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 loveputting 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!
Romantic comedies make dating look alarmingly magical. A few perfect dates in and it’s time to get married, but that’s not realistic, is it? We know what you’re thinking, aren’t these ‘Two Guys’ married? Well, yes, we are – but we owe it all to being happily single! Every time people say to us “I wish I had what you two have” – we both smile. We smile because of all the experiences you could have in life, it’s completely okay to put romantic relationships on the back burner. First and foremost, it’s so important to be in a committed relationship with yourself, because chances are there’s a better version of you that you’re working towards. Spend time with that human and love them unconditionally before allowing someone else to be a part of your life. As cliché as it may be, RuPaul said it best: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Put you first, and then you’ll suddenly find space to allow someone else into your little world. Then, conveniently, that person will somehow find themselves drawn to you… trust us. It’s a whole universe thing. You’ll see.
My husband and I are each other’s person through and through, but we also know how crucial it is to just be true to yourself and still maintain your own identity, especially when in a relationship. Long before we knew each other, we both spent many years of our lives losing ourselves while being involved in toxic relationships. When we first met, neither one of us wanted anything to do with commitment, oddly enough, and yet that’s when it came to us in the absolute best way. It was so unintentional and carefree that it was honest, and it was blunt. By the time we both caught on to the fact that we had feelings for each other, they were much deeper than either of us realized. Sure, we were dating, but neither of us had any expectations or put any pressure on ourselves. The beginning of our relationship was organic because neither of us were trying too hard or worrying about messing things up. We were both putting in the same level of energy, and it’s because neither of us were “looking” that we got exactly what we were looking for.
So now back to you, how does that translate? It’s actually pretty easy. Sit down, figure out what you want for yourself, and go live your best life! Be afraid of absolutely nothing – except maybe spiders. That’s a valid fear. Burn your house down and move. Otherwise, take risks, travel to new places, and try new things. The worst thing that could happen is you realize that you simply don’t like whatever it is you’ve tried doing. You’ll be much happier with yourself for doing it anyway before you find yourself trapped in a relationship having no idea who you are at the core. Don’t let age get in the way of this journey, either. Don’t say you’re either too old or too young for something, because it’s simply not true. Don’t compare yourself to people around you and what they have, because their journey is exactly that – their journey.
Sometimes, the best travel companion is you! Go see places by yourself. And don’t tell yourself you can’t afford it, either. Pack a backpack, some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and go stay in a hostel for a couple of nights somewhere. If you want to make it work, you will. This isn’t the time for excuses. You don’t have to go to Indonesia for three months alone, start smaller than that. Go to dinner or a movie, spend time dating yourself first, and getting to know who you are. Take a little road trip or weekend getaway, or even just a day to pamper yourself. You don’t necessarily have to “Eat. Pray. Love.” it – just hang out with you because you’re awesome! You’ll be surprised by how much there is to learn about yourself.
Now, we’re not advocating for the single life forever, but just learn to be independent, so when you find your person, you can continue that journey along and be authentically you. If your person is out of town, go out and have fun! If they’re not okay with you living your life to the fullest, you’re with the wrong person and you need to run anyway! Maybe you don’t want to go out without them, that’s okay, too. You’re not looking for someone who completes you, you’re looking for someone who complements you. Your significant other should be someone who adds value to your life. That’s right, we’re Marie Kondo-ing it. Does this person spark joy? No? Get rid of them. Life is too short to be anything but happy.
So as we enter coupling season, do yourselves a favor – catch flights, not feelings! Don’t go chasing someone simply to have a relationship because you’ll end up annoyed or heartbroken, or both. Take the adventure you’ve always dreamt about. You’ll get to a point where you are finally happy with yourself and where you are in life. You’ll be grateful for what you have and yet at the same time, grateful for what you don’t have. And sometimes, when you least expect it, someone will walk into your life and add value to your journey. You never know where your life will take you. Say hi to your seat mate on your next flight, they could be the one! Or, they could be a weirdo. Feel it out. Trust your gut. But sometimes you get lucky.