Imara: Hey fam, it’s me, Imara. Welcome to the TransLash Podcast, a show where we tell trans stories to save trans lives. Well, we’re in full swing of summer right now, and it’s the best time for road trips and beach vacations and international adventures. Travel can be incredibly relaxing and enriching, but traveling while trans can come with a host of challenges. Now, y’all may know from my Instagram that I personally love to travel, and believe that going somewhere can be deeply restorative, so we’re mixing things up on the podcast today by having me as one of the guests.
First, I’m joined by the founder of Reuniting Of African Descendants, Nala Toussaint, about how travel can heal and connect people across borders.
Nala: For me, it’s a reminder that I get to author and co-create a different atmosphere, and to be with another atmosphere, and see what are the possibilities from there.
Imara: Then, in a TransLash first, I’m going to turn the microphone back on myself. I’m joined by journalist, educator, and host of the podcast Gender Reveal, Tuck Woodstock, who will interview me about international travel as a trans person. You know, there are nearly two hundred countries on the planet, and, uh, even with us putting a line through places that we won’t go, you know, there’s still dozens, if not over a hundred places that are open to us, and since this episode is full of joy, let’s get right into it.
I’m so glad to be joined by Afro-Caribbean model, activist and healer, Nala Toussaint. Nala is a visionary creator of spaces and access to resources for trans women, especially those who are Black and immigrants of color. She’s the founder and executive director of Reuniting of African Descendants or ROAD. It’s a trans-led grassroots initiative invested in equity, collective growth, and healing for LGBTQ+ people of African descent. Nala has passionately led ROAD in its work to provide mutual aid leadership development and more for Black trans and queer people beyond our borders.
Nala has also served as the co-chair for the Young Women Advisory Council in New York City, and is also an advisor to the White House on HIV strategy. She’s also a minister in training at Rivers of Living Water, New York, United Church of Christ. Nala, thank you so much for joining me today.
Nala: Thank you so much for having me. It’s good to be here.
Imara: I wanted to talk to you because one of the things that you do a part of ROAD, one of the essential things is to connect people who are part of the African diaspora to each other through travel and contact. You’ve led trips to East Africa, for example, where you’ve worked with organizations there, and so I’m wondering if you can just talk about for you, why you believe that travel is essential for trans people, so much so that you’ve made it a core part of your work.
Nala: Thank you so much for asking a profound question that way. Travel for me, has been essential when we think about homes and bodies, particularly Black bodies, and when we think about travel, we also have to highlight migration, uh, whether folks across African diaspora have to, uh, migrate by force or migrate for choice for a better life, so traveling for me has been a form of reconnecting to the body, uh, reconnecting to what is home and reconnecting to a form of healing, and the focus for me really became clear on making sure that trans and queer folks across the African diaspora are able to travel, because so much of our identity is rooted in finding home within ourselves, reclaiming our identities.
Also finding healing with connecting with one another and strategizing what can we do with each other, and ultimately with other… our entire communities that are connected with us to make this world a better place.
Imara: What for you about travel is essential on an individual level? Like what does it give us individually? What does it give you individually beyond what you said about home and reconnecting us to the idea of home, and all of the rest of it. On an individual basis what do you think travel does?
Nala: When I think about travel, I think about… My-my childhood just kind of flashed in front of my eyes for being honest, was that travel was away for me to escape from a lot of abuse that I was experiencing. Travel was a way for me to have a different experience, a different moment, a moment in time where I got to create a different atmosphere from the one that I was in. When you ask that question, I-I quickly thought about when I was in marching band and, uh, in my high school, and anytime that there was a whole coming, um, starting in fall from, you know, August to September, we would get on the bus and we’ll go to like Delaware State or Morgan State University.
It was in those moments of being on that bus where I literally got to just focus in, and just be tunnel vision of the road and passing houses, and it just felt like I was leaving everything that was no longer serving me behind, and then when I got back, I got to make different decisions, and so traveling from on a personal note for me is a reminder that I get to author and co-create a different atmosphere, and to be with another atmosphere and see what are the possibilities from there.
Imara: It’s really interesting because for you, you said that travel was an escape from abuse, immediately creating a positive association with travel in your mind. Where did you travel to that allowed you to escape the abuse? Where were you leaving to on these trips?
Nala: Yeah, where were I leaving to? The first thing that comes to my mind is I think about leaving from. I-I was leaving from places that did not understand who I was or my identity, or didn’t have the language, and the to hoping that the destination would be a discovery of self-identity, a discovery in language, a discovery of my identity, and so some of those places where I found myself were my trip to south Africa, or you… when it was the first time I had been in Africa and it was for a wedding, and in 2017, I landed in Botswana, uh, Botswana Gabaroni, and it was something about being there allowed me to connect with home.
I didn’t feel like the minority, but also I felt like I wanted to discover more of like, who are the people connecting me? Where are the trans folks, where are the queer folks? And so it led me onto more discovery, so the to is to simply just be on a discovery of finding self, finding healing, co-creating and being, and just the permission of exploration that oftentimes it does not feel like when living in New York City with the in high-end climate of and heightened climate of injustice, that that expiration, that permission is given so freely as a Black trans woman.
