Subscribe to our Gay Travel Newsletter here

We are living in a time where it feels like the LGBTQ+ community is fighting for rights we’ve only recently won. And the harsh reality is that it’s even more challenging for transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming folx. We all seek to escape our daily lives, go on an adventure, explore the world, and we want to know we’re able to do so safely. Admittedly, that isn’t always easy. 

Here at Out Adventures, our commitment is to recognize and respect that each traveller has their own unique, personal preferences for how they travel, identify, and present themselves. As one of the world’s leading LGBTQ+ tour operators, we feel it’s important not only to embrace, but to educate our community on the reality of travelling internationally, regardless of where one fits in on the gender spectrum.

Full disclosure; when we first began operating in 2009, the word “gay” was used as a catch-all for the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum. Though inclusivity has been a core value of ours from the start, we have work to do to be more inclusive, and that includes the imagery and language used on this very site. This is a journey that will take time, and it’s one we are fully committed to. 

We recognize that for transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming folx, there are challenges to travelling that cis-gendered folx don’t face or may not be aware of. Read on to understand how we approach these challenges with the goal of providing an inclusive travel experience.

The Realities of Trans, Nonbinary, and Gender Non-Conforming Travel

In a perfect world, every country would be progressive and welcoming to transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming folx, and many countries are! Unfortunately, that isn’t the case everywhere. 

While some countries are not recommended for travel by anyone in the LGBTQ+ community (cough cough Russia), other countries that may be considered safe for cis-gendered travellers might present issues for transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming folx. Even within progressive countries, there may be certain regions that are cause for concern.

We understand that transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming folx must sometimes strike a balance between feeling like their authentic selves and feeling safe in a foreign country. Even airport security might be a challenge for those who present differently than what’s on their government-issued ID. Being subject to increased scrutiny simply because of who you are is not fair, but it’s an unfortunate reality in today’s world of full-body scanners and security agents trained to detect any anomaly. If you’re looking for tips on how to navigate airport security, check out this article.

Out Adventures Recommends…

First and foremost, do some research into your desired destination and its surrounding areas. A general knowledge of the local culture and customs goes a long way in avoiding potential issues. And if you encounter any trouble with this, our team is happy to help.

Aside from being proactive about researching your destination, you should also keep updated medical documents with you, especially if you are in the process of transitioning and your official ID does not match your physical presentation. If you travel with hormones or other medications, bring proof of your prescription from a doctor. Make sure to carry prescriptions in the original packaging, and ensure they are legal in your destination.

On the topic of documentation, make sure your name, gender, and birth date used on all reservations match the name, gender, and birth date on your passport exactly. We understand that this might mean using a dead-name, but doing so will help to avoid complications resulting from confusion over non-matching personal information.

Another precaution you could take is completing a discreet notification card to present to airport security in case of any issues. These pre-printed cards are designed for quietly communicating a medical condition, or other personal information, to a security officer. You should note, however, these are not commonly used outside of the United States.

Full-body scanners used by airport security agents may also present an issue. Though the software these scanners use has been updated, the options given to the agent operating the machine are binary and require the agent to select from blue-for-boy or pink-for-girl scanning options. The scanner detects anomalies under the passenger’s clothing that are incongruent with the operator’s selection, meaning folx who have not fully transitioned, but carry up-to-date documentation regarding their current gender, may face additional scrutiny.

As a transgender, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming passenger in the United States, you have the right to be treated with respect, dignity, and discretion by the TSA, and we encourage you to assert your rights in a positive and friendly manner. In case of any problems, don’t hesitate to request a private screening or to speak with a supervisor. If you elect to move to a private screening area, you’re entitled to bring a friend or travel companion with you.

While the above information is focused on the United States, when traveling internationally, the reality is that some countries do not prioritize treating transgender, nonbinary or gender non-conforming folx with respect and dignity. We recommend maintaining a calm, positive, and respectful demeanor and complying with the screener’s requests. Should you encounter any issues, it helps to be aware of embassies, which offer assistance and protections for citizens visiting foreign countries. Americans may take advantage of the FREE Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) which enrolls your trip to the nearest U.S. embassy.

Important Questions We Ask Travelers

To provide the best customer service and to determine whether your chosen destination is safe for you to travel to, we like to learn more about your unique situation. At the time of booking, we ask all guests to provide pronouns and passport information. This helps us determine if we need to initiate a conversation with a guest about their unique situation. 

If a traveller identifies as transgender, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming, we may ask the following questions (with a reminder that you only have to answer if you are comfortable doing so):

  • Do you have recent experience travelling through airports or to foreign countries as a transgender, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming person?
  • Does your passport gender marker match your physical presentation?
  • Do you have a gender marker of X on your passport?
  • Have you done research on travel to the destination as a transgender, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming person?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to share with us that will help us plan or provide you with the travel support you need?
  • Do you have any general or specific concerns about the trip, destination, or group?

These questions will help us create dialogue to understand how to provide a better travel experience. That said, even without this dialogue there are things transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming folx should consider.

How Out Adventures Ensures Your Safety

What separates us from other LGBTQ+ travel companies is our personalized customer service. Our team works with each individual traveller to ensure their preferences are met. Our goal is to provide a safe travel environment for guests regardless of gender, and to do that, we sometimes request specific information from the client. Information shared with us will be held in confidence, with only pertinent information shared with our local partners to ensure they are able to provide a safe trip. We will NEVER recommend travelling to a country if there are safety concerns.

On the topic of local suppliers, our team works hard behind the scenes to ensure our guests are welcomed with open arms. But what does this mean? Not only do we have frank conversations with our partners to ensure they share similar values, but we also have key contacts and guides complete diversity training to ensure that, even if they aren’t part of the LGBTQ+ community, they are educated and prepared to host our groups with the utmost respect. We also ensure all of our hotels are LGBTQ-welcoming to take the guesswork off the shoulders of our guests.

During the trip, we stay together as a group most of the time, which in and of itself provides a higher level of safety than solo travel. There’s also free time built into the schedule so that guests may explore at their own whim. If any issues arise during free time, our host and/or group leader will be on call 24 hours a day to assist.

If you feel comfortable, you may share your location (from your mobile device) with our host and/or group leader so that they know where you are at all times. This is usually done via an app like WhatsApp or Google Maps.

If there’s any concern over which bathroom to use, the host and/or local guide can provide assistance.

Our world is a vast and beautiful place filled with an unending diversity of landscapes and people. As travel experts, our mission is to introduce all travellers to the cultural wonders of our destinations, and it’s our top priority to keep them safe during the trip.

Should you have any questions or concerns about a destination, a tour, or logistics of travel as a transgender, nonbinary or gender non-conforming individual, don’t hesitate to email us at info@OutAdventures.com – we are happy to help! 

By using our website, you agree to the Out Adventures Privacy Policy which includes Out Adventures' practices regarding personal data and cookies.    I AGREE