Traveling while trans
I’m about to undertake a journey that involves many “firsts” — it’ll be my first time traveling alone, my first time hosteling, my first time in places where I don’t speak the language… I’ve never been on such a long trip, nor have I ever strayed this far from home. I never thought I’d dare to do something like this — that is, until I transitioned.
I’ve had the opportunity to wander around the country in the past few years, both with family and with friends & classmates, so I’ve been able to see how my attitude towards travel has shifted throughout my transition. I loved vacationing as a kid, but it started to be awkward when my appearance became ambiguous in my mid-teens (partly because of the public restroom dilemma, partly because my parents were embarrassed when people read me as male). Then there was a long period when travel was utterly terrifying for me, first because I was obviously queer, then because I was passing as male full-time but I knew I could be “discovered” at any time due to my voice and chest. Heck, my own city became scary for a while (though that’s another story), so why would I want to go to places that were unfamiliar and full of people?
But as I’ve mentioned before, transitioning has opened a lot of doors for me. So, when I had the chance to travel to a student conference a few months ago, I allowed myself to be talked into going. I had good reasons for not going: we’d all be sleeping together on a gym floor, I didn’t know what the shower setup would be in the locker rooms, and none of my classmates knew about my past. But deep down I knew that I’d be fine and that I was just making excuses for not stepping out of my comfort zone, so I let myself be dragged along with my friends. (Important note: I was with people I trusted and who would’ve been OK with my trans status if I’d had to disclose for whatever reason. I didn’t put myself in risk at any time.)
And you know what? I had a great time. With my newfound confidence, meeting new people from around the country was less daunting than it would have been an year earlier. And the thing I’d been most anxious about –my trans body and how I’d maneuver it through certain situations– wasn’t such a big deal after all. In fact, my worst fear about the showers did come true –there were no partitions whatsoever– but I simply bathed in swimming trunks and wrapped a towel around my waist when changing. And when it was time get un/dressed in the evenings and mornings, I felt comfortable enough to take my shirt and pants off in front of hundreds of people –modestly facing the wall– even though someone could’ve noticed my chest scars or the lack of bulge in my underpants (which aren’t obvious signals of transness, anyway). All in all, being trans was a non-issue in that trip.
So I pretty much jumped off the deep end when it comes to traveling stealth –it might have been less intimidating if I’d been with a smaller group and staying in a hotel– but I managed to get through it with ease. Knowing that I’m capable of confronting this kind of situation has given me a huge confidence boost: I feel that my horizons have expanded significantly, in quite a literal sense. I can’t even imagine the freedom I’ll feel when I can get my ID in order.