LGBTQ+ @FCTG: Hear Their Stories
The best way to learn about LGBTQ+ people is to listen to their stories; so for the rest of this blog, we’re going to hand the mic over to the phenomenal LGBTQ+ employees across Flight Centre Travel Group brands. We hope by sharing these stories that we can give hope and support to LGBTQ+ people around the world.
Tara Lauzon-Williams (she/her)
Senior Team Leader, Corporate Traveler
For me, traveling with pride means bringing my authentic self to all experiences – both at home and abroad. My wife and I have traveled the globe extensively as a lesbian couple and we’ve never let fear dictate our decisions. That being said, I’m very thankful at the progress that the LGBTQ+ movement has made over the years when it comes to global acceptance.
I can remember a time at the beginning of my travel career when I attended a conference in Jamaica. The event was hosted by a resort brand that excluded all travelers with the exception of heterosexual couples. It felt very awkward and frustrating to know that had I not been invited on a business trip, I wouldn’t have been allowed as a guest at the resort - and even worse, that I was supposed to go back to my job as a travel agent and promote this product to my clients.
Fast forward 10 years, when my wife and I return at the same resort brand together. I was attending another work conference, which just happened to coincide with her birthday. By then, the resort brand had changed their previous discriminatory policy, and it was clear that their staff had completed diversity acceptance training. Not only were we allowed to share a room, but they pulled out all the stops to ensure my wife had a memorable birthday celebration. We actually enjoyed our experience so much, that we returned 8 years later on a personal vacation to celebrate our honeymoon (and were treated like family)!
The resort brand operates and employs a substantial workforce in many Caribbean countries where LGBTQ+ acceptance is historically low. This is just one example of how I’ve witnessed the travel & tourism industry change the landscape of diversity and inclusion over the years. I’m excited to report that we now have a son and are looking forward to visiting our island paradise as a family!
Yannick Desautels (HE/HIM)
Operations Leader, Corporate Traveler
Opening up about one’s sexuality in a workplace is not always easy, but I believe it’s important to shine as who we are. I am lucky to live in a country that accepts me as I am, but the world is so much more than the comfort of home. As an avid traveler, I’ve sailed a good part of the world in my young adult life onboard HMCS Calgary as a Canadian Navy Diver and Air Combat Radar Operator to places I did not always feel safe. But it was the last 10 years or so that allowed me to be more selective of where I travel as a gay man while working with FCTG.
It is important for me that I visit and support places that I feel are welcoming and open about who I am as part of the LGBTQIA2+ community, and even if part of the world is still closed to me, there are many more amazing destinations that I can enjoy.
Casey Soto (He/Him/They)
Technical Implementation Manager, FCM
Each thread of your lived experience, woven into your being creates an identity that provides this earth with a beautiful perspective only you can share and only you can create. When I think about traveling with Pride, it’s about more than my gender or sexual orientation. To me, its building on the threads of my existence by curating an understanding through my perspective of each place I visit, each person I meet. I have had the opportunity to visit many countries and every time, I come back with a visceral feeling of completeness that only adds to my identity. I believe traveling with pride, should never be about you but about how you create your own pride within your being from the mere experiences you share with the world.
Viviana Pena (She/Her)
Team Leader, Corporate Traveler
I was always very open with my friends and family about being gay and they have been my biggest support! When it came to the work environment, I was always a bit hesitant expressing myself. Flight Centre has been such a welcoming, diverse company. I feel a sense of community and acceptance.
Tanner Ferris (Him/He/They)
Technical Delivery Specialist, Corporate Traveler
My name is Tanner and I am a Drag Queen referred to as Pam Damnic. As a drag queen, I tend to shave my eyebrows to simplify the ‘drag over’ process. Due to this, I tend to travel with a basic makeup bag in my carry-on ensuring I don’t look like Spaak from Star Trek. The makeup bag includes the general things like eye liner, a brow pencil, a few brushes, lashes, some eye shadow, lipstick and, of course, eyelash curlers.
A couple years back we traveled to Vancouver for business. On the return journey, while passing through security, I was stopped, and my bag dissected. The culprit, eyelash curlers. Now, I do not blame this man for the misidentification. I mean, what straight man has lash curlers, or more or less is aware of their existence?
As he pulled apart my bag and questioned the odd pair of scissors I was traveling with, I attempted to explain their importance to no avail. A lovely lady dolled up to the nines whilst sporting her security uniform burst into a bellowing laughter and approached the man. She whispered in his ear and apologized to me. The man swiftly turned beat red and slid my products back to me. As he walked away embarrassed, he turned to me and said 'Do you have an Instagram? I love drag queens!' I proceeded to provide him with the information as we chatted about the art form and connected over his girlfriend's obsession with RuPaul's Drag Race. I proceeded to my flight with a smile plastered to my face.
This could have been a very different interaction. As I boarded the flight, I received a new follow notification. He still follows and comments to this day.
Support can come from the smallest of interactions. You never know where you will find support so never stop being who you are, and always travel with pride!