When I Traveled Home to North Carolina as a Trans Woman for the First Time
"People assumed I was a cisgender woman, but my license appeared to belong to some dude with a beard."
Screengrab via Traveling While Trans
Bryn's story is part of Broadly and VICELAND's Traveling While Trans series. This story was told to and edited for clarity by Diana Tourjee.
I'm from North Carolina, but I don't live there anymore. My parents have lived there since I was a teenager and, in my experience, it can be a cruel place for people who act faggy or seem feminine. That's why, when I traveled back to North Carolina for the first time since I transitioned from male to female, I was nervous.
The physical transition process itself was surprisingly easy. I expected that it would take a long time for my hormone replacement regimen to kick in and alter my appearance—but after a few short months, I found that strangers in public were seeing me as a woman; I was referred to as "miss" and "ma'am" for the first time in my life.
Last year, North Carolina became a notoriously transphobic state after the passage of HB2, a law that strictly forbade trans people like me from doing normal, necessary things like using the bathroom. But I remember going back to North Carolina before the HB2 debacle began.
It was early in my transition and, like I said, the changes had come on quickly. My family expected me home for the holidays—so I went back to the South for the first time since I'd transitioned. A friend came with me, but even still, I was nervous.
Travel can easily become troublesome for transgender people. For some reason, people can't seem to wrap their minds around the fact that trans women like me really exist. I was a bit nervous when I went to the LaGuardia airport in New York for my departing flight.
Airports are weird places for everyone; who wants to be scrutinized by some random TSA agent? But for trans people, the security at airports is a special kind of hell. Our bodies don't always make sense to the people who work there, and we may seem suspect just because we're trans. A few of my friends have been groped or prodded by TSA agents, and I know others have even been detained.
Gratefully, my experience at LaGuardia was fine: I went through security without incident. I'd just started hormones, but I was being perceived as a woman. I really wasn't expecting it to happen so fast, but it did. So while my body finally began to look the way it should, there were a few other things that hadn't changed yet. People assumed I was a cisgender woman, but my license appeared to belong to some dude with a beard.
While I was in Charlotte, my ID was the only source of my anxiety. I went to the bar with my friends and got carded. "No, miss, I need your ID," one waitress said. I smiled at her and after a second her Southern eyes widened in shock. I kept asking my friends to buy my drinks for me. Other than awkward moments like this, my time in North Carolina was fine; it was the trip home, through Southern airport security, that I was really worried about.
People assumed I was a cisgender woman, but my license appeared to belong to some dude with a beard.
New York TSA has seen everything, but I was certain that I was going to get strip-searched, or experience some other humiliating torture at the hands of the TSA in North Carolina.
I waited in line nervously. As the people in front of me began to clear away, I could hear a familiar, comforting voice ahead. The agent who asked for my ID sounded like a cartoon version of a Southern twink. "ID and boarding pass?" he asked. I smiled at this frosted-tipped, pierced-ear TSA agent with relief.
He looked at the treacherous ID and put his hand to his chest. "Oh honey," he said, giving me a look that screamed "I'm sorry." Then, he waved me through without making me get scanned by the full body X-ray machine. I looked back at him and said, "Thank you." His nme tag said Matthew, and I'll never forget him.
Traveling While Trans is a sister series to VICELAND's new show Twiz & Tuck, which follows the lives of a gender fluid person and his transgender best friend as the duo travel and take in all that is weird and wonderful along the way. Airs Mondays at 10:30 on VICELAND.