Meet the Queer Long Distance Truck Drivers Taking the Industry by Storm

“We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re willing to drive 18 gay hours per day to deliver for our clients,” has become somewhat of a rallying cry for a new generation of truck drivers. In an industry that long resisted diversity, with 66.6% of long distance haulers being white men and only 6% being women in 2017, many see this change as a long time coming. And not just in terms of race and gender, but sexual orientation as well. “I just think that it’s time we had our say,” one driver known only as Spudd told us. “I’ve been gay since the day I was born, but it wasn’t until this movement that I started telling people about it. Now, I have more friends in the industry and take more pride in my job, pun intended.”

So how did this all start? We sat down with a handful of drivers, organizers, and activists to hear about the last 4 years and their intentional push to ‘queer’ the long distance truck driving industry from the inside out.

The first person we sat down with was Mae Thompson, a lesbian and truck driver since the mid-80s. “For most of my career, I’ve had to hide who I am,” Mae told us over Skype. “I used to pretend to be a man because it was easier for a lot of the other drivers I worked with to think they were on the long haul with another guy rather than a woman. Which was understandable, especially back then when most of the truck stops didn’t even have women’s bathrooms. But as I saw more young queer folks enter the workforce and feel ashamed of who they are, I knew I had to finally take a stand.”

And take a stand she did. Back in 2009, Mae started to petition anyone who would listen, from truck stop owners to gas attendants to radio runners, begging them to make small changes that would make a more welcoming environment for women, people of color, and members of the gay community. Unfortunately, most people either ignored her or said no flat out.

“I got really discouraged back then,” Mae continued. “It wasn’t until I found other truckers with similar values and lifestyles like Stayc that I began to believe in the change I had always wanted. It was then that I realized we shouldn’t be asking, but demanding.”

Mae refers to another trucker here, a trans woman named Stayc who she met while running shipments between Portland and Seattle. We were lucky enough to catch up with Stayc over Facebook Messenger video call to hear more about how they were able to begin this movement together.

“When I met Mae, it was the first time that I saw myself in another trucker and realized that we didn’t have to be living like this,” Stayc explained. “After dozens and dozens of roadside diner conversations, we realized the potential to offer reliable work and solidarity to fellow queer folks while turning the trucking industry on its head. We also understood that the more of us that decided to be open about who we are, the more we would find others already in our community that could express themselves freely. This, really, was what lead to what would come next.”

Beginning in early 2011, Mae, Stayc, and a small group of other truckers began to fly obnoxiously large pride flags from the back of their trucks with the words ‘Here, Queer, and On-Time’ emblazoned across it. Although at first this was met with fines and other attempts to suppress them, it caught on so fast among other drivers that they were able to bulldoze any sort of formal interference. Soon, they had their own radio channels, call signs, and meet-up points across the country. It was this last one that led to their biggest advance yet.

“The first time I heard Mae speak at a meet-up, I knew this was what I had always been looking for,” Dee, a gay man from Jacksonville told us on Marco Polo. “I signed up right away to become part of history and I’ve never looked back. Best decision I ever made.”

And make history they have. Now, the demographics of trucking are changing rapidly and don’t show any signs of slowing. Stayc left us with a final word we think is an appropriate note to end on, “We’re never going back in the shadows, so get used to it, because there’s nothing you can do to stop us.”


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