Imara: It sounds like it was in the summers when you were growing up, what country were you going to?
Nala: Oh, so when I was growing up, the only place that I, uh, visit was for Jamaica for a funeral. It wasn’t until…
Imara: Oh wow.
Nala: Yeah, that was my first, I believe I was in seventh grade. Was it seventh grade? Yes. I remember, I remember the call, like guess I was in seventh grade sitting in my class and it was lunchtime and my teacher got the call, and I didn’t go to lunch because I was bullied so much, so even in that time I had to isolate from folks because I was tired of the bully. I was tired of, you know, the being pointed at or-or-or-or just really just physical stuff that I would experience just for being feminine.
I didn’t wanna go through that at lunch. It was really impact my focus, my ability to eat, and so I just would ask teachers if I could sit in their classroom, um, just to, you just be and I would just write, and I got the call that we had to go to Jamaica and then we ended up going, and that was the first time that I understood what home was for my mom. A home where it was her healing, but a home that was also her pain points and a home where she had to leave for the sake of financial stability because our grandmother had to do that. She was a teen when she came to the US.
Imara: And was that the place where you first associated positivity with travel, or it was this trip to South Africa that you told us about?
Nala: The trip to South Africa came in 2017, a little bit after I-I think about 7 years into my becoming, and so the-the trip to South Africa was a positive reassurance because I was affirmed in my identity. You know, the trip to Jamaica was one of excitement for me as a-a kid who still was finding language for my identity, but it was a place where I got to be with my family and learn about the culture, so I looked at it as a positive being because I got to see my moms and my aunts and my… the way that they-they lived, I got to understand because if their roots.
The food that they identified, the spices, you know, looking at the cocoa bean tree and seeing, “Oh wow, that’s how… uh, where chocolate is coming from.” Like, I got to learn, I got to play on my great grandparents’ Graves that was in con countryside, you know? And I know that sounds weird, like you played in the grave because our graves were in our backyard of the house, you know? So it’s just like just me and my cousin just playing and-and-and just being with the ancestors and the space.
Now when I look at it, it’s like, wow, what a-a beautiful image. I can remember my baby cousin at the time, she was just on the go on the grave just dancing and singing. To this day, it’s one of the things that I talk about. South Africa wasn’t a pain point. I will say it was more of a questioning, where are the trans folks? Where are the folks? How could I find them? and before leaving south Africa, I did find, um, I remember being in Johannesburg and there was a club… no, no, no, no, no. Cape Town, and I went to visit, uh, I don’t know what the area is, but there was a bar and I saw queer people kissing on the bar and I was like, “Oh my God, this is the utopia. I wanna be here.”
I remember even coming back and encouraging folks, you gotta go to South Africa, and I think that was one of the-the things at the time I had told a colleague of mines that then, you know, it translated to other folks ago who are queer and trans.
Imara: It sounds like for you as a child, one of the things that the travel did for you is open up a new world. That that’s something that-that stuck with you, and also the same is true when you went to South Africa, and I think that a lot of trans people can be fearful of travel because of concern of a lack of-of safety, but through all the trips that you’ve taken, one of the things that you keep coming back to is that you’ve actually felt at home, and at home in yourself and in these places in a way that was really affirming.
Nala: Yes, yes, I did. I did. I-I did it-it-it was removing familiarity for me. I think removing the familiar, the-the familiar spaces and atmosphere, uh, allowed me not to be so comfortable with those spaces and what was given to me, and then allowing to discover so that I could accept something different for myself.
Imara: When you make these trips with ROAD and you travel with Black trans people from the states of various backgrounds, including people of immigrant backgrounds like yourself, and you go to places like East Africa where you’re connecting with people who are trans there, I am wondering for you what you’ve been able to learn about what that contact and experience is like for them, so we have a sense of why it’s important for us, but why do you think it’s important for them to also engage and see people who are outside of their normal day-to-day experiences, but who also share a lot of things in common.
Nala: For them, what I saw was folks coming into a space in hesitation, because I also think about the time it was a pandemic. It was COVID, you know, the… so many folks have lost so many loved ones, not just to COVID, but also the-the-the hands of brutality and murders of transphobia and gender-based violence, so when we were able to connect with each other, uh, what I saw was nervousness, fear that quickly shifted to, “Wow, I see you.” It was a level of intimacy into me I see you, and we got to see each other.
We got to have honest conversations with each other ’cause we were there for 2 weeks, and we also got to learn a lot of their history and some of the tribes, and for them, they also got to have access to books that were banned. A lot of the things that ROAD wanted to make sure that we brought was, what did access looks like and what does discovery look like and how we find, and I knew from-from-from myself, I didn’t know myself or- or my identity because I didn’t have media or podcasts like this or-or like, uh, you know, TV shows or books that really allowed me to find myself in a way that will heal and have me on that journey.
