Sunday, 25 March 2007

Gay Trucker Culture

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are numerous Internet resources targeted at the gay trucker (or truQR - as I casually introduce the new MotorQR monicker). A Google search of the term "gay trucker" will give you a pretty good overview of what's out there. While the Gay Trucker’s Association has the goals of a trucking professional association, most of the pages offer tools for truckers and their admirers to hook. These include Gay Truckers Classifieds, Big Rig Men, the All-Bear Truckstop and Truck Chaser. This last one includes cruising tips and safety advice!

The article below, "Loneliness, love and lust on the open road" by Ryan Lee, was originally posted August 12, 2005 on the Southern Voice and provides a more balanced view on the life of gay truckers.

Gay truck drivers find freedom and acceptance in rugged industry

FOR CAROL WATKINS, life in the driver’s seat of an 18-wheel truck opened up roads and worlds she never thought she would experience.

“It’s like I’m on a paid vacation sometimes,” says Watkins, who recently returned to her hometown of Chapel Hill, Tenn., after delivering a haul to Canada.

“I've seen parts of the country that I would've never been able to afford to visit if I wasn't on the road,” she says.

Watkins, who first started driving trucks in 1971 and returned in 1999 after raising two children, previously worked on the shipping-and-receiving side of the trucking industry.

But she says nothing beats the freedom of the open road.

There are numerous professional perks for gay truck drivers who race up and down America’s highways each day and see every part of the country while potentially making more than $1,000 per week.

For some gay male truck drivers in particular, the profession also provides a nationwide network of anonymous sex and the admiration of “truck chasers” — men who cruise highway rest stops and Internet trucking groups looking to fulfill their “trucker stud” fantasies.

But life in the fast lane can be tough, according to several gay truckers who say that they and their colleagues regularly struggle with loneliness and poor health.

“It’s a hard living; it’s a really hard living,” says Scott Langley, a driver who retired after 11 years as part of a road team with his partner, Tim Page. The pair owns two trucks driven by two gay male teams.

“You’re away from home for weeks at a time, you don’t have a social life and you find yourself alone when you’re a single driver,” Langley says. “But sometimes it makes it even harder when it’s a team and you’re with that person for long periods of time.

“When somebody first goes out on the road, within the first week they know whether they’re cut out for it,” Langley says.

Timothy Anderson started trucking in Alaska during his early 20s. He was drawn to the profession by the freedom and independence it provided.

“I could never figure out where I wanted to live on the West Coast, and trucking allowed me to avoid making that decision by waking up someplace different everyday,” says Anderson, president of the Gay Trucker’s Association.

Some two decades later, Anderson says that his independence came at a cost.

“Your friends’ lives keep going while you’re on the road, and I became very much isolated within the trucking culture to the point where all of my friends were truck drivers,” Anderson says.

Truck drivers were among the earliest and most loyal fans of the “Derek & Romaine Show” on Sirius Satellite Radio’s gay channel, Out Q, teaching host Romaine Patterson about the varied interests and exploits of gay and lesbian truckers.

“I think the hardest thing gay and lesbian truckers face is that being in a truck for such long periods is very hard on any type of relationship,” Patterson says.

“There are definitely the truckers who enjoy the ‘pickle park’ with the best of them, but the calls that really stand out in my mind are from the ones who are really having a hard time meeting other truckers and friends while out on the road,” she adds.

IN ADDITION TO regular bouts of loneliness, gay and lesbian truck drivers also have to deal with being stereotyped, Anderson says.

“I’m not sure who gets the worst rap —whether it’s the typical dyke image lesbian drivers usually get, or the trucker stud image that a lot of gay porn seems to enforce, and that’s not necessarily accurate either,” he says.

But the popular image of gay trucker drivers searching for —and finding —anonymous sexual partners along their routes accurately describes Langley and Page’s experience, Langley says.

“Every rest area we went to, we were being cruised by some guy, or were cruising somebody ourselves,” Langley says. “The cruising is quite active and probably more active now than it’s ever been. … it’s not talked about, and people don’t even like bringing it up.”

But Langley says the reluctance to talk about cruising among gay truck drivers is belied by the popularity of his and Page’s Web site, www.gaytruckers.com, and their magazine, Gay Truckers Classifieds.

