I had a great time on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise with 4,000 others, the majority being gay men.
The cruise helped me realize how much energy I spend being myself in a heteronormative world.
As a gay man, I fell in love with being in the majority for once.
At the end of the final, disco-themed dance on my 10-day "all-gay" cruise, I met up with a man I'd shared a few intimate moments with.
As we swayed to the opening bars of Donna Summer's "Last Dance," I burst into tears. I sobbed on his shoulder throughout the entire song. I remember thinking that I'd fallen in love.
Not with him, as nice as he was. And not with cruising, as fabulous as that was.
I'd fallen in love with being the majority.
When I booked my 'all-gay' cruise, I prepared myself to be disappointed
In 2021, I raided my savings account and spent $3,059 to book an "all-gay" cruise around the Mediterranean.
My dancing troupe convinced me to buy the ticket, which was for 10 days on the Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas. The special 2022 Atlantis sailing would be filled with about 4,000 gay people, the majority of them men.
People in my life warned me to manage my expectations. I was told to prepare for claustrophobia, cabin fever, endless gluttonous eating, overpriced amenities, ridiculous organized "fun," and sullen old people complaining.
I also received negative reactions from my gay friends — some said they couldn't think of anything worse than an "all-gay" cruise. Others added a laughing emoji each time they messaged about it, as if the choice itself was ludicrous or exclusively being around gay people was cringeworthy and embarrassing.
I now know that, until you've been on one of these cruises, you really have no idea what happens on board.
From day one, I was having the time of my life — we'd created our own floating universe
As our ship set sail from Rome, it dawned on me that I'd never been around this many gay men before. For 10 days, I'd be in the majority. It gave me warm shivers of optimism.
Our orange Atlantis lanyard felt like the markings of our community — the presence of it invited a warm smile, cheeky wink, or engaging conversation.
I was surprised that the ship wasn't dominated by young partiers, either. I met people of all ages. I met couples, singles, and other gay individuals from around the globe.
The vast ship wasn't just a floating city — it was its own universe where usual conventions were turned on their head.
You could wander into the cocktail-serving piano bar in a jockstrap and nobody batted an eye. Some nights, pianists squashed into elevators to lead groups of us in song as we headed to a grand party.
It was what heaven would look like if God was queer. You haven't lived until you've seen a man's bare ass cheeks jiggle in time to a verbose Sondheim ditty trilled live on the piano.
I felt like I'd been transported to the Good Place.
The cruise helped me realize how much energy I often spend just being myself
As a gay man who is British-born and lives in Australia, I'm grateful I'm able to be myself. But it still requires resilience to not sweat the small stuff. It demands restraint to not absorb microaggressions, but to instead allow them to fuel my resistance.
Each day, I must stand firm and push against conventions and benchmarks of the heteronormative world that many gay men like myself choose to reject. All of that takes up energy.
But when I was in the majority for those 10 days on board, I didn't have to feel "brave" for my choices — when I wore a bright romper, there were 20 other men doing the same and no one batted an eye. I was able to flirt with or make eye contact with a guy without first worrying about his comfort, then my safety.
I didn't worry about being shunned when the heteronormative behaviors, dress code, and etiquette that were expected of me weren't met. Not once did I experience a behavior that was anything other than warm, kind, and open.
Instead of being stared at or discussed as different, I just fit in. With that came the feeling of liberation which, I realized, I probably don't feel as often as I think I do.
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