Published On: Tue, Aug 29th, 2017

Can an Eclipse Change the World?


PHOTO: An always-dramatic solar eclipse. (photo via Flickr/Takeshi Kuboki)

I saw my first total solar eclipse in July 1991 at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula.

The eclipse was nearly seven minutes in length—and the promise of near cloudless skies in Baja in mid-July had made it irresistible to me. I’d been an amateur astronomer since Halley’s Comet passed by in 1986 and owned a couple of telescopes.

While staying in San Jose del Cabo with a group of eclipse enthusiasts, I met an older woman, Marjorie, and we became fast friends. One night at dinner, when I inquired about what kind of telescopes she owned, she said she wasn’t into astronomy.

I was perplexed.

Marjorie told me that decades earlier, a friend had convinced her to travel to see a total eclipse. After seeing her first, she was simply hooked. In fact, she said, she’d been chasing eclipses for much of her life. And she felt that made for the most amazing travel experiences.

Marjorie said some of her favorite places in the world—Borneo, Siberia, Nepal—had been places she would NEVER have gone to, had eclipses not sent her there. (With total solar eclipses, you generally have few options: The path of totality often covers vast stretches of ocean, and what landfall there is needs to have favorable weather prospects, ease of access and stable political conditions.)

I’ve often recalled that conversation in the decades since and wondered how the locales of future eclipses would change me. What places and people would I discover? How would I see the world differently after each trip?

But after this week, now I’m mulling over the question of whether eclipses can help change the places they pass over, too.

READ MORE: Royal Caribbean Becomes First Cruise Line to Be Gay Travel Approved

Twenty-six years after that Baja adventure, I’m an out gay man with a partner and two sons—something I couldn’t have imagined in 1991 when I was deep in the closet. This summer, my family was determined to see the “Great American Eclipse.”

We decided, based on a number of factors, to view it in a small city in central Tennessee—a decidedly red part of a red state. Friends in Orlando had a timeshare that was transferable to a resort in the little town of Crossville (population 10,000), so we decided to meet there.

Being a gay interracial couple, I’m aware of how our family stands out—especially in places like Crossville.

I noticed people regularly staring at us in restaurants and stores. No one was rude, and I met any stares with a simple smile. In fact, one dad at the resort pool hung out with us for quite a while, conversing as our kids played together and swam. I don’t think he even realized we were a couple at first.

But in all cases, I didn’t shy away from acting like the family that we are.

People in small towns likely don’t encounter a great deal of LGBTQ people, and I was happy to show them a positive role model—we’re normal people like everyone else. We travel, we eat out, we laugh with our kids, we go and see eclipses.

READ MORE: What’s Trending in LGBTQ Travel?

We spoke to a nice young local man right before totality, and he couldn’t get over the fact we’d driven to his town all the way from Ohio. We mentioned where some other people around us had come from. Then I pointed out a couple across the street whom I’d chatted with earlier.

“They’re from Italy,” I told him, as his jaw dropped. I explained that the next American eclipse was coming through Cleveland, our home, in 2024.

“You should plan to come visit our city next time,” I told him—and he smiled and said he would.

Just after totality finished on Monday afternoon in downtown Crossville, I kissed my partner, joyful at what we’d seen. I was still high from the experience and was thrilled that he’d witnessed his first eclipse. It felt good to do that without even thinking about it. I

hope we did our own small part to continue to change hearts and minds through travel. I’m looking forward to the next eclipse in Chile in 2019—and the people we’ll meet there.


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