Semi Queer: Inside the World of Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers

Semi Queer: Inside the World of Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers

Semi Queer: Inside the World of Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers

Semi Queer: Inside the World of Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers


Long-haul trucking is linked to almost every industry in America, yet somehow the working-class drivers behind big rigs remain largely hidden from public view. Gritty, inspiring, and often devastating oral histories of gay, transsexual, and minority truck drivers allow award-winning author Anne Balay to shed new light on the harsh realities of truckers' lives behind the wheel. A licensed commercial truck driver herself, Balay discovers that, for people routinely subjected to prejudice, hatred, and violence in their hometowns and in the job market, trucking can provide an opportunity for safety, welcome isolation, and a chance to be themselves--even as the low-wage work is fraught with tightening regulations, constant surveillance, danger, and exploitation. The narratives of minority and queer truckers underscore the working-class struggle to earn a living while preserving one's safety, dignity, and selfhood.

Through the voices of drivers from marginalized communities who spend eleven- to fourteen-hour days hauling America's commodities in treacherous weather and across mountain passes, Semi Queer reveals the stark differences between the trucking industry's crushing labor practices and the perseverance of its most at-risk workers.


Carolyn is a tall, gorgeous, charismatic transwoman who has driven a big rig in Texas and the rest of the South for the past eight years. the day I spoke to her, she had pulled into a truck stop for the night in South Carolina. It was 2016, maybe a month after North Carolina had passed House Bill 2, widely known as the “bathroom bill” because it required people to use the bathroom that agreed with the gender on their birth certificate. Carolyn told me how she planned to respond the following day after crossing into that state: “If I get anywhere near the capital of North Carolina and I need to use the restroom, I’m going to use the steps of the courthouse. Or the capitol building. That’s just because I know I can’t get anywhere near the governor’s mansion, or I’d go take a whiz on their azaleas.”

So much is said here, and so much is not. I want you to imagine this scene: an eighteen-wheeler, underlit, with chrome stacks and an airbrushed eagle on the door, drives right up to the steps of the governor’s mansion. Out steps a tall, immaculately made-up transwoman wearing a sundress and high heels. She possesses poise, elegance, effortless grace. She turns and, carefully keeping three points of contact with the truck at all times, steps down from that enormous vehicle. She takes a few steps away from her cab, whips out her dick, and pees on the azaleas.


It doesn’t matter whether Carolyn is pre- or post-op. What matters is that we think about Carolyn’s words along with what she is not saying: that she is scared, angry, and vulnerable. She tells me, “I wound up going back into trucking because, being different, that’s the only place I could really make money. I drove a school bus for a while, but unfortunately I couldn’t get the better runs, and I know it was a direct result of being different, because at that time, my two immediate supervisors cornered me, wanting to know what I had down below. So I called the aclu and talked to lawyers, and they straight-out told me there was nothing I could do about it, uh-huh, so I said screw it and I went back into truck driving. I put my hair up under a hat, wore a pair of baggy clothes . . .

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