Transsexual travel issues

6 Aug

Traveling is fun for most people even though it can be complex in today’s post 9/11 world. With all the new rules and restrictions regarding documentation, what items are allowed on planes and a myriad of assorted nuances it just isn’t as easy to get around as a decade ago. Now consider the person doing all this traveling is transsexual and a whole new set of issues arises.

Traveling as a post operative transsexual is really no issue. All the documentation needed will reflect the proper name and gender of the person holding the documents. The real problem arises for pre-operative transsexuals. According to the laws of many states, which can at times be doled out less than judiciously, physical appearance and what appears on identification can be very different things. It is easy to confuse the issues surrounding transsexual travelers with transvestite travelers which is what many people addressing this topic do.

A transsexual is a person who has a defined medical condition of Gender Identity Disorder. As such there are rules concerning their proper treatment under the law. A transvestite on the other is a fetishist, a person that dresses as the opposite gender for gratification in a sexual manner. While these are distinctly different people in that respect, all too many people are unaware of this and lump them together which can often lead to the legal rights of a transsexual in regards to travel being ignored.

Take for example a person awaiting gender reassignment surgery. They may not be living in a state which allows for gender to be re-designated prior to a surgical resolution. This person appears physically female (I will use the feminine slant alone to avoid confusion) but has a drivers license and passport designating her as male. She may even have a letter from her doctor explaining her transitional status just in case explanation is needed, and often it is.

So you say this doesn’t sound like a big deal. It may be a little embarrassing but we all have to make concessions to the 9/11 laws now in place. It is however a problem. There have been times the person was not allowed to board their flight because they were held up in security explaining they were transsexual and not some terrorist agent trying to slip through the cracks and cause harm. There are documented cases against major carriers because people were not even allowed to pick up their ticket due to agents feeling some sort of deception was going on. Transsexual persons have been held in customs by border agents, been unable to pick up reserved rental vehicles due to their documentation being questioned, and the list goes on and on.

I am not going to say transsexuals should be issued two passports. Transsexual people living full time in their chosen gender as a part of their transitional period, or that choose not to have a surgical option due to any variety of legitimate reasons should be allowed to have identification which does accurately reflect the persona they publicly portray and function as however. This is something very basic and easy to rectify if only lawmakers were a bit more in tune with the times. Even if they don’t take the first step in doing so, people working in the industries of commercial travel should have some education in dealing with transsexual travel issues. The money spent could easily be recouped in one avoided lawsuit and a slew of bad publicity as United Airlines can attest to.

As a transsexual person myself that did have to travel prior to my surgical resolution in the post 9/11 world I can attest these above mentioned incidents do occur. One of them to me personally even with supporting documentation from an MD. To say this makes travel a daunting and even horrifying experience for some is an understatement.

I will never say the transsexual community deserves special privileges when obtaining identification. Most of us realize it is our responsibility same as anyone else to have valid identification. Whether it identifies our physical sex at birth or our gender identity, we have to make do with what we have. Dual identification is flat out wrong for anyone. The ability to obtain appropriate identification to aid not just in travel but daily life whether it be state issued or a passport, should however be allowed and would end this issue immediately. Just as easy as it is to legally change a name on identification, so should gender be. It wouldn’t even incur the cost of a software upgrade for the issuing agencies. However until that times comes an ounce of common sense would go a long way.

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