I went on a cruise around Italy, Greece, and Croatia last week, and was the only gay passenger aboard the ship (officially). There was supposed to be a cocktail mixer for LGBTQ cruisers one evening, but no one was there when I arrived and so I ordered a drink and listened to one barback tease another about being a maricón.

“Well I’m here to find the other maricóns,” I said in jest. “I was beginning to think I was the only one on this boat!”
Paranoia flashed across the staff members’ faces as they realized a gay passenger had overheard them bandying a gay slur. However, I had no desire to spend my vacation trying to get an overworked employee reprimanded or fired over an exchange that only three people heard and which hurt none of us.

“You don’t have to worry about me telling your bosses, but you should probably think two or three times before using that word where an LGBTQ gathering is supposed to be taking place,” I said.

It was enough for me to have startled them with the disclosure of my sexual orientation, to have expanded their perception of what a maricón could look like, and to have called them out when I could have just as easily walked away with another Long Island Iced Tea. I didn’t need any managerial backup for the employees to feel the force of my faggotry. The 30 family members and friends who were aboard the cruise got a generous dose of Big Gay Ryan, too, thanks to days worth of daisy dukes, booty-hugging bathing suits and semi-suggestive humor.

“Has anybody else had fun with the bidet yet?” I asked our group a few hours after we checked into an Italian hotel at the end of our cruise. “I’ve used it four times already, and three were before I took my first shit!” It’s heartwarming listening to a roomful of heterosexuals burst into laughter after hearing their gay family member make butt jokes. It’s just as affirming knowing there are spouses, children, and friends who have become part of our family since I left home, and the only Ryan they know offers an expression of homosexuality that is starkly apart from most they may have experienced.

One of the highlights of my trip was a drunken, late-night conversation with the husband of a dear childhood friend (side note: the vast majority of conversations on a cruise are drunken, including one with a said friend a few nights earlier that had me bawling 160-proof tears). Her husband complimented and appreciated me for not being a stereotype, and I shared how desperate I am to not be separated from the gay men that much of society finds distasteful.

“Those men make this world so much easier for me,” I said, thinking of the ones who are called maricón instead of overhearing it. “I can meet someone and go months or however long I want without them knowing I’m gay, but then a significant part of who I am and who my people are will be invisible unless I claim it myself.”

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