For us, we were able to take the level of access that we had in books and media and we presented it. I particularly think of one of my, um, now bonus sons that I have gained on this journey, who came into the space with his head held down as a trans masculine person. He had been through so much, and I kid you not, at the end of the conference, one of the things that the cohort, the first cohort left said, “Did you notice how he left with his head higher than when he came in?”
Imara: Yeah. I think that one of the things about travel is that it transforms both the people who make the trip, and the people who you meet while you’re on the trip. You know, and I think that that’s a-a thing that people don’t often think about are what are the experiences that we can have, that through making these trips uplift everybody who we encounter on the journey as well as ourselves, right? I think that the reason why I say that is that I think that a lot of people have this commodification idea of, um, travel that may bother them, where it’s like they go to a place to consume something and the people are serving them, right?
That can be a turnoff and they’ll be like, “Oh, I don’t wanna go do that. I don’t… and that’s not the experience that I wanna have.” But what you’re describing is that there is a way to move about the world in other countries that actually is deeply meaningful for everybody and is not transactional.
Nala: No. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It’s-it’s really setting an intentional space and an atmosphere and communicating the intention of what you’re trying to create, and so for me I’m-I’m often leading in how do I get to co-create this experience? This is not just consuming, but what am I offering? What am I offering into the space? What am I leaving?
Imara: With the work that you’re describing with ROAD, I’m wondering what are the plans for your next trip as a part of the organization?
Nala: Yes. The plans as a next trip, my goal has often been making sure that there’s a balance within a year where folks are going to at least there’s 4 destinations, so my hope is that we would be able to go to Senegal, to Ghana, uh, to really expand, and even Nigeria, and I say that because our constituents for ROAD have grown. Um, many folks have reached out to want to have that experience. Much of what they have been able to see, uh, in East the East region of Africa. Particularly looking at, uh, Kenya, not just traveling to Kenya, but also who we were able to connect with in Kenya.
We have folks from Tanzania, we have folks from Uganda. Uh, and so being able to be invited to Nigeria, there’s a-a wonderful leader by the name of Oduni, uh, and she’s doing great work for the trans folks in Nigeria, and so she reached out and saying, “Hey, I want the same experience. You know, I have eleven trans folks that I’m serving.” And so what I’m seeing is that there’s a need and a want to connect. There’s a need and a want to build. Even in my experience going to Jamaica with Black Trans Travel Fund and us, you know, supporting with the first trans pageant in Jamaica of last year, and the first ball in Jamaica.
It was huge ’cause that’s where my family’s from, and so when I think about just the trips coming up, it’s touching places that we would’ve never thought would, how’s that saying Shadow the Glass Ceiling, but being manful where the glass fall, and I’ve seen that other side as well, so that’s the hope for ROAD is that we’re going to Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and also revisiting, uh, Kenya and now also focus in the Caribbean. We have had some group of, um, folks connected with ROAD travel to Cuba where we’re able to also donate as well, so I want to keep that going.
It is challenging as we know ’cause funding is very, it’s sometimes hard to prove to our funders the importance of travel, the importance of, um, what it looks like for folks to actually build in that way, that international and intergenerational way.
Imara: Last thing, I’m wondering, where is the place where you like to travel personally, that you feel restored, that has nothing to do with your work. Yet we can, we can open it up and say it’s either a place that you have gone to or you want to go to because you believe you would have that experience. What’s that personal place for you?
Nala: Oh, thank you for asking. You know, I talk with my partner about this and the-the place that I always said, like, if I want to settle down and marry or-or be married and all that other stuff. Well, believe it or not, is somewhere either 3 places now. It’s either somewhere in the Caribbean island or Hawaii. Um, Hawaii has been the place that we’re able to spend 3 months for myself, and it was in that moment, it almost is like I had a deeper relationship with the God of my understanding ’cause I got to just be. It’s a trip that I would never forget, um, ’cause it was also during the pandemic and it was just, uh, the ability to be there.
I had such a level of peace, a level of, uh, being with water. I’m a water sign, so just being on shallow beaches like Sugar Beach and Kihei, Cape Town. Um, ’cause I think about Tabletop Mountain. Yeah, those, and then the Caribbean. I love being in-in-in an island where there’s fresh foods and water, so just anywhere where the water in the sun is in sand as a happy place.
Imara: I will be interested to see where you end up, because Cape Town is beautiful, but her water is cold honey. It is…
Nala: Yes she is.
Imara: She’s very cold.
Nala: It’s very cold.
Imara: She is very cold, so, um, well thank you so much for coming on, and for giving us an expansive vision and conversation about why travel is important for us and for other people and what-what it can do, and what it can give us, so appreciative of this conversation.
Nala: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Imara: That was model activist and healer Nala Toussaint.
Imara: Now we’re going to have a TransLash first. I’m going to be interviewed by a guest host. It’s like I feel like there should be a drum roll or something. Um, and the reason why is because I wanna share some things that I’ve learned about traveling myself as a trans person during my trips to more than twenty countries. We were searching around for a trans person to talk about travel, and then everyone here at TransLash all pointed a finger at me, so here we go. To guest host this interview, I am joined by journalists, educator and host of the podcast Gender Reveal, Tuck Woodstock. Tuck, thank you so much for joining me.
