Having worked as a singer, flight attendant and travel agent I have been fortunate to work with many very attractive young men. A spot of luck you would think as a single mum looking for her perfect partner but as always there is a catch. Although statistics are not official, in my experience I would say 90% of the men I have been lucky enough to work with have been gay. The women however, have been mainly heterosexual and I have always grilled them for the secret of finding the love of their life. I am still waiting to discover what it is. “You will meet him when you least expect it”, “when you stop looking you will find him”, all of the cliché responses people give me to reassure that my singledom is part of a masterplan for my ultimate happiness.
So in order to fill the void of loving a partner I have chosen to concentrate my love on cruise ships. I must say I am yet to find a man who makes me as happy as a cruise does, so it looks like I’m on to a winner. I’m also a fan of reality. Not the Big Brother type stuff, but the stories and journeys people have gone through, to become the overnight success that we know them for. It is so true that in order to succeed you must fail many times and once you embrace this concept you are on the road to success.
My First Love
My first love at the age of twelve was George Michael and for years I stood adamantly behind his insistence of being heterosexual. My mum thought Rock Hudson was the ultimate male hunk. Then there was Michael French (David Wicks), Ricky Martin and John Barrowman (Captain Jack) all stole my heart, so this was never going to end well.
When I accidentally stumbled upon Royal Caribbean, which opened my eyes to the incredible world of cruising, it was hard to find likeminded colleagues who were equally as passionate about cruise holidays . That was until I experienced my first audience with Jo Rzymowska. It was like ET and Elliot, Jo spoke and my heart glowed. A woman who finally believed the same things that I did, the only problem being was that there was a ladder and she was at the top and I was right at the bottom.
When I heard Jo speak about the company I saw this passionate driven intelligent articulate woman who felt a passion for her business with every fibre of her being. It didn’t occur to me to think about or question her sexuality. At some point after that I realized that Jo had a partner but it didn’t change the way I looked up to her and wanted to emulate her and to hang on every word she said.
When I left RCCL to start my own travel business, I met sales staff from other cruise lines many of whom were gay males. They too were passionate about the cruise industry and the enthusiasm was infectious.
I did manage to attend an event at Kew Gardens where we heard from the lovely Casey Stoney and her difficult journey to becoming a professional footballer as well as her struggle to deal with her sexuality.
As I pulled up to the LGBTQ event at Kew, I wondered if I ought to really be going, I’m not gay am I? I might be bisexual, I’ve never tried it, I don’t know, People are going to wonder why I am there they are going to look at me and whisper. Then I thought to myself isn’t this exactly what the LGBTQ group experience every day of their lives. Why do you have to be a part of a group to support it?
In fact after the evening finished I realized that minority groups actually need people of the majority to be part of it in order to help them become part of everyday acceptance.
Mark Anderson, Managing Director Virgin spoke briefly about how he backs travel equality for travellers and employees. He then went on to introduce our main speaker.
Casey Stoney , Professional footballer for Arsenal Ladies and England Women National Football Team, came from a poverty stricken family and was blessed by people around her who identified the extreme talent and passion Casey had for the game and chose to invest their time and money.
Listening to Casey’s rise to fame you hear how many times she came so close to this incredible opportunity being taken away from her. Thankfully it didn’t come to that and Casey appears to be extremely happy with her life now. She is doing what she loves and has a loving partner and they have two beautiful children, although Casey still experiences a lot of negative comments and press regarding her personal life.
I thought an LGBTQ event was going to be a small scale London Pride, but it was very low key and intimate.
As far as media images are concerned, it didn’t occur to me that the support for the LGBTQ market was so little. Realizing that all it takes is to put a few same sex couple images in your advertising I felt quite disgusted with our industry for these exclusions. It seems to me that travel agencies are frightened to show these images for fear of alienating existing customers. If it takes balls to stand up and say my cruises are for sale to everyone of all sexualities and races then in the words of Kelly Hoppen “If I was a man, I’d have three balls”. Of course there are always going to be ignorant homophobes who think of no one but themselves, but then who wants them in their lives anyway because their friendship to you is conditional. So I urge my fellow friends, colleagues and customers in the travel industry to step up and support your local LGBTQ community and show them that you do not have to be LGBTQ to go to these events and to advertise using these images. Be bold and do it for humanity and not for your pocket.
Since writing this article in 2015, the industry, particularly Celebrity Cruises, has made positive moves to promote their diversity.