For years, I’ve harbored the dream — or, really, the fantasy — of what it would be like to float in zero gravity and look out the window to realize I’m more among the stars than beneath them. In December, traveling to space with my father and four other individuals, that dream came true. While those precious minutes in space had a profound effect on me, I hope many others who relate to me will feel like they are sharing the spotlight with me.
Through a lot of self-exploration, I came to the conclusion that I’m pansexual, which means I’m attracted to people without discrimination in terms of gender identity. I also discovered a love for other niche communities, most notably the furry community, which unites people who have an appreciation for animals with human traits. (Think of people who love the Disney movie Zootopia enough to make their own character similar to those in the film and found a group they could share that with.)
While I found these aspects of myself perfectly natural, almost a logical expression of who I am, others around me had a harder time accepting it. My father, in particular, who grew up with a singular focus on family and an industrious desire to give back, found my path difficult to understand. As in all families, there was tension, sometimes concern. Over time we have worked to bond and come to a mutual respect and understanding.
When my father, who through his decades of hard work became successful in business, suggested we take this journey together to space, I was moved. I understood it as a gesture of togetherness, a bond that we would share forever. But as I thought more about this voyage, I began to realize it would be much bigger than the relationship between just one son and his father. I recognized that this journey would make me one of the first civilians, and possibly the first openly expressive pansexual person, to breach that barrier.
While for me, this was never about personal fame or glory, I recognized instantly what this milestone would mean to so many people like me. For decades, we’ve been striving to simply be seen, to be visible in a society and culture that has largely kept us invisible. In entertainment, culture, politics, athletics, and more, we are expected to hide our identities, to conform in ways that are inauthentic to who we are, to conceal ourselves.
In recent years, we’ve made a lot of important strides in making expressive people more visible. With this historically meaningful moment, we’re pushing even farther, this time, literally — 66 miles into the sky — and our mission of becoming visible in a society that has too long made us invisible is closer than ever before.
Cameron Bess is a 24-year-old content creator known by their Twitch alias @MeepsKitten. Their December 11 journey aboard New Shepard was with Blue Origin, a spaceflight company founded by Jeff Bezos.
This article is featured in Out's January/February 2022 issue, a special LGBTQ+ Star Trek edition appearing on newsstands February 22. Support queer media and subscribe — or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.