I had a great pleasure meeting Stacey Li when I was visiting Hong Kong whom I briefly shared about in my recent post. I’ve been following her on Instagram since maybe 2015 when I was looking for more Deaf travelers. When I found her, I knew that I had to meet her one day. She shared her experiences with me about traveling as Deaf LGBTQ+ and her Hong Kong culture via sign language. She has this bright playful personality that did not cause my social anxiety to appear. I asked her if I can film her story as an LGBTQ+ traveler and feature her story as part of this series.
Without hesitation, she was happy to share her experience. This is the very first featured interview post for Through Their eyes series. I also want to share with you that she did not write this post herself. Her primary languages are Cantonese and sign languages. With her permission, I’ve translated from sign language to written English for this Through their eyes series.
Stacey Hong is a Deaf Lesbian Asian female traveler. She was born and raised in Hong Kong. She knows Hong Kong Sign Language (HKSL) and International sign. Despite her marginalized identities, she traveled solo and actively seeks out Deaf LGBTQ+ communities while traveling around the world.
She has traveled to...
She has met different Deaf LGBTQ+ in every country she has visited.
What makes you fall in love with travel?
I love traveling because you know, I’ve always been focusing on work. I also have a kid who is now 15 years old. I later realized that I want to be free and want to do something with my life. I have talked to my kid about this, and my child understood and was supportive.
I’ve met many different people, learn different cultures and see so many things. I feel happier. In Hong Kong, it was just about work. It’s all about working for many, many hours. I was just not happy with that. I want to release that sense of prison. To feel free from that, I’ve traveled. Traveling gives me that positivity in my life which is why I love traveling.
did you have any country that you were afraid to visit because you’re a Deaf LGBTQ traveler?
Honestly, I would be scared if I visited Russia alone. Yes, I would be definitely scared. But fortunately, I found a Deaf Russian friend who guided me around, so I felt more relieved and safe that way.
Were you afraid because of the news that you’ve been seeing?
yes, I’m afraid due to watching the news about how it was oppressive for LGBTQ+ there. I have many Russian friends who are LGBTQ+ who were telling me that holding hands with a partner in Russia publicly is not the best idea. I was told that it is best to blend in with the locals, to act “normal.” This way, they wouldn’t really call you out since you blend in with the others. I was surprised but I also understand that they were telling me this. I didn’t come out publicly there but I observed around and noticed that they weren’t holding hands. They all have to blend in “normally.” Eh. I see NO LGBTQ+ flags hanging up in Russia, not like where I see some hanging in Denmark. Denmark is one of the most lgbtq friendly travel destinations I’ve visited and I feel that I can travel safely there. Russian LGBTQ+ communities are closeted and it’s a challenge to find them there. It’s also happening like that in other countries, yeah – like in Germany, I didn’t actually see any LGBTQ+ couples holding hands either? It was strange for me, considering that I thought they’d be so open here in Germany. I asked my Deaf friends there about it, and they said that it’s okay to be affectionate privately (at home) but not publicly. They told me that they’re afraid what will happen to me, such as beating me up. Who knows?
Do you often find yourself sharing who you are with others while traveling?
Actually, I do not reveal who I am, even in Europe. But I do reveal with few personal friends. I’ll share with them later if I feel comfortable with them. Once I feel comfortable, I’ll be more open with them.
What is it like for you to find a Deaf LGBTQ+ community while traveling? Was it easy or difficult?
In Europe, it’s a lot easier. There are large Deaf LGBTQ groups there. I’d ask people around, such as if they know any Deaf LGBTQ+ in Germany that I could connect to. They’ll message me directly and then we’ll get to know each other. I don’t trust people too easily, so I’d prefer to engage with them and see how they are first. Then I’ll meet them. If they don’t seem a good person, I don’t engage with them anymore.
What about in Asia? Is it harder?
Asia, yes, it is really hard for them because so many of them are closeted. Like, in Japan, I asked a friend if there are any Deaf LGBTQ+ people in Japan. That friend asked around for me, and then a Deaf LGBTQ+ Japanese messaged me privately. I asked questions about their life as LGBTQ+ and told me that they don’t disclose about who they are due to how it would ruin their reputation at any social settings, including school and work. Yet, there are some Deaf LGBTQ+ Japanese who are not closeted. I understand about not able to disclose who they are due to fear of having their reputation ruined. I mean, it’s really, really, hard for LGBTQ+ communities here in Asia. Even in Malaysia, because I really tried to look for Deaf LGBTQ+ Malaysians groups – especially Deaf transgenders, but I had no luck with that. The Muslim culture there is even more different (an additional challenge).
