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7 Wonders of the Modern World

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We’re adding all of these to our bucket list! Which have you visited?


Also published on Medium.

Robert was born and raised in Nashville, TN, but had a thirst for seeing the world around him. He currently lives in New York City. His adventures have taken him to all corners of the world, but favorites include: attending the Rio Summer Olympics, island hopping in the Philippines, tasting every gelato flavor her could find in Rome, and surviving a Colombian death cab ride in Bogota. Robert is an out and proud gay man and hopes to inspire other members of the LGBTQ+ community to tell their stories, both of travel and personal. His debut book, I Know Where I’ve Been: A Year Long Journey of Self-Discovery, recounts his adventures traveling North and South America for a year while diving into his past growing up gay in the conservative South.

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Letters From Abu Ghraib: Visiting the Middle East

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THE MIDDLE EAST – AUGUST, 29TH 2017 – Most of us know how horrible certain areas of this region can be to our community.  To say that the temperament towards LGBTQ+ people is hostile would be a severe understatement. Unfortunately, this is causing us to miss out on a myriad of fun and magical experiences. This article will share some top attractions from the Middle East (predominantly Dubai ) and give advice on how to remain undetected while visiting the region.  It will also detail the horrors that could happen to our community at any moment if we are not careful.

 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

 

Boasting a very modern feel for a hot spot most people think is nothing more than picking sand out of your trunks, Dubai houses only the top destinations.  

If you love to shop and play all at the same time there is the legendary Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping malls on Earth. It is home to some of the top name brands such as Armani, Versace, and Alexander McQueen. There are children’s parks and gourmet restaurants attached, too. The mall even houses its own aquarium containing over thirty thousand species of marine life1.

On the flip side, some may prefer relaxation and leisure over activity. Certainly then, you must check out the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. JW is a Five-Star hotel in the heart of the city and sports cutting edge technology in its business center and a legendary spa. Bars and a top of the line fitness wing complete the hotel’s elegance2. Interesting trivia: You might remember Tom Cruise climbing up one of the towers in a certain film… from the outside!

 

Cairo, Egypt

 

Perhaps you are one of the people that yearn for a more rugged experience. Look no further than Egypt.  The nightlife may be fantastic, but even more impressive is the Great Pyramid of Giza, only a short distance away. The impressive, massive structure is actually a burial tomb of the ancient pharaohs and is one of the world’s seven wonders3. Be sure to pose by the guardian sphinx for some memorable snapshots. To cool off, take a stroll by the Nile River that runs past the city. Careful though: You must show respect for the Nile’s bounty lest you upset it’s protecting deities Isis and Sebek.

 

Warnings from the Author

 

Low key is the key. With countless news stories showing beheadings, stonings, and even ISIS casting helpless victims off tall buildings, many people ask why no one has stepped in to end these atrocities. The answer is simple: Homosexuality is illegal in most of the Middle East. This is not just a government law, but a religious one, too. If you are still planning a trip to this region, please pay attention to the next section of this article and seek outside resources and/or protection. For more information on what it is like to be LGBTQ+ in this region, it may be beneficial to read Brian Whitaker and Anna Wilson’s book, “Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East” or another similar text4. I know many of us hate hiding who we are and if that is you, there is nothing wrong with that – but I encourage you to rethink your plans. I have a special word of caution for women: If you are travelling with men and they should happen to offend you in any way, do not let native Arabic men/women see any signs of an altercation. Address matters privately and quietly in the safety of your hotel room or living quarters.

 

Conclusion

Again, I urge you to seek additional help from others both inside and outside of the Community.  It only adds to your benefit.  Most importantly, though, enjoy your trip!

