Then comes the trip I made with my first boyfriend to Montreal. Three decades later, I remember on that summer morning long ago, we drove north from Pittsfield in his Volkswagen, crossed the Canadian line and drove into town. We climbed Mount Royal to admire the metropolis of the same name and strolled around the campus of McGill University. After we checked into a hotel and sat in a restaurant with no one watching, I wondered if I had been too pessimistic about the world and the future of a gay child. . On the way home we listened to the Pet Shop Boys. I loved their London-centric songs, even though I couldn’t appreciate the urban geography – the West End, King’s Cross – that they were celebrating. Nor would I have imagined that one day I would be able to move to London, fly airliners from the city, or have a first date there (a spring walk in a leafy park) with my future husband.
Finally, in college, my fascination with Japan led me to study its language and, one summer, to work in Tokyo. My college professor put me in touch with a former student, Drew Tagliabue, who lived there with his girlfriend. When I met them for dumplings one evening, I marveled at the tiny dimensions of one of their favorite restaurants in the greatest city that had ever existed, and lives lived more freely than I could imagine. imagined possible. That summer, Drew – who later became the executive director of PFLAG NYC – the “partnership of parents, allies and LGBTQ+ people working to create a brighter future for LGBTQ+ youth” in New York City – m gave away a collection of EM Forster, in which I found the words that stick with me as a traveler today: “Connect only…”
LGBTQ wheelchair travelers can of course take the proverbial route with the many writers whose words and worldviews have been shaped by travel. Consider James Baldwin in Paris, Christopher Isherwood in Berlin, and Elizabeth Bishop, who broke the heart of a Pittsfield boy and then lived with an architect named Lota near Rio de Janeiro. Some of the greatest stories I know—of how travel can lead to self-discovery and new forms of community—take place in San Francisco (“nobody’s of here”) of the novels “Contes de la ville” by Armistead Maupin.
Like many people in Pittsfield, I’m inspired by the traveling spirit of Herman Melville, who wrote “Moby-Dick” in my hometown. Whatever the truth about Melville’s sexuality – as Andrew Delbanco notes in “Melville: His World and His Work”, it’s not easy to separate the tantalizing cues from the response of “gay readers who feel drawn to him” – something pushed him to leave for the open sea and the wonders of distant cities. Born in New York, he wrote easily of Liverpool, Rome, and London, and of the turrets of Jerusalem, the darkening mists of the dome of Constantinople, and “the Parthenon raised on its rock defying at first the view on the approach of Athens”.