With multiple identities (Deaf, Lesbian, Asian, female) that you strongly value, yet still marginalized by many societies around the world, there are some challenges. But what positivity do you see as a Deaf Lesbian Asian female traveler?
There are some countries that have laws and protect the LGBTQ+ community and travelers with disability too. And there are some people who are loving, accepting and supportive of who you are. They don’t oppress me for who I am. So, don’t only see the challenges but the positives too!
What advice would you share for Deaf LGBTQ+ worldwide who want to travel but afraid to?
As an LGBTQ+ traveler, I really advise you to look and find a local person in the country that you want to visit to ask questions and gather information about their country’s perspectives on LGBTQ+ communities, including what you’d need to know for your own safety. Just gather information before you take your trip so that you can be more prepared. And try to reach out to your community where you can feel more comfortable with who you are, even if that person is straight too.
Stacey Li’s story is one of the most important voices that needed to be shared, and it needs to be addressed. This is why I created Through their eyes series. It’s really imperative to discuss the diversity of our Deaf travelers, because like Stacey Li, we DO have Deaf LGBTQ+ travelers too. As a travel blogger, I cannot personally connect with my LGBTQ+ audience because I do not have the experiences. I have the privilege of being comfortable of who I am and not needing to be on the edge of fear or question my safety based on my sexual orientation.
Because of this, I am not in the position to writing travel guides for LGBTQ+ communities nor could I share what are LGBTQ friendly travel destinations or traveling safely as lgbtq+ travelers. However, I’ll refer to some people, organizations and social media platforms that I’d recommend for you to check out – but remember, I am not involved nor do I have direct relationships with them. Please do investigate further.
Resources for Deaf LGBTQ+ communities & anyone else!
- Deafinitely Without Barriers is a Deaf POC Queer from the USA. She has traveled solo in Asia & central America. She also travel with her mental health battles and body image.
- Rexy Ed is a Gay Deaf Oral traveller from London, England. He also addressed about traveling with cochlear implants (CI) and advocate for accessibility.
If you are LGBTQ+ AND Deaf, Hard of Hearing or have other disability and love traveling, please email me so I can include you on this list.
Unfortunately, I could not find many (hint, hint! Somebody, please start this!).
Perhaps there is only one now but I found more general LGBTQ+ facebook groups:
- Gay Deaf on Tour
- Deaf Queers and Allies
- Deaf Rainbow LGBTQ World
- World Deaf LGBT Pride Rainbow Community Vlog
- LGBTQ+ of DeafBlind
- Deaf Trans/Divaworld
Reminder: I am not involved or unable to investigate further myself these groups. Please check it out for yourself. Perhaps you could maybe befriend someone here.
Including those who are NOT Deaf, Hard of Hearing or have other disability, you can check out these social media platforms relating to LGBTQ+ Travel
- USA’s LGBTQI International travel information
- Spartacus Gay Travel Index – learn where is LGBTQ+ friendly countries and which are not
- Equaldex, countries information about LGBTQ+ population & traveling safely.
- Transgender travel information, including knowing your rights with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the airports & also read here: TSA & Transgender passengers
- Extensive & ultimate travel guides for LGBTQ+ website named, The Gay Passport.
More resources & people to follow & read their experiences:
I did find certain general information and stories relating to Disabled LGBTQ+ and their lack of spaces within the organizations or LGBTQ+ rights parade. Just I don’t find that much relating to traveling. I couldn’t help but be surprised that I can’t seem to find any information about LGBTQ+ Deaf travel, even LGBTQ+ Travel with disability in general. I don’t know whether there are Disabled LGBTQ+ travel companies, organizations or even social media platforms. If anyone knows, please share.
There will be more featured stories for Through Their Eyes series. Stay tuned!
Do you have any marginalized identity that impact the way you travel?
or are you a LGBTQ+ traveler? What are your experiences?