 

  1. “Revel In Retail At The Dubai Mall.”  Dubai Corporation of Tourism & Commerce Marketing.  29 Aug 2017.  https://www.visitdubai.com/en/pois/dubai-mall.
  2. “JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai.”  Marriott International Inc.  2017.  http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dxbjw-jw-marriott-marquis-hotel-dubai/
  3. Encyclopaedia Britannica.  “Pyramids of Giza.”   Encyclopaedia Britannica.  26 June 2017.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pyramids-of-Giza
  4. Whitaker, Brian & Anna Wilson.  “Unspeakable Love:  Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East.”  Amazon.com.  2006.  https://www.amazon.com/Unspeakable-Love-Lesbian-Life-Middle/dp/0520250176/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1504028713&sr=8-12&keywords=gays+in+the+middle+east+books

Originally posted 2017-09-22 12:50:33.

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TSA: Transphobic (in)Secure A**holes

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Traveling is stressful for everyone, especially when it’s time to go through airport security. People of color, those who speak English as a second language, the elderly, and trans folks are groups of travelers that often face different struggles when interacting with TSA agents than their white, cis, and straight counterparts. Not only are these encounters more frequent and unique, they have higher risk factors and more severe consequences when things don’t run smoothly.

If you aren’t deemed “normal” by the individual TSA agent supervising your line or X-ray station, you may not be able to get on your flight; you may be detained, harassed, and assaulted.

In September 2015, Shadi Petosky faced all of these monstrosities, and recorded her experience on her twitter account. Hida Viloria, a writer and intersex activist, also had a traumatizing experience in 2017. Apparently, little progress has been made regarding the lack of respect, and courtesy displayed by TSA agents.

#NotAllTSA

The Transportation Security Administration is but another example of a federal institution abusing their power, and causing more harm than good. It’s true that not all TSA agents fall under this description, but that doesn’t make the TSA as an agency or going through security at an airport any better. In fact, these “good” TSA agents are the epitome of “apathetic Americans.”

In this setting, the severe concentration of multitudes of microaggressions, coupled with a powerful position, do not yield a positive result.

Symptoms of a Larger Problem

Overcoming an obstacle is always easier when it is broken down into smaller pieces. By addressing individual factors that create the problematic TSA that we have today, we become one step closer to finding a solution. Three key features that intersect with one another can be identified not only in the TSA, but also federal institutions like the police, armed forces, and even corporations.

  1. Toxic Masculinity
  2. Insecurity
  3. Greed

Toxic Masculinity – the Root of Many Problems

According to Huffington Post,Toxic masculinity is built on two fundamental pillars: sexual conquest and violence.” When pat downs turn into groping, and escorting passengers becomes shoving, pushing, and literally dragging individuals, it becomes clear that the TSA stands firmly on both of these pillars.

Once introduced to this level of power, it’s easy for it to get to one’s head.  The National Center for Transgender Equality strongly encourages avoiding confrontations with TSA personnel if at all possible. Like a hard drug, just a taste can leave you craving more. Not only is this problematic, but it can easily become deadly with the simple addition of a baton.

Like a bully finding out their victim won’t be pushed around anymore, TSA agents and police officers feel scared and insecure when they are called out for their behavior. Their power is being threatened. These are the moments that we watch on the news and read about online. These are the moments when innocent people die.

Our Existence is Resistance

It may look like our future is bleak. We are living in dangerous times. Many do not “understand” our community, and with ignorance comes fear – a high-risk emotion, especially when coupled with access to weapons.

It is important to remember that not all violence is created with guns; never has the pen been mightier than the sword than when it is creating legislation.

However, we are not paralyzed; we can remind our senators and representatives of their true employers: their constituents.

Click here to find your senator and representative and how to contact them.

Now more than ever we need to unite as a community. We need to remember that we are magical. We are beautiful. We are a strong, resilient, and courageous community, and we will not let these transphobic, insecure assholes keep us from getting on our flight!


Resources

For a PDF of The National Center for Transgender Equality’s Guide to Airport Security and Rights of Trans People, click here.

If you have been mistreated, or had an unsatisfactory experience with TSA personnel, click here for information on how to file a complaint.

