Travel as A Black Transwoman

Without a doubt,one of the joys I find in my life and living is travel. There is something about leaving the immediate vicinity of my home base that fills me with this giddiness. It’s like knowing I’m bouta embark on something so new and so risky yet so rewarding. As a child,I was an avid reader and I held a special place in my heart for the geography section. Whether it was reading about castles in Haiti, the landmarks in London or the many tribes in Nigeria, I eagerly consumed these books about these foreign places. And I wasn’t biased because the domestic interested me as well, learning about California and Michigan and my root state of South Carolina. The world was so dynamic and so vast and varied. I was blessed to be born and raised in NYC , so called capital of the world. And in many ways, I believe we can own that title. But the capital ain’t everything.

Beauty of Canal Street, New Orleans at night

I’ve only recently started traveling further than the tri -state in the last few years. Before that, South Carolina was my go to locale with family as a kid. I wasn’t in the best place during most of my twenties to go anywhere. A birthday trip to Atlanta to celebrate 27 years of life has sparked an addiction that I never want to overcome. It wouldn’t take long for me to realize that travel adds a necessary spice for me, it feeds the soul with these really esoteric emotions, enhances visual memory and grounds me in my own history and culture. Every place is unique in its own ways and it is travel that sparks the internal convo of the possibilities in life.

Afternoon in San Juan

I know that I am of privilege with my experiences. I know that for many especially us Blacks and Black transwomen,our pockets don’t often allow for much navigation within our localities. The gatekeeping and systemic necessities of our marginalization and limited opportunities means that many of us may never get to go anywhere outside of our immediate area. This is never lost on me every time I go to JFK or Newark Liberty. For my trans specific experiences, I guess there is a heightened sense of imagery and surveillance. The body scanners and the security procedures probably rattles everyone but for transwomen its even more intense. You worry about the scanners, you worry about the prominence of the ignorance that pervades agencies like TSA. You know that you may encounter people who look like you mad that someone like you is going anywhere. I hate public restrooms and I find that airports tend to have long ass lines for the female bathroom. Sometimes it sucks to be 5’10 , black with short natural hair as a transwoman surrounded by cis women who are 5’2 with mandatory friends and kids along. And they watch you and stare and make it so you really want to be in and out. I don’t have that female quality of bonding or fixing myself for long times in shared spaces. It’s a get in , get out situation.

I imagine my manual of traveling while trans will expand as my list of trips expand. I’ve done most of my travel within the US. I used to look for gay bars in different cities alot of times simply for the presence of queerness in different states. It was after my trip to LA looking for gay spaces and finding them very white boy dominated and consequently in other places not finding that gay exclusiveness I’m accustomed to as a New Yorker. Gay and queer spaces need to remain and remain predominantly for its people. That said I’ve found with that caveat so little space for black queerness and little to none for transwomen period. So the next best bet ,is to peruse off beaten paths to an extent, queerer people tend to be poorer and for Black queerness it doesn’t take long to find ourselves in the hood. And believe it or not there are times I feel safer in the hood than I do in white areas. In one venue, I may be unwanted but expected while in the other I am ignored, subject to SNAFU’s and possibly criminalized just for being.

That all said, I am proud of my slow but growing list of places I’ve seen. There was a time in my life that I thought traveling from Harlem to Brooklyn was a big thing. So to have been to a place where they speak a language other than English, a place not connected to North America and to have gazed at the Pacific, I am fortunate as fuck. I still have loads left to see including somewhere in West Africa. That is a must as a Black woman. That is a must for my global Black African family to see me a Black transwoman from America, one of your tribe in the world. We’re your family too despite your mass disdain and ridicule.

Winded after climbing pyramid in Mexico

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