With this mornings upsetting news about North Carolina. I want to share my thoughts on the subject of traveling while being transgender. I have traveled quite a bit as I have both transitioned and lived my life as the woman I always was. I don’t think this is a topic many people think about when stuff like Indiana and North Carolina happen. Before i start I want to include Georgia in the list of states that are making headlines for creating such oppressive laws.
I have traveled to many states over the last ten years. It is something that can be exhilarating and quite scary at the same time. Traveling while trans however makes what can already be a unsure situation absolutely scary.
I would like to start with a trip I took about seven years ago to Arizona. I was travelling with a friend to meet up with a friend of hers who had moved there a few years prior. The traveling wasn’t much of an issue. We did our usual routine of listening to music and talking about who knows what. The last thing on my mind at the time was what people might have thought about me. That is how it should be.
To say the least Arizona was a nightmare publicly. I have yet to be in another state that made me feel as awkward as that one. People there have no problem giving stares at anyone they don’t feel is right. After we met up with her friend we decided to go out for the night and enjoy ourselves. We stopped and grabbed some food first. They were busy catching up so it allowed me to eat and just kind of hang out. I would join the conversation if I had something to say but otherwise I left them to it.
After dinner we went from bar to bar trying to find anything going on. This is where things fell apart completely for me. When a bar is involved the standard needing proof of identification comes in to play. The dread was felt every place we went as I saw the unpleasant faces of those who would look at me and read my I.D.. The last bar was the worst. The bouncers were police officers. One would think this would be a good thing. I am sure they do a good job of making sure nothing happens at the clubs. The look on the cop at the doors face when he saw me said it all. I was not welcome there. They made sure I knew it as well.
As my friend and her friend went in in front of me I waited for the cop to check out my I.D.. With a scowl now on his face he silently handed me my card and waved me in. Had that been the end of it I could have dealt with the insecurity of it. A quick glance behind me revealed he had waved a second cop over and was talking about me. Both of them had their eyes glued to me as they spoke. They didn’t hide it in the least.
Quickly I caught up with my friend hoping I would be left alone with people around me. They asked if I wanted a drink. I graciously refused knowing that would inevitably lead to needing to use the restroom. If those cops were still watching me there was no way they would let me go to the bathroom peacefully.
A moment of curiosity washed over me as I was trying to be sure things were as they seemed. I excused myself from the table and tried to find a place to stand where I could see the live band playing from. Everywhere i went i could see the blue shadow of a uniformed officer. His uniform was almost black against the dimly lit club. The stage lights made him stand out. Realizing there was a upstairs with a balcony to see the stage from I went up the steps.
To do so I had to pass the main door again. the cop at the door watched as I passed. I could see him nod to my follower as he rounded the steps to proceed upstairs as well. My heart was pounding at this point. My friend hadn’t noticed a thing the whole time. I don’t think she even saw me go upstairs. If something happened then to her I would have just disappeared.
The upstairs balcony was pretty empty. I remember I started to panic at the lack of patrons up stairs. If the cop wanted he could have easily made my night a nightmare then and there. I walked up to the balcony overlooking the stage. In the weird design of the club I laughed realizing the band was so far back their heads were cut off by the front of the ceiling.
Even though I couldn’t see them properly I stood there a few moments. I could feel the cops eyes on me the whole time. After a few minutes I looked around the upstairs area. There were three people sitting at a table on the far side. Beyond them it was just the cop and I.
Terror was getting the better of me. Worse yet it was making me have to go to the bathroom. All that pressure on my bladder was having a very negative effect. Deciding I couldn’t take it anymore I came up with a plan to leave upstairs. It was probably more than I needed to do but I wanted the cop to realize I was aware he was following me.
I turned around and walked straight to him. The moment I faced him he tried to focus else ware but I knew better. I walked up to him and smiled as much as my terrified body could. I asked him if there was a proper place from where I could see the show. His look said it all once again. The fact I was even talking to him disgusted him. Without saying a word he shook his head no.
I smiled even wider and said thanks. I excused myself back down stairs as fast as I could without looking like I was trying to run. I made it back to my friend who was still chatting with her friend. He was waiting for something to catch me on. if i was lucky that was all he was doing. Even then I could imagine far worse things than a false arrest. I saw him come downstairs a few minutes after I did.
Needless to say I didn’t use the restroom till we got back to her friends house. By then the pain was unbearable. Every stabbing pain in my stomach reminded me of the fear that the night had given me. We couldn’t leave to go home fast enough. I never said a word though. I wasn’t about to ruin her trip because of this. I did tell her after we got back but that was it.
I share this memory as a look inside what it is like to travel as a trans person. To say the least I get nervous when the idea of traveling becomes an option. Thoughts of what the people are like, are they super judgmental? I do love to travel, but with the climate the way it is for LGBT people I cant see myself doing so that much. I am proud of the large companies who take stances against these barbaric laws. They have so far been the biggest road block for such bills.
All these fears happen every time I travel. I wish I had something more witty to end with but this cold hard truth is all I have. I may be brave and travel, but the truth is I am aware each state comes with its own set of rules and regulations for people like me. I can tell you this for sure. I have a list of states I will never set foot in again. At the top? Arizona.