obama & McCain all agree on is that these lesbian couples are never going to be legally recognized: Nope, sorry. Your relationship is just not as holy as everyone else’s.

So, basically any straight marriage, no matter how effed up it is–even if one partner beats the other  about the head  and shoulders with a tire iron every Tuesday night, or even if the girl was forced into it because she was 16 and knocked up in, hm, ALASKA–that straight marriage is a more holy union than any two lesbians? Or gay guys?

I just don’t get it.

As you can see, I got a bit fired up when I started thinking about this stuff, mostly because I think that everyone should have the right to move about the world in peace, and pursue whatever their definition of love is. And also because it bugged the hell out of me to hear about everything Shannon et crew have to deal with on a regular basis. All the questions, and raised eyebrows, and ‘not getting it.’

So, yeah, this has evolved a bit beyond travel–sorry, I wrote about it from a totally travel angle on Orbitz, if you’re interested. But on this site I’m allowed to talk about whatever I want. And what I waaaant, is for y’all to picture how it would be if you tried to take a weekend getaway with your shnookums, and the TSA guy asked you inappropriate questions, all the people in the airport line stared at you, the cab driver wanted to know when your husbands would be arriving, and then you got to the hotel and they WOULDN’T CHECK YOU IN.

I mean really. Common courtesy? Human decency? Evolution? Hellloooo? I could have sworn they were around here some place…

Or maybe not.

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October 2008

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