From choosing a destination to finally taking off on your trip, navigating air travel can be a tricky undertaking, especially if you’re transgender. What might be a minor inconvenience for many can actually lead to a distressing experience for a trans person. Especially now, as new technology and changes in the political climate influence the way we experience air travel. Frequent misgendering and differing cultural attitudes with regards to gender norms follow me whenever I fly (and they can definitely be taxing) but they certainly won’t stop me. And they shouldn’t stop you. Here’s a helpful guide to help you prepare for flying while trans.
Planning your trip
For trans people and people in the LGBTQ+ community at large, one of the first concerns on our minds when we choose a travel destination is safety. It’s always smart to do some research on the laws of the region you’re thinking of visiting and search for any local organisations or community groups that are trans-friendly. (Here’s a cheat sheet to get you started). Saying that, you shouldn’t necessarily always avoid the places that have a reputation for LGBTQ+ hostility. Just as it’s possible for trans people to have negative experiences in places deemed trans-friendly, it’s also possible to have positive experiences in places deemed unfriendly.
The best way to ensure a positive experience is to do as much research and be as prepared as you can. Be ready for all parts of your trip, from the bigger aspects like knowing the norms and expectations of the culture you’ll be visiting, to the smaller details, like looking up the locations of gender-neutral bathrooms in the airports you’ll be passing through. The more you know, the smoother your experience will be.
Packing and security
If you’re travelling with medical supplies like syringes, medications and hormones, make sure they’re all together in the same bag, each preferably in its original packaging, with proof that they were prescribed to you. Consider checking these with your luggage unless you’ll need them in the air. If you do choose to bring them in your carry-on, remember that doing so may flag you for additional screening. Items like liquid hormones, gel-filled breast forms and other prosthetics don’t need to meet the carry-on liquid limit as they are considered medically necessary. However, if you’re concerned about flying with liquid hormones as a carry-on but need them in the air, you might want to buy a sterile vial and fill it with what you need for the duration of your flight. (This could also be a good idea if you’re concerned about losing your luggage). Ask a flight attendant to chill them if necessary, or bring a thermos. If travelling with a prosthetic, make sure it has no metal parts. If you’re selected for additional screening, you have the right to be accompanied by a witness to be screened in private.
Flying with the proper documentation can be tricky for trans travellers. UK law dictates that you can apply for a passport in an acquired gender and this is available to both those who hold a Gender Recognition Certificate as well as those who have not had gender reassignment surgery. You may need in addition to your application, a letter from your doctor to confirm that your change of gender is permanent.
As with any negative customer experience, if you have any issues with airline or airport staff, record the details of the interaction so you can report it later. And don’t forget to take care of yourself first, since the nature of flying while trans may trigger gender dysphoria for passengers. Most importantly, keep in mind that having a greater awareness of how to prepare, what to expect and what your rights are when travelling is powerful in itself. In fact, many trans passengers don’t experience any issues at all when flying, and we hope you don’t either. Following simple tips like arriving early, travelling in groups and documenting your experience can all make a world of difference in allowing yourself a smooth flight.
Interested in sharing your story, offering tips or learning more about other’s experiences? Check out the hashtag #TravelingWhileTrans on Twitter, and tweet us @Cheapflights with anything you’d like to add.