Tuck: Thank you so much for joining me here on your podcast.
Imara: I know, I know tables are turned, it feels so odd. Um, but I’m thrilled. I mean, we’ve been in conversation so much recently on KPFA and on Brian Laer, so this just seemed natural, meant to be destined.
Tuck: Absolutely. No, I’m so happy to be here, uh, asking you about your travels, as you said, as someone who has been to more than twenty countries, and I was curious if international travel was something that you were able to access a lot growing up, or if this is something you started doing later in life.
Imara: My first international trip was at 16. That was my very first one, and then I don’t think I went abroad again until I was 20 or 21, so I did do it early on, and then I really liked international travel and so when I went to grad school, I actually went to grad school in London from which I did mini a travel as well, so I did it once young, but then didn’t really do it again until my 20s, and then it was just kind of off to the races.
Tuck: Yeah, totally. Did the way that you approach planning this travel, and travel itself change at all like throughout your transition?
Imara: Oh my God, yeah. I mean, I never used to think about where I was gonna go. Um, especially when I was like in my gender non-conforming phase of travel where I really stuck out so much more, um, I really thought about where I was gonna go, and even now I think about it. There are just some certain places that are off the list for me where I’m not planning on stepping foot in those countries, but truth be told, I am more and more reticent about where I travel domestically in the United States as well, so that’s also a reality, and so I think just with all of it, it’s just about being smart and intentional about where we’re going.
I mean, the good news is that, you know, there are nearly two hundred countries on the planet and, uh, even with us putting a line through places that we won’t go, you know, there’s still dozens if not over a hundred places that are open to us that I think are a positive traveling experience.
Tuck: Totally. How do, how do you assess whether something feels safe and comfortable? Do you talk to trans people that live there? Uh, or how do you do that kind of risk assessment and research?
Imara: I think I look at what are the laws that have passed or, and are on the books. That’s kind of an easy Google search. It doesn’t take that much work. I think that you can also go online and see how many trans organizations there are in a country, so type in trans organizations Italy, just made that up. Never been to Italy, not yet, but um, but for example, and then if you see a fair number, that’s usually a good indication. I also look up if there’s been anti-trans violence in those spaces. Again, all really quick and easy Google searches, and then I kind of cross-reference that with what’s the political climate overall in the country, so, you know, Russia’s not advisable.
Uh, and then I also look at I cross-reference race as well, so through that combination, um, I can figure things out and luckily none of what I said takes that much time or is that involved. You might spend more time trying to figure out the right air fryer or toaster and like, you know, um, all these things are readily available and I just, um, use those to make up my mind about where I want to go. I mean, but the first thing that makes up my mind about where I want to go, or determines like the country set for me is kind of where have I been interested in, or where have I heard good things about or where have my friends gone where they’re like, “Oh, you have to go to this place because it’s amazing.”
That’s always also a really good place to start is where are you hearing about, where are other people that you know, traveling and kind of start there.
Tuck: Totally. This isn’t necessarily trans specific, but when you’re choosing places to go, do you think about the level of tourism that exists in that space, and are you someone who tends to go towards or away from tourism areas, because I think there’s a lot to think about there when it comes to like the impact that travel has on-on local populations and how we can… I don’t know how we can feel less bad about parachuting into certain spaces, or whether we wanna leave those spaces alone.
Imara: Yeah. I mean I think there’s so many ways to do tourism, which is one of the things that’s amazing about tourism, and in those different ways you can figure out the way that you want to travel that corresponds to you and your values, so that’s the first thing, right? There’s no one way to do this, and with respect to travel to places, I mean, I think of travel as a two-way street. That is to say that I don’t approach travel as a consumer that’s to say I am not going to consume a product of country X, some people do. They’re like, “I’m gonna go to London and being in London means these things.” And they are consuming it as they would purchasing a product, right? And they’re using it in that way.
For me, I travel in order to be able to meet new people, to have new experiences, to gain local perspectives, and in that I find that if I go as a human being and not a consumer, that it is just as important for the people to interact with me, because they get that same set of experiences and revelations as much as it is for me, right? And so, for example, um, you can… there are a bunch of queer tourism, a bunch of places, like let’s stick with the analogy. You can find, you know, the gay tour of London, and then as you go along, you’re learning all about the history of London, but you’re also probably gonna learn about the history and how it intersects with that of the United States.
Then you’re gonna talk to other people from around the world and make connections with them, um, and be able to funnel that into your experience, and then you’re gonna learn new places where you can go and hang out, and then also continue that experience and that exchange, so for me, I don’t approach travel as a consumer, and I think that if you approach travel as a consumer, I am going to consume what you all have. It’s a one-way street. You all are here to service me and I’m here to, you know, eat your food and that’s it.
Then I can see the concern, but I think that if you travel as a human being where you are going to exchange, and to learn just by existing and living, I think that, um, that’s a really powerful way to do it that minimizes some of these concerns.
