Being a Digital Nomad takes vision and courage. And being an LGBT Digital Nomad takes it to a whole other level. It’s surprisingly something I have rarely written about. I suppose it was my border crossing, leaving Prague for Seattle, that compelled me to finally speak up. I was raised by Civil Rights Activist who moved our family to Tempe, Arizona because there was a law on the books that it was illegal for Black people to live there, and well, we were Black. (My family and friends are sick of hearing this story, except it defined me in so many ways). I was raised by parents who not just supported, but kind of insisted that I protest the Vietnam War in eighth grade, even if it meant being sent home. Yet, I came out as bisexual in San Francisco way past the age when I should have known better. My exposure to homophobia is really still in its infancy, but has been heightened in the gay skittish Czech Republic. So, it’s not surprising that my hands tremble on the keyboard as I write this since I clearly thought I was a badass. But, a badass in San Francisco, hell, anywhere North of the Mason-Dixie line (sorry global citizens – that is euphemism for the South), is nothing compared to being LGBT out in the big wide world. And, this is the first time I’m outing myself on a global level.
That border crossing felt like a defining moment when I asked myself if I was just being smart or cowardly. My partner and I travelled through South America and constantly made judgement calls about how to behave in each new country. We were pleasantly surprised by the openness in Chile, and saddened by the distress of our friend in Bolivia who couldn’t be herself to her friends or family. Everywhere in between, until we got to Cuba, was somewhere in between, where it was best to leave it unspoken.
When I arrived in my new country, the Czech Republic, I was eager to participate in the 5th Annual Prague Pride. I was troubled by the stories of people whose families claimed to accept them, as long as they didn’t tell anyone else in the family, or the village, or the country. Their families were oblivious to the SHAME label they were tattooing on their children’s souls. My partners grandfather still wanders what I’m still doing here.
Since I have become a U.S. citizen subject to the laws and whims of other countries, quite frankly, I haven’t done much better. When I needed to get a Visa to spend Christmas with my daughter in India I was struck with a moment of guilt given the laws against sexuality in India. I had friends in Silicon Valley from India who shared what is was like to live in fear and shame. That was the context that had me completely deny my sexual orientation to get my visa at the Indian Embassy in Prague. When the Embassy official was scrutinizing my application and questioning my reasons for being in the Czech Republic he asked.
“You’re husbands Czech?”
“Yes, yes, he is,” I replied, without a moment’s hesitation.
I told myself it’s what you’ve got to do to get what you want.
It’s the fall back explanation for LGBT professionals. The one I didn’t need when I was in the gayest city in the world, but the one I had adopted in my new hometown, where I was so desperate to create success.
So, I was headed for a business trip, excited about my new job, grateful to be working for such an amazing company, and then I went through Immigration at the Prague Airport.
The Immigration Officer questioned me in Czech.
“I’m so sorry, I don’t speak Czech”
“What, you live in this country and you don’t speak Czech?”
“I’m studying. I have my Czech flashcards in my laptop bag.”
Dismissively, “Is your HUSBAND Czech?”
With only a moment’s hesitation, “Yes, yes he is.”
There it was again. This man for whatever reason he might make up in his tiny mind could stand between me and doing my job.
There was no joy in it, no satisfaction. I heard the voice of my parents as they pushed me in my stroller at a march in Chicago where we would listen to Dr. Martin Luther King. “If we don’t make sacrifices nothing will ever change.”
Universe grant me the courage to once and for all stop avoiding using pronouns, hiding behind the term “My Partner,” and say loud and proud. “Yes, yes SHE is Czech.”
This Digital Nomad wants to make the life of freedom, creativity and innovation available to everyone no matter who there are or who they love. One day, no matter where I plug in my laptop, no matter where I’m getting my WiFi signal, the world will support and celebrate my love the same way I support and celebrate love in any form, in any place.