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traveling while trans

Don’t let the unexpected prevent you from having a blast this summer.

With summer approaching, transguys are dusting off their swim trunks and transladies are finding their nice sandals, but before heading anywhere too exotic, a few tips could make your summer travel a little less stressful when traveling while trans.

Although passing can be liberating, those who don’t resemble their birth sex may encounter trouble when flying or visiting foreign countries. So, here are six tips that will help keep you safe, ensure your travels are smooth and allow you to enjoy your journey as fully as possible.

Be Aware of the Body Scanner

Ah, the body scanner: TSA’s newest way to invade flyers’ privacy and the bane of pre-surgery transpeople. It looks like a freaky electron chamber from a poorly done show on the Sci-Fi channel, and it shows literally everything about your body on a screen.

The problem is when transpeople go through these machines, areas of compressed matter might show up where they’re not supposed to, which could initiate an awkward pat down to search for contraband.

Regardless of the gender marker on your identification, TSA will press the male or female button before you put your hands behind your head in the scanner, a decision that is based solely on how they read your gender.

If you’re a translady and you’re read as a lady, something suspicious might show up in the nether region of your scan. If you’re a transguy and you’re read as a guy, the compression on your chest could show up as a red flag.

If you’re a packing transguy but the TSA doesn’t read you as a guy, yet another flag could show up on your downstairs bits. What happens if you’re genderqueer? The scanner probably explodes.

However, it’s important to mentally prepare yourself for the potential pat down or the disappointment of TSA not subjecting you to a pat down.

Also, preparing for the scanner could help avoid awkwardness altogether: don’t wear anything that might trip the scanner, keep your rubber willy off your person and don’t look like you might have bombs hidden on your body.

Don’t Keep Anything Too Embarrassing in Your Carry-on

Guys, don’t leave your packer in your carry-on unless you’re cool with looking like you have a weird dildo in your bag.

Packers are nothing to be too self-conscious about, but if you’ll have a panic attack because your bag sets off some kind of sensor and the 6’8” TSA agent has to rifle through your extra boxers, it might be better to send it through in checked baggage.

Also, if you are on testosterone and plan on taking your needles and hormones with you, make sure to follow your local airline regulations. They are medical equipment, so you should be able to take them with you, as long as you keep them in the proper packaging.

Ladies, I don’t know what you keep in your carry-on, but I assume you probably don’t want people going through your bag and finding a dildo either. Maybe everybody should just stick with a change of clothes, snacks and a book?

Don’t Fly Too Long in Restrictive Attire

Whatever side of the trans spectrum you fall on, transpeople generally use techniques to cope with their dysphoria that isn’t necessarily good for their bodies over long periods of time, such as during a six-hour flight.

Although I’m not familiar with the methods of transladies, I can only assume that both they and transguys share restrictive attire that isn’t healthy when worn for too long.

Guys, even though it sucks, if your flight is longer than six hours, you should consider something less restrictive than a new compression binder.

You all know this by now, but this is a reminder to take care of your health because, as you know, most binder manufacturers do not recommend wearing them for longer than eight hours because your chest and lungs need the rest.

As an alternative, consider wearing an old, worn-out binder or a tight sports bra with baggy clothes. That way, your body can breathe properly and you might actually sleep on your flight rather than sitting there in pain for six hours with an aching back and a knot in your chest.

Bring Alternate ID

Especially if your passport isn’t up to date, bringing backup ID will help prove to whatever government that your passport actually belongs to you. The last thing you want after you’ve been flying for 14 hours is to arrive at your destination but then get stuck in customs because no one can verify your identity.

From experience, I would recommend traveling with a current military ID if you have one because they look very official and tend to cross language barriers if you’re having trouble explaining who you are.

Research the Area You’re Visiting

Most of the West is pretty progressive, but depending on the location, anti-LGBT sentiments could get you in trouble. When choosing a destination, make sure it’s somewhere you’ll feel safe, unless you just like to live on the edge, in which case more power to you, but just be sensible about your summer adventure.

traveling while trans
Understanding the culture of your destination is key to a satisfactory journey for transpeople (Image via Redbubble)

Keep in mind that in more conservative countries that enforce traditional gender roles, transpeople tend to pass better, but they also might encounter more anti-LGBT rhetoric.

This could either complicate the bathroom situation even more than usual or allow you to easily use the appropriate lavatory. Wherever you go, just stay close to friends, be smart and enjoy yourselves.

Remember Your Sunscreen

Wear your sunscreen or cover up! That goes for everybody: skin cancer is real, folks. No matter what, don’t forget that you’re on vacation. Sure, traveling is inconvenient; nobody likes jetlag or sleeping through an eight-hour layover in San Salvador, but your gender presentation shouldn’t stop you from making the most of the summer.

As long as you’re prepared, you’ll be ready to take on the minor inconveniences, or at least mitigate a potential disaster. So, go out there and have fun, you beautiful people.

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