Tuck: Yeah. I love that framing. I’m sure you have so many stories, but does anything spring to mind if I ask like a particular time where you’ve met someone unexpected, or had an interaction that led you to a place that you didn’t expect and didn’t even know about when you got there, because of these connections that you’re making?
Imara: There are 2 that stand out to me, so I’ll tell you one, uh, an exchange thing that happened last year when I was in Paris, so I hosted that I was gonna go to Paris somewhere, and then a trans group in Paris reached out to me and said, “Hey, you’re coming to Paris, can we do these things with you?” So they set up an event, uh, where I spoke to a group of people, um, then they also did a series of interviews for me for their YouTube, and in that, that’s an exchange, right? Like we are engaged in a conversation and a dialogue with each other, and there are things that I learned about the trans experience in France. There are things that I learned actually about the connection of far-right movements in the United States that are anti-trans, to those in the United States I got to meet and to engage with people that I’m still in contact with through social media. If I hadn’t gone that never would’ve happened.
That entire opening for me, of being connected to trans people in France and specifically Black trans women in France on top of it, would’ve never happened, right? So that’s one thing. The second thing that I can think of is I was in Portugal and I was in a city in the North called Porto, and I was, um, at a cafe and this, um, Black woman walked up to me and said, “Hey, um, you know, my name is so and so and I do these tours here and I’m wondering if you wanna come, it’s like a Black tour of this city. Um, what’s the history of Black people in this city?”
We went on that tour and then sure enough, it turns out that at some point we started talking about the fact that there had been, uh, a Black trans woman that was murdered in that city and-and what came up as a result of that, and that was a really powerful experience for me and then with her, um, we were on
the tour and we were like, you know, this tour is hours long. Why are you charging us only, I think it was like 25 euros or something. It was like a 4 hour tour, and this person was like, “Oh, I don’t think people will pay for it.”
Then we were all like, “We would pay double for this.” And so then like we all actually towards the end of the tour started business planning with her and being like, “This is how much you should charge and this is how you should frame this, and etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.” And she was like, “If I never had this conversation with you all, I wouldn’t have valued my knowledge and my experience enough in order to make this a more sustainable business for myself.” So that’s what I mean, where like we are engaged in a dialogue and an exchange with people, right?
It’s-it’s a different way of-of I think approaching tourism, so those are 2 things that stand out in my mind.
Tuck: Yeah. I really love that. Those are great examples. When we’re thinking about travel as trans people, we obviously have to get our documents straight first, so I wanna talk a little bit about that and then we can go back to the travel itself, but I’ll use myself as an example here. I haven’t traveled very much internationally for a lot of reasons, but 1 is, it took me fully 2 years, maybe more actually 2 to 3 years from when I was like, “I need to get a new passport because my old one is in the wrong name and gender.” And when I actually did file for a new passport which was like 2 weeks ago, uh, and in the interim time period, getting a passport as a trans person did get easier in many ways.
Like when I first started doing the paperwork, I had to get a letter from a random MD doctor that said I was sufficiently a transsexual, um, that cost like a $100, and then by the time I sent in my paperwork, actually didn’t need that anymore so oops. Uh, and then they also added an X gender marker, which is good because people can, you know, reflect their gender, but I think also creates this question where it’s like, do you choose an X gender marker? If it feels good, does that potentially put you in unsafe situations both domestically and abroad?
I was just wondering, you don’t have to weigh into that specifically unless you want to, but if you just had general like thoughts, feelings, suggestion, tips for trans people about like what documents they need to get ready for international travel and like any considerations they should make about using that?
Imara: Yeah, so this is when our identity collides with the bureaucratic state, right? Um, and when our identities get wrapped into whatever the rules are or the, of the bureaucratic state. I think they are maddening. I think what I try to do is depersonalize it because I’m like, “This is a really fucked up process and it’s really triggering.” But then I try to go, “But it’s not about me because the state doesn’t actually care about me as an individual. It caress about me as a category, right?” And so as long as I try depersonalize this process, then it helps me manage the, an otherwise triggering, you know, experience.
I think of a couple things. I think for a great number of reasons, and this is just my opinion, I think overall getting your documents together as soon as you can is a really good idea, because we never know what type of government we’re gonna have and when that’s gonna become incredibly hard.
Tuck: I think that like, just as a general idea, starting that process, and of course it’s different from state to state, city to city. My God, we’ve all been there and I know I’ve been there and had different stories. I mean, I had all these weird conditions placed on my name change and it was in New York City that no one else had placed, but that’s another story, so it’s-it’s this whole like, it’s always, it’s always a whole thing, right? So that’s the first thing, so I think that like, yes, you need to make sure that how you identify and what your name is and what your picture is, matches what you are currently presenting as, right? Um, even if that’s gonna change, right?
