Travelling while LGBTQ+

Posted February 20, 2018 by

Planning trips always involves a lot of preparation. Whether the trip is for work, to see family or just a vacation, there are plenty of details to work out. Where am I going to go? How will I get there? What should I do? While there is a lot to do for the average person, there is an added amount of stress and planning involved in travelling when you identify somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. You will likely be more cautious with all aspect of the planning process. For example, someone who identifies as transgender or non-binary may be more cautious about travelling by plane due to security checks. A same sex couple planning a honeymoon will want make sure their destination doesn’t criminalize same-sex partnerships; this way they can enjoy the trip without hiding or being on guard the whole time. 

Based on the 2017 report by the ILGA, approximately 75 countries still have laws prohibiting sexual acts between same sex couples, while several countries prohibit the act of anything that appears to be “transitioning to another gender”; most still have no recognition or protection laws for both sexual and gender identities.  This makes deciding where to travel limiting, and if someone has to travel to one of these countries despite their anti-LGBTQ+ laws either for family, work or they just chose to go anyway, it will include a lot of planning on how to stay safe while there. 

Though the need for additional precautions can be stressful, it shouldn’t be a reason to write off travel completely for anyone LGBTQ+. With enough research and planning, travel can be completely enjoyable and safe, while still being yourself. 

Once you know where you want to travel:

  • research into local customs and laws regarding LGBTQ+;
  • seek out experience from others that have traveled there through online forums, social media, travel agencies and other resources;
  • look into lodging that shows signs of being an ally or even has a significant amount of privacy;
  • when booking hotels as a same sex couple in a country that doesn’t recognize or even criminalizes those relationships, consider booking a room with two large beds (even if you don’t plan to use them) so there won’t be any questioning at check in;
  • consider travelling with a tour company so you have the support of a guide with check in.

The most important thing is to just know and respect the customs of where you are travelling. 

As for the mode of transportation, while airport security is stressful for the average person, it becomes increasingly more stressful for anyone identifying as anything other than cisgender. While progress has been made, there are still too many people that just don’t understand, or are even hostile towards people that are anywhere on the transgender spectrum. There are multiple things to cause stress when going through security, such as will I get randomly selected, will a pat down be required, will I go through the full body scanner, will my prosthetics or anatomy flag as an anomaly from my perceived gender?  Driving or taking a train may be an alternative to plane travel, where security checks are not required, but sometimes it isn’t an option. What happens then? It may be helpful for some to just go into it knowing what to expect, prepare for the probability of being misgendered (especially if ID doesn’t reflect what you identify with), and research so that you know your rights in the regions you are travelling, should you encounter any problems. 

Due to how stressful it can be to travel and have to pretend, it may be beneficial to consider choosing your holiday as somewhere where you wouldn’t have to hide who you are, or pretend you’re not a couple. Cruises can also be a good option, as you spend limited time on land where they may be less accepting; most cruise lines are LGBTQ+ friendly. 

When in doubt seek out a knowledgeable travel agent. There are plenty LGBTQ+ agents that are more than willing to share their experience and help you plan your trip.