Travels With Queerness: In Search of America
Travels With Queerness: In Search of America
A road trip and essay series inspired by Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, through a queer, feminist lens
A road trip and essay series inspired by Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, through a queer, feminist lens Read more
When we travel, we often do so with more emphasis on our itinerary than our identity. Power and privilege determine our experiences. Travels with Queerness is about how our identity frames our narrative.
This September, my dog Petey and are I setting out on a road trip inspired by John Steinbeck’s book, Travels with Charley: In Search of America. The goals: to see and write about America through the lens of a queer feminist and create more awareness about what it’s like to travel as a marginalized person, specifically a person within the LGBTQ community. I want to know how and where can we in the LGBTQ community travel freely and safely, and I want to share what I learn as widely as I can.
This 25-day journey will take me and Petey 5,500 miles─through 11 states. I’m traveling as an observer not just of sights and landscapes, but of myself and others. Along the way, I plan to strike up casual conversations with others about safety and access.
I’m reaching out to LGBTQ organizations, and I’m planning interviews with people who have stories to tell. Check out the rewards tiers to find out how you can share your story!
Throughout the trip, you’ll get to follow along on my journey via my website, TravelswithQueerness.com, where I’ll post daily updates, short essays, and photos. I’ll also be posting regularly throughout this campaign about all of the preparation I’m making for the trip. You can also use the site to ask me questions and share your thoughts.
When the trip is over, I’ll get to work on my book, Travels with Queerness: In Search of America. It will include selected essays from the road, stories from people I meet and interview, and reflections about the trip as a whole, drawing together multiple voices and experiences in a single text.
So here we are, a lesbian and her pit bull, ready to hit the road. But we can’t do it without your help! Getting Travels with Queerness funded through Kickstarter transforms this project from a solo endeavor to a community undertaking. As a backer, you are a major contributor to this project. You’ll be along for the ride and a part of the story.
In 1960, John Steinbeck, author of iconic American novels like Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, set out on a 10,000 mile trip across America with his dog, Charley. Travels with Charley is Steinbeck’s view of his country─its landscapes and inhabitants. Today, it can easily be read as a narrative of the privileged gaze, a journey shown through the lens of a straight, white man.
I know I can’t travel as freely as Steinbeck did. I embrace my womanness and my queerness, but I also live in fear of being harassed or assaulted. These are fears I share with others in the LGBTQ community─fears that are bred by homophobia and misogyny and they're not going away.
So, what happens when I, a queer feminist, set out on a road trip that’s inspired by Steinbeck’s? Can I see America like Steinbeck did, or does America see me for my otherness?
Published travel narratives are written largely by people of privilege. You don’t have to scour the shelves of bookstores or libraries to find works about travels on the highways and byways of the U.S., but it’s rare to find a travel book that’s about the landscape of marginalization.
While gay travel agencies, gay bars, and gay neighborhoods offer a sense of safety and inclusivity, we need to acknowledge that the majority of road trip destinations do not offer this type of security. There is discernible contrast in the places that are safe or inclusive spaces (gay bars and neighborhoods, and travel brands that market to people in the LGBTQ community) and those that aren’t.
I’ve mapped out a trip that will allow me to cover a lot of distance, visit some popular road trip destinations, and spend time meeting and talking with a diverse group of people. You can see my itinerary at Roadtrippers.com.
I’ll visit state and national parks, historical landmarks, and maybe hit up a couple quirky roadside attractions. Along the way, I’ll engage in conversations with locals and other travelers. I’m also scheduling pre-arranged meet-ups with people in the LGBTQ community whose voices might not normally be represented. While I’ll be the one driving, I’m not the only one taking this trip.
Why only 11 states? Well, time and money are limited. I’m covering the western states this time, but my hope is to make this the first of several trips so that I can paint an accurate picture of America.
I'm Kim Sharp, a writer, editor, and educator from Seattle. I recently left a long career in academia to focus on my writing and start a new career path. As a woman, a lesbian, and a person who’s been harassed because of my sexuality, Travels with Queerness is one of the most important projects I’ve ever taken on.
Petey is my best friend and constant companion. He’s an 11 year old pit bull with a big heart, a tail that never stops wagging, and a fierce love of peanut butter. I’m not the only marginalized traveler. In spite of the fact that Petey’s an excellent ambassador for his breed, there are places where Petey isn’t welcome. Pit bulls are often so stigmatized that I’ve had to plan my route in a way that avoids cities with breed bans.
I want to include the voices of others. The two top-tier rewards for this Kickstarter will give you the opportunity to have your story heard. If you have an experience you’d like to share that fits within the themes of this project, please consider pledging at the $275 level. We’ll meet at a mutually-agreed upon location (within 50 miles of my trip route) and I’ll interview you. Your story will be featured on TravelswithQueerness.com and in the book.
Backers at the $525 level have the option of meeting with me as part of a group; this is a perfect opportunity for families, friends, LGBTQ or other community groups or clubs.
Here's how it works:
Step 1: Check out the map and itinerary on Roadtrippers.
Step 2: Pick a day and place, allowing for some scheduling flexibility. (I’m willing to stray up to 50 miles from my planned route.)
Step 3: Email me at email@example.com with your preferred city/town and date(s).
Step 4: Pledge at the “Travels with Stories” or “Travels with Community” level. (Did notice all the great stuff you get in addition to being a part of the book?!)
When the campaign is over, I’ll be in touch to confirm our plans and talk about next steps. Ideally, I’ll get a sense of what you’d like to talk about before we meet.
I will make audio recordings of our interviews, but agree not to share the recordings with anyone else.
I’m honored to write you into my book and will make every effort protect your identity. You may opt to speak anonymously and/or have your name(s) changed in the book before publication. We will also sign a confidentiality agreement.
Check out these cool rewards!
So, where will your money go?
Petey and I can’t do this without your help, and we’re grateful for every ounce of support we receive!
Risks and challenges
Travel always produces potential risks─delays due to health, weather, or other circumstances we can’t control. Routes or dates may have to change slightly, but since I’m planning this trip for September/October, I don’t anticipate any major obstacles.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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