Even if that’s gonna change, I wanna reiterate that ’cause people change passports all the time. Cis people change passports, they change their… you know, they get married, they get divorced, they, so you-you can change that at any time that it makes sense, but make sure that your documents align to that. For travel outside of the United States and its territory, so basically the fifty states in Puerto Rico and the Mariana Islands and Guam and all the rest of it, you need to have a passport.
Um, that’s been a relatively new change. Uh, you know, 10 years ago you could have gone to Canada and Mexico without a passport. Um, you just need a driver’s license, but a lot of that changed after 9/11 and after a grace period they totally ended it, so I think that that’s like just another thing that we-we have to remember, is that you’re gonna need a passport. Luckily on the passport there’s now an X marker that you can choose, and honestly, once you have a driver’s license or some piece of paper from a state which says this is this person’s name and this is who they really are, getting the passport is really easy y’all.
Once you get a passport that becomes the gateway for all other documentation, so, you know, I think that I just wanna name that, so yes, that’s a process and it’s necessary. The other thing I would urge everybody to do, regardless of whether or not you travel internationally and if you’re trans, get TSA pre, there was a push by the government for us to get TSA pre, I know there are lots of different feelings about that, but the main reason is that it will stop you from having to largely undergo body searches. because the machines don’t match our bodies, and that’s, again, that’s a failure of the machines.
That’s not on us, but if you have t ss a, you go through a different scanner, which is let much less invasive and doesn’t trigger the alarms, and so you’re much less likely to be subjected to, you know, body searches and a whole host of other things, so I would say a passport and TSA pre
Tuck: Totally, I mean the good news if you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to do pre-check for whatever reason, is that they are phasing in the non-gendered body scanners, which I’ve encountered the last couple of times that I’ve traveled, and wow, is it so cool to go through. I mean it’s-it’s annoying that we have to go through these in the first place because it’s all security theater, but in the levels of how that we’ve been, and it’s so nice to go through one where they don’t have to guess your gender first.
Um, so hopefully we’ll be seeing more of that in the future unless we can just like abolish TSA altogether, but, you know, harm reduction. Um, but yeah, uh, pre-check also great harm reduction if you can spend the… what is it, $78, which if you’re traveling, you know, seems feasible, and then the passport, I think you’re making a really good point that in many states it’s gonna be easier to change your gender marker on your passport, than it is in that state because it’s self-attestation. Now you don’t need that doctor’s note, so that’s a great point too.
Imara: Then the state, and then the state will have to start to change because the federal documentation is the standard, so they will have to… the states often in these cases now will just change it to whatever the federal ID is, and of course, you-you can use the passport to rent an apartment or get utilities. You don’t have to use your state documentation ’cause you have this federal ID, so I think that like, it’s just a good thing to have overall, and again, we never know what governments we’re gonna have, and so I just think that it’s always a good idea.
Tuck: Right, and the last thing I’ll say about passports is don’t be like me and wait 2 years because it does take like several months to get them in many cases, and also if your passport is expiring, I believe that you can’t travel on a passport for like a certain amount of time before it expires, 6 months before it expires, so yeah, get that updated. Um, but speaking of how the US uh, can be bad to travel in, uh, in the last like say… I don’t know, 7 years, we’ve heard a lot of people talk about maybe fleeing the United States do the politics of it all, and you know, in the last couple of years specifically, I’ve seen even more trans people talking about this, about fleeing the United States.
At the same time there are of course many people including trans people trying to flee into the United States, so it’s all relative, and I was just wondering like as someone who has gone to many different countries, what you make of this, um, positionality of the US as someplace to flee from or flee to for trans people?
Imara: You know, I heard this quote once, and I can’t remember who said it, I need to look it up, um, at some point, but safety is temporary, right? That this concept that we have of a place where we can go, where it’ll always be, you know, unreservedly safe is not necessarily reflected in the history of human beings or of our lives, right? Um, so I think that that’s just one thing, and so I think that the question is what is safe for you for now and for the foreseeable future? Like that’s the standard, right? And of course safety, what safety is for you depends on what danger is for you, right? Um, what, what is danger or danger us and that then is the criteria for what’s safe, right?
Everybody has different versions of-of what that is, and so I think that what’s strange about the United States is that it is both and, you know, it is both a safe space and a leader in the world in many respects on our issues, but it is also a leader in oppressing us, specifically in about half the country through these specific laws, and so it’s both and, and so I think that we have to just recognize that. Um, and we can even see that in migration patterns where there’s been like a huge movement of trans people towards, you know, Illinois and New York and Washington.
Like all of these places given kind of-of where we are, so I think it is both and, you know, um, and there are people who are trans in certain states who for the, for the foreseeable future, it is safe for them, and so they feel safe. There are others who say, “No, it’s not.” And I think that I judge that everywhere. Like where I feel safe is not necessarily going to be where other people feel safe, right? It is literally where I feel safe and I can’t project my idea of what’s safe or not onto others. I have to figure it out for myself.
Tuck: Yeah, totally. Are there places that you’ve traveled internationally or domestically where you got there and you were like, “Hmm, actually I don’t feel safe here.” And if for whatever reason, and if so like do you have strategies for when you start to feel like you’re in over your head on a, on a trip where you can help feel more safe and-and stabilized?