If you have access to a smartphone, consider downloading the app FlyRights. It provides a way to immediately file a report of an incident of discrimination with TSA and DHS when it occurs. Click here for more information. It is available for both iPhones and Android smartphones.

Originally posted 2017-09-21 19:42:36.


Also published on Medium.

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Travel Reading: The Assassin Chronicles – Chapter One

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     Palm Springs, California; it had everything. The rolling, maroon mountains in the rural areas contrasted sharply with the sun-baked estates of the rich and famous far off in the distance. From his view on the aerial tramway of Mount San Jacinto, The Assassin – Smith – could just make out both. The tram ride was one of the most popular attractions in Palm Springs. He admired this canvas before business grabbed his attention.

     “Is it feasible?”  This was his handler, Mr. Wolf. He was an attractive man with wafting, golden hair and sparkling emerald eyes. Unfortunately, the red blazer he wore didn’t do a thing to showcase his muscular build nor add any degree of menace to his five-foot-seven stature.  

     Smith, a handsome forty-something year old man with jet black hair and a very demanding face, had quite the crush on his boss. The relationship oozed sexual tension, but Wolf suffered from a horrible disease – he was debilitatingly heterosexual!

     “Well?”

     With a sigh, The Assassin nodded once. He was a man of no words. In fact, for the rest of the gondola ride, he ignored Wolf. He peered out at a gorgeous sunset that few places in the world could rival.  

     After the charming sky-ride was finished, The Assassin climbed inside his very tasteful candy black Mercedes SLS. He opened the glove compartment, removing a silenced Colt M45 pistol from its depths. Smith tucked the weapon into its holster beneath his pristine white suit jacket.

     The car’s engine roared to life, like a pouncing lion leaping from the bush. Smith piloted the car past a string of golf courses and shopping malls which he was sure housed only the best designer brands. That reminded him: He needed to pick up an Armani tux for his mother’s vow renewal.

     As the sun continued to set, it was clear where Smith was heading; the annual White Party. The fireworks could be seen throughout the Springs, exploding in majestic whites and pinks.  

     The main event took place where it normally does, White Party Park. More than twenty thousand men, some half-naked, a few totally naked, ate, drank, made out, and partied around the giant Ferris wheel.

     Smith was both enthralled and disgusted. He loved gorgeous, sweaty men, but loathed gratuitous promiscuity at the same time. It’s true; The Assassin was a walking conundrum. Pity he forgave his own quirks. The quirks kept him single and lonely.  

     If a person were to wonder how he entered the party armed and without the complete pat down, the answer would be simple.  Security tends to become slack when Greek Gods prance around in tight white speedos.  No one detected him clambering over the scaffolding set up beside the Ferris wheel.

     Work then replaced his view of the delicious debauchery and he set his gaze on a massive VIP tent.

     Inside that tent, Fred Robertson and Graham Phelps discussed what to do with the charitable donations.  Both men were shrewd in business, but only Fred could be called unscrupulous.  He was an overweight smoker battling inoperable lung cancer.  His partner in crime, however, was one of the healthiest men in America and the owner of the largest pharmaceutical company, BioScience Labs.

     Halfway through Fred’s plan, Graham interjected.  “Won’t work, no sir.”

     “I organized the event,” Fred shot back between coughs.

     “Which is why you’d be the only suspect, you idiot.”

     “That’s why our friend’s out there.”  Fred lit another cigarette.  “I’m not gonna die for enjoyin’ life.”

     Graham chortled.  “You do know they do put the warning labels right on the package now.  In bold.”

     Fred simply glared.  “I pull this off, we got a deal?”

     “My company could always use more cancer funding.  Although, you’re screwing over your own community.”

     “I don’t have HIV.”

     Smiling and shaking his head, Graham shook Fred’s hand and left the tent.  He almost bumped into Wolf.  His odd proportions made the white BDSM outfit he wore look laughable.

     Fred put out his cigarette.  “That’s not exactly subtle, son.”

     “He’s here.”