The couple started the magazine in the mid-1990s and operated it for the first three months as a general interest magazine for all truckers. Then a gay truck driver asked to take out a classified ad with hopes of finding a supportive team driver, Langley says.

Since then, the magazine evolved into strictly a classified outlet for gay truckers and “truck chasers,” with nearly 2,000 subscribers and a distribution of nearly 5,000 copies. Launched in 2004, gaytruckers.com boasts more than 44,000 registered users, Langley says.

“Obviously guys are out there doing things, otherwise we wouldn't have all of the readers and members that we do,” says Langley.

Anderson agrees that there is some action out on the road, but said promiscuous drivers are a minority.

“You can’t deny there is some cowboying going on out there — to do that would be disingenuous — but I don’t think it’s the standard for most drivers,” Anderson says. “So many drivers are tired of being put on a sexual pedestal. It reflects on us in some pretty bad ways.”

But cruising among gay truck drivers is just a given part of the industry, Watkins says.

“Folks mention it; they know about what goes on between the gay guys, but it doesn't seem like it’s causing any great, rampant anger or backlash among the truck drivers,” she says.

DESPITE ITS RUGGED façade, the trucking industry is actually a relatively progressive arena with marginal levels of sexism and homophobia, gay truckers say.

“I worked in factories for years before I got into trucking, and I saw lots of discrimination there, but out on the road I've had a really good time,” Watkins says. “
I've had no qualms whatsoever with pay scales being [discriminatory] — every company I've worked for never cared if you were male or female, black or brown, gay or straight.”

The 5-foot-2-inch Watkins says men in the trucking industry sometimes underestimated her abilities, but that too is lessening as more women enter the field.

Gay and lesbian truck drivers tend to demand respect from their peers because of the grueling nature of the work, Anderson says.

“There’s a lot less homophobia in trucking than in a lot of other industries because the job is just so tough that you instantly gain respect from someone, even if they’re straight or conservative, just because you’re out there,” Anderson says.

Langley, who pretended to be Page’s cousin when the two first started as a team, has seen some gay drivers and teams frozen out of work by some companies, but he agreed that sexual orientation is a non-issue for most employers.

“If you go in there as a bunch of flaming queens dressed in daisy dukes, you’re not going to get any work,” Langley says. “If you go in there with an attitude of ‘I’m here to help you, you help me, and if my personal interests are a problem for you, then I don’t need to be here,’ then you’re not going to get much slack.”

Patterson, from the
Derek and Romaine show, says she relishes the chance to expose gay trucking issues to the heterosexual truck drivers who listen to the show.

“Our truckers have really taught us a lot about how you can really change people just by hanging out and having a good time,” Patterson says.”

In May, Green Bay, Wis.-based trucking company Schneider National rolled out a marketing campaign to recruit same-sex couples as big rig driving teams. The company also includes sexual orientation in its employment diversity statement.

A sampling of other freight companies shows that most include sexual orientation in employee anti-bias policies, but none use recruiting efforts aimed at gay couples, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The companies sampled include Fed-Ex Freight, Pacer Global Logistics and Ryder.

But the industry still needs to be prodded into fully addressing important issues to gay drivers, Anderson says.

“One of the things our industry has never really dealt with is that we have numerous members of the trucking industry who are HIV-positive,” Anderson says. “It would help if their managers had some understanding of the challenges those drivers are facing, and that’s one of the primary roles of [the Gay Trucker’s Association].”

But Langley says gay truckers organizing into a political force within the industry is unnecessary.

“There’s not a huge need for it because as long as you’re professional about what you do, being gay is not an issue,” he says.

Ryan Lee can be reached at rlee@sovo.com.

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Tom said...

I found your blog, and I hope it's okay to contact you.

I'm interested in becoming an OTR truck driver. I just passed the CDL written tests, and I'm feeling a bit clueless about how to pass the skills test, how to become a truck driver in general and what the life of a trucker is like, especially being a gay guy.

I've been having troubling finding info about gay truckers online that isn't about cruising. I tried the link to the Gay Trucker's Association, but my initial email to them bounced back unsuccessfully and I'm wondering if that site is a little out of date. Do you know of other websites or associations?

Thank you!

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