Imara: I have no problem leaving I guess this is…
Imara: Do you understand what I mean? Like I figure out that I do a U-turn. Everyone when you travel, get, um, travel insurance, it’s match cheap. Go on I think it’s either Nomad is one and Allinz. Either one of those, they’re on websites. You just punch in your dates and you pay like nominal amount, I dunno, $50 or whatever, and then you can have travel insurance for travel disruption if you have to leave the country, if you get sick or all these things. It’s really cheap, so I just do travel insurance, so, um, and also certain credit cards have travel insurance, but those are bougie credit cards, so just FIY so…
Um, and we’ve all had ups and downs with our credit, so I-I think that, yeah, that, the big thing is if I don’t feel safe then I do a U-turn. I-I was surprised that I felt okay in Dubai. That was a big shocker for me, but I was very conscious that I’m in a, I am, even though it is a modern country, I’m in an Arab country and you know, I have to remember that there are rules here right? That I still have to adhere to, so I think that that’s-that’s the whole thing is that for me, and I think for me honestly, Tuck is that I just don’t go where I don’t feel comfortable.
Where I don’t think I’m gonna feel comfortable, and honestly, if I’m there and I’m there a day or 2, no matter what the cost, it’s always gonna be cheaper for me to leave than to stay.
Imara: You know what I mean? Like I mean, as trans people, we know we can sense danger. We know when things are not right. We spend our whole lives feeling that, right? So honestly, if you do your best due diligence or your friends are like, “Let’s go to this place.” And you just go along for the ride and you get there and it doesn’t feel right, it’s-it’s-it’s okay to leave.
Tuck: Yeah. I-I love that advice. That should be on, uh, stickers in general. It reminds me almost of that like, uh, to share a zone meme that’s like, you can always quit, you can always walk out, that kind of thing. Um, when you travel, do you tend to travel alone or do you travel in groups or is it varied?
Imara: Both and, but I have no problem traveling alone ’cause it’s a way for me to just be with myself and connect with myself and to reset, so I have no problem traveling alone and then I travel with my friends, but you know, honestly, traveling with your friends is always more complicated. I mean even, you know, you know, and there’s always gonna be that one friend, so on the trip, so yeah you just have to make up your mind, do I wanna deal with that or not? So I do both and, and when I travel I travel mostly with queer people.
Tuck: Of course.
Tuck: Yeah. I shouldn’t say of course, but of course, you know.
Imara: Yeah. Yeah.
Tuck: Um, well, you know, queer trans people famously on average have less money than straight Cis people. Do you have tips for making international travel more affordable, or recommendations of places that are relatively financially accessible?
Imara: I was gonna say the best way to have an inexpensive trip is to pick an inexpensive place. Um, and luckily there are so many of those, like Portugal is really affordable, Greece is really affordable, South Africa is really affordable. Um, they’re just lots of places. Brazil is really affordable. Mexico is, Mexico is brilliant. Mexico is extremely affordable. A lot of countries, um, like Peru as well, like there are lots of places that are affordable. Um, even in-in Western Europe, those 2 countries that I just mentioned, um, stand out to me in particular, and then the other trick that I have to keep trips less expensive to places that are more expensive, is I just do them for shorter times.
If you’re on the East Coast, yay. I’d say anywhere like, I don’t know, uh, Ohio and East, it’s relatively easy to get to Europe.
It’s not that far. For me in New York, it’s as far to go to Paris as it is to go to San Francisco to be perfect honest, it’s the exact same amount of time, so what I’ll do is instead of like 2 week trips to Paris, that’s gonna break the bank, um, do a 5 day trip and do it over a weekend.
Imara: Do you know what I mean? And you’ll still have a great time and it’ll be amazing. Um, so if you’re gonna go to an expensive place, go there for less time than you would want to and or choose a less expensive place outright, and there are tons of those, y’all. Um, airline fairs are really expensive, but in a lot of places when you get there, it’s incredibly inexpensive. Right now the dollar is very, very, very, very strong, which makes a lot of trips accessible.
Tuck: Do you have spots in mind for where you wanna travel to next?
Imara: Well, every time I go on YouTube, I keep seeing these like, high-end videos for the Maldives, and so I think I… you know, they-they have these like single hotel cabins that look like they’re in the middle of nowhere, you know, and it’s like all blue and perfect, so that’s an interesting place for me. Egypt, I mean, that would be incredible I think. An Egyptian trip would be incredible. I’ve never been to Morocco. There are tons of places.
Um, I really want to go to, uh, Southeast Asia, so Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Yeah, those are some of the places I really wanna go to Mozambique, it’s the size of California, but with like 5 million people, so there’s tons of ecotourism that you can do there, um, in remote places with guides of course, or, you know, staying at Lodges or whatever. You could get there from South Africa, so you can go to Johannesburg or Cape Town. Cape Town’s amazing y’all, and really not expensive.
