I was recently interviewed by someone who asked, “Why are so many male flight attendants gay?” While I understand the significance of stereotypes, they’re often more harmful than they are helpful, so I felt that the question warranted a thoughtful response. The short answer is, being a flight attendant is the best job out there and gay men are obviously the most intelligent people on the planet. I’m mostly kidding, but all jokes aside, the job lends to a lifestyle that is both fun and glamorous. (Most days, anyway!) Flight attendants get to travel all over the world and get paid for it, jet off to different countries at the drop of a hat, and avoid those awkward holiday dinner conversations with family by blaming our absence on work. What’s not to love?
For gay men, being a flight attendant is all about identity – or rather, anonymity in this case. Imagine a flight that you’ve been on. Do you remember your flight attendant’s name? Rarely. Do you know anything about this person other than they seem to have fun at work? Nope. But you will always remember how your flight attendant made you feel. As crew members, we love putting on a show for the public, entertaining our guests, and then going on with our lives at the end of the day. We love to perform, and the airplane provides a perfect stage to express ourselves. We can transform into a character we might not otherwise get to play and sometimes our uniform even becomes a costume that can make us feel safe and protected. We are allowed to be unapologetically true to who we are with no threat of pushback from potentially unaccepting friends or family. Everybody adores a fun-loving flight attendant because it makes traveling more fun. But while often times even the most conservative person loves a sassy gay flight attendant, it’s still not necessarily the person they want their child bringing home to dinner. In the aviation world we are accepted for whatever bold personality we want to adopt. On the airplane, we are free to be whoever we want to be.
The flight attendant lifestyle has remained so appealing for gay men over the years because like gay men, flight attendants come from all walks of life and face similar issues of self-identity. Through all of the diverse cultures we get to experience every day at work, we realize a new piece of ourselves in each one, learning more and more about who we want to become. Rather than learning new ways to hide from our truth, we uncover new aspects of ourselves that we never knew were there before. Individually we may be quite different from one another, but we all have so much in common at our core. There’s an unspoken bond and mutual respect among flight attendants much like members of the LGBTQ+ community. That respect translates well into the flight attendant life because crew members around the world are united by the wings that each of us wear proudly when we fly. We have experienced a lot of the same situations and understand each other as a result. Each trip we fly with new crew members and are required to communicate effectively with them without ever having met before. We have to be able to form strong connections with sheer strangers. This allows us to create a space where everyone feels free to open up… sometimes maybe even too much! At the end of the day, flight attendants around the globe look out for each other, just as members of the gay community often do, too.
With the flight attendant lifestyle, the possibilities are endless. The job is flexible, relatively low-stress, and allows us to see places and meet people that we would’ve otherwise never imagined possible. Being a flight attendant allows a level of freedom to be exactly who you want to be, which often times we don’t get the privilege of doing while growing up gay. Whether you fly with your best friends or perfect strangers, you can open up and embrace your truth. So when someone asks why gay men become flight attendants, it’s because you can be anybody you want to be, but most importantly, you can just be yourself.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
And now, some wisdom from Nicole Byer:
You’re right, Nicole. We are too much for this world. We belong in the sky!