Travelling can be one of the most exciting things you get to do with your life. Mysterious foreign countries with exotic and enchanting people. Just the food can be an adventure in itself. Making friends and making memories. However for the transgender person, travelling can include a lot of stressful moments making your journey less than pleasurable. Here are some tips to help you avoid those pitfalls and get the most out of your travelling experience.

  1. Get a travelling letter. Get a travelling letter from your doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist. It's a legitimate letter that is used when trans people travel and it will explain why you look the way you do or why your identification does not necessarily match the gender you are presenting as. It will come in handy when you are trying to explain that you are transgender and not in disguise from some nefarious reason. I was stopped by the police one afternoon because someone in my neighbourhood was robbing banks dressed as a woman. The travelling letter I had in my purse came in very handy there, and I wasn’t even travelling!

  2. Always use the piece of ID that most looks like you. If you can get your ID updated as close as possible to the time you are travelling so that when you're presenting it to someone they will be more likely to accept it because it looks like you, as you are presenting in your chosen gender identity. Also make sure the name you have on your driver's licence also matches the name and picture on your passport and if possible use the name on that ID for all your reservations. If you're using one name to reserve the airline tickets and one for the hotel plus one for the rental car then things can get confusing fast. This is very important, failing to do this may cause delays with security and even end your trip before it starts. You may get tagged as being high security and get endlessly searched as you progress through the airport. Explaining your gender situation ever single time. Yes, its harassment as a result of being transgender, but there it is.

  3. Call the airport(s) ahead of time. It is a good idea to contact the airport(s) ahead of time to find out what their policy is regarding transgender travellers so you have some idea what to expect. If they have no idea what you are asking about then you might expect some delays going through the airport as they figure out what to do with you. However if they have a policy in place and understand the needs of transgender travellers then you should expect an easier time.

  4. The Body Scanner. The dreaded body scanner is the nemesis of many transgender travellers. A lot of anxiety over whether or not they are going to body scan you and discover your “secret” and there is going to be a problem. The best thing you can do is be mentally ready to be scanned in case you are picked, be totally up front with being transgender with security and try to be confident and self assured. You can explain your prosthetic(s) if you have any and even let them look at it/them if they want. Be as casual as you can possibly be. You really have nothing to hide besides some embarrassment. If you are super nervous and jittery the entire time you are more likely to be pulled aside for security concerns and possibly miss your flight.

  5. Organize your Medications. It is a good idea to take your medications with you on the plane just in case. You don’t know how long the flight is going to end up being. There can be long delays and long waits in between planes at strange airports. If you are on painkillers or need medication with you then make a small carry on bag with all your medication in it. Make sure all the bottles are clearly labelled with the contents so security can look at them to see what they are. Do not put them in your luggage because you will not be able to access your luggage until you reach your destination, and if you're in pain or suffering at all, your travel experience is going to be that much worse. This writer left her painkillers in her luggage when flying back from Montreal and gender reassignment surgery. The five hour flight turned into eleven hours and I had to make do on aspirin; Ouch!

      Travelling can be very stressful, doubly so if your transgender. You can reduce the amount of stress you experience as a transgender person travelling if you plan ahead. Have your carry letter ready and ,if you can, get your ID in order as well. Contact the airports you will be travelling through ahead of time to find out what their policies are toward transgender travellers. Organize your medications and have them with you just in case. These simple steps will help to reduce your anxiety and make your trip a smoother, less stressful one. Remember the security people are there for your protection and they are only doing their jobs. So be polite, respectful and remember to enjoy your trip!

The Transgender Handbook
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