     Wolf snatched Fred’s collar, nearly dragging him out of the tent.

      Smith was waiting.  He grabbed Fred’s head and snapped it backwards.

     Briefly stunned, Wolf watched Fred’s lifeless body fall to the floor.  He growled and reached for his gun.  Smith already had his in hand and was about to take Wolf down when Wolf grabbed the nearest bystander.  The bystander took the bullets.  Smith disappeared into the crowd.

     Wolf went another direction, but the pair of them had falcon vision.  Neither lost sight of the other.  They made their way through the crowd and into a gay bar.

     Thankfully, the gay bar was tasteful and not at all what one would expect.  Like most restaurants in Palm Springs, the bar had class and a classy clientele.

     Smith entered the men’s room right before Wolf.  He sauntered over to the urinal.  Wolf joined him.  They were waiting for a man in the middle to finish.

     After some extended eye contact, the third wheel turned to them and baited them in a butch voice.  “Want some privacy?”  Both killers almost made him their next target.  He scurried away, his pride crippled.

     Smith and Wolf still just stared at each other.  They were hesitant to even flinch.  Then, Wolf’s arrogance got the better of him and he drew his gun.  His opponent grabbed his arm and shoved it in the urinal.  When Smith flushed, he rendered the weapon useless.

     It was time for him to use his own.  Wolf countered by tackling Smith to the ground.  More punches and kicks were thrown.  While unclear, one of them managed to slam the other’s head into a sink.

     Playtime was over.  Wolf, now scared, dodged a couple punches that Smith smacked right into the bathroom mirrors behind them.  He didn’t have time to avoid the glass shard Wolf wielded.  Smith’s jugular was the intended target, but Wolf managed only to get Smith’s arm during a block.

     Another kick landed Smith on his back.  When he stood up, the bathroom door creaked closed.  Wolf ran.

     The next morning felt like Hell.  Deep bruising and bandages stretched over Smith’s face, mocking him.  He slithered up to his car, a tux slung over his shoulder and a tourist pamphlet in one hand.  The shop from earlier didn’t have Armani as he predicted; he settled for Versace.

     Smith opened the pamphlet and marvelled at all the tourist attractions he was missing out on.  Palm Canyon called to him.  He loved to hike, and these rocky mountain trails with views of palm trees and subtle peaks ignited a primal fire within his soul.  Then he took a gander at the information on the art museum in the city itself.  It featured classic and performance art; the former his favorite.  His inner child wanted to visit Soak City and ride the 70-foot twin scorpion water slide.  At times like these, Smith wished he was normal.  However, he knew he’d never be back here.  He would never enjoy these things.

     For just a minute, The Assassin examined his car, then the tux.  It almost seemed like he had grown distasteful of extravagance, too.  What else would he do with the money he made, he asked himself?  Not that it mattered.  Smith was heading for a crisis of self and he didn’t even know it.

     With that, he got into his car and headed into the mountains.  His final destination was the airport on the other side.  After showing his ticket, he headed through the gate.

      “Enjoy your trip to Switzerland, Mr. Kowalczyk,” the stewardess called out.

     Smith grinned.  It was dangerous using his Christian name, but he enjoyed hearing it.  Actually, in truth, he barely remembered it.

     Meanwhile, in the middle of the Sea of Japan, Wolf reported his failure to his superior aboard a freighter.

     If this mystery man had a physical form, it was well hidden by the shadows of the cargo hold.  “What made you think I’d sign off on this?”

     “There’s something you need to see.”  Wolf pulled a photo out of his pocket and handed it to the figure.

     “Is this credible?”

     “Yeah, boss, it is.  I triple checked.”

     The mystery man sucked his teeth.  “Have everyone waiting for us on the dock.  Dear God, how did I not see this?!”

     Wolf nodded and backed away respectfully.

FADE TO BLACK.

Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for next week’s story, full of more international intrigue, travel ideas, style, and fashion.

Originally posted 2017-09-18 22:49:12.

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