Iceland ’cause I wanna see all of the, um, [inaudible] and glaciers for the next couple of years that they exist, and in addition to that, it’s extremely queer-friendly. I think they’re Prime Minister is. Um, so that’s another place that I think about as well.
Tuck: Yeah, I’ve heard really great things about Iceland, just how beautiful it is and how great it is to travel there, so I’m sure that’s true of everywhere, but I just feel like Iceland’s one of those places where all of a sudden a bunch of flights started doing layovers in Iceland, so everyone’s like, “Let me go.” And then, yeah, everyone loves it.
Imara: Four hours from New York City, 4 hour trip.
Imara: Yep. It’s just 4 hours on the plane
Tuck: That is closer than the West Coast where I am flying to more often. I should start flying the other direction.
Imara: London too. London is wild. Like the queer scene in London is just wild, y’all, so…
Tuck: Um, have you ever traveled anywhere and been like, “Wow, I can see myself moving here.” Whether or not that’s like actually possible in your life? Have you ever like had that feeling when you were somewhere?
Imara: Oh, tons. Oh, bunch of places. I mean, that, that’s a really long list. Like, uh, it’s a long list. Like I was like South Africa I thought that, you know, I thought that in… well I did do it in London, but London is up there. Um, Paris is up there. Brazil. I thought that, uh-uh, Portugal, I thought that. Where else did I think of? Toronto I love Toronto. Like Canada.
Tuck: Yeah. Toronto’s great.
Imara: Yeah. Toronto is super fun. Also an hour from New York City. Uh, we don’t think of Canada as like foreign travel, but it is and it’s really, it’s really accessible for a lot of people in the US, there’s Canadian cities that aren’t that far by plane, so I thought that about Canada. I thought that about Amsterdam for sure. I was like, “Oh yeah, you know, this is, this is the spot.” Mexico City, Mexico City is beyond. Mexico City is a wonder, you know, and it’s 3 hours or whatever it is also from New York, but it’s 3 hours from pretty much everywhere in the states.
Um, Mexico City, which is brilliant, so wherever you are, you can get there pretty quickly, so yeah, Mexico City, I mean, it’s a, it’s a long list. That’s ’cause there’s so many great places.
Tuck: Which is great. I love to have an abundance of great places to go, so I have one more question for you. If someone just like… I sometimes fall asleep a listening to podcasts. If someone accidentally slept through the entire podcast, I want you to leave them with 1 recommendation of a place to travel if they can swing it, and 1 ultimate trans travel tip.
Imara: I’m gonna preface this by saying that I think you ought to travel to places that totally changed your perspective, and I also think about places in this which if you were to just get off the plane and walk around, and you couldn’t afford to do anything else where it would be worth the trip. For me those are Paris, Rio, Mexico City, Amsterdam, and Cape Town. Top trans travel tip, don’t be afraid.
Tuck: Well, Imara, thanks so much for having me on your podcast. It is great to [inaudible]
Imara: Well, thanks for allowing me to serve as a guest on my podcast.
Imara: I really appreciate it.
Tuck: I’m sure people will love it. I’m too scared to let someone interview me on my podcast, so you’re very brave.
Imara: Thank you. Thank you. You never know what people are gonna do with the microphone.
Imara: Thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Thank you for joining me on the TransLash podcast. Now listen all the way through to the end of this show for something extra. If you’d like what you heard, please go to Apple Podcast to rate and review us, that’s because the trolls are out to get us and dragging down our ratings. You can listen to TransLash wherever you get your podcast. Check us out on the web @translash.org to sign up for our weekly newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at TransLash media, like us on Facebook and tell your friends.
The TransLash podcast is produced by TransLash Media. The TransLash team includes Oliver Ash Klein and Aubrey Calloway. Xander Adams is a contributing producer to the show, and our sound engineer. Digital strategy is handled by Daniella Capistrano. The music you heard was composed by Ben Draghi and also courtesy of ZZK records. The TransLash podcast is made possible by the support of foundations and listeners like you.
Um, what am I looking forward to? Ha ha ha, gags on all the listeners, travel. I am on vacation and I am traipsing around, uh, Europe, um, the sound of my voice is-is a projection I can assure you, so the thing that I’m looking forward to is that I will continue to be on vacation, um, to try to restore and center myself during a very hectic and stormy year in time for all of us and everybody, so I wish all of y’all the exact same. However amount you’re taking if it’s an afternoon, if it’s a weekend or if it’s 3 days or 5 days, I hope that you get rest and restored, because the world is crazy but we have to stay centered in ourselves.
Even as things get crazy, and it’s gonna get even tougher and so the ways that we can do that are by unplugging and reconnecting ourselves, so if it’s going for a walk or a hike. I have said all this before but I’m saying it again because everybody out there has problems with rest, um, do whatever you do to reground yourself and to remind yourself that you are a human being in the middle of this malestream, and I’m also looking forward to all of our re podcast episodes that are coming up in August, because we’re going to be taking a hiatus so that’s also what I’m looking forward.
Rest for everyone at TranLash and y’all a chance to catch up with these amazing episodes. Be good to yourselves
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