Being Trans Abroad

Ezren Herzog headshot
Ezren Herzog
December 22, 2023

To put it very lightly, the past year has been tough for transgender people in America. Politicians have a fan-behavior-level vested interest in taking away as many rights as they can, and the hysteria spread feigning "concern for the children" has deadly consequences. But I'm not here to talk about America. I’ve known I wanted to study abroad for a long time, even before I transitioned, and I always wanted to make sure that wherever I’d be going would be as safe and affirming as an experience can be. As I started planning my trip abroad, I knew I wanted to acknowledge and honor my unique needs being trans, while at the same time letting myself enjoy the experience just as anyone should be able to.   

It should duly be noted that I’m someone with immense privilege in the matter—I am white, transmasculine, and I come from an accepting family. I’ve also been able to legally change my name and gender marker prior to leaving the U.S., and I have access to gender-affirming healthcare. I’ve been on hormones for over two years and have been told that I pass well as a man, to which I will say that the concept of passing is a whole can of worms that I probably don’t have the rapport to fully unpack now, but it is still a large privilege. 

Before I even picked a place to go abroad, I did some research on the different countries I was considering to see the scope of the country as far as LGBT+ rights and trans attitudes, as well as the specific city, as certain cities can oftentimes be more open than others or rural areas. In Ireland, things for trans people seem to be mixed. I read a great article from The Journal by Aoife Martin about the state of trans healthcare in Ireland (if you search “aoife martin the journal trans healthcare” you should find it, it’s the one published in Dec 2020), which, spoiler, doesn’t seem great. At the same time, Ireland doesn’t have the swath of anti-trans legislation that America has. All that said, I can’t and shouldn’t speak for trans Irish people. Being a trans foreigner, for me, has been mostly smooth sailing, but it’s definitely something I have to think about whenever I enter certain spaces. 

As far as safety goes, I felt pretty safe and comfortable day-to-day in Dublin. The vast majority of people didn’t seem to pay attention to another person on the street just minding their own business. Ireland doesn’t seem to be as polarized about LGBT+ issues as America is; most people didn’t seem to care. That being said, I didn’t climb onto the biggest monument and shout about my transness to hundreds of passersby. There is a lot of unknown as far as attitudes, and with Ireland’s ever-present right-wing movements, it’s not something to be careless about – I didn’t wear any clothing or accessories that say blatantly that I’m trans unless I was among friends or in a notably queer-friendly business or area. I only brought my transness up in queer-focused spaces, or with people I know would be affirming (usually people who are queer/trans themselves). This isn’t news to any queer/trans person in any nation I’m sure, but the unknowing is the scariest part – every country has people who oppose people simply for existing, even if it isn’t the majority.

Something that was big in navigating being trans abroad was healthcare. I brought all of my necessary materials with me so I wouldn’t have to deal with getting prescriptions overseas, the insurance end of which was super annoying. I had to get a vacation override to order a few months’ worth, which took a few weeks for the pharmacy to recognize, but I got it sorted in time. Talking to doctors ahead of time is a great idea in general, especially if you’re hoping to bring HRT abroad with you – I had a meeting with my endocrinologist a couple of weeks before I left, which was super helpful. I also brought a doctor’s note for each of my medications, just in case. I went to a GP a couple of times while in Dublin (for something unrelated to my trans issues), and I had a positive experience with that, and when I went to therapy, the therapist was very supportive and treated me like any other client. It seems like the general attitude with workers in healthcare in a city like Dublin is trans-positive, whether or not they are prepared to accommodate everyone’s needs. 

Something that has helped a ton is finding queer community in the area that I’m in. I’m lucky that I got placed with queer flatmates and was part of a program with lots of queer people, but outside of my American-heavy program, going to queer events and stopping by queer-owned businesses made me feel much more comfortable in the city. In Dublin, there are a handful of queer bars and clubs where LGBT+ people can gather and have a fun night, and there are community centers such as The Outhouse that host weekly events and meetings tailored to certain communities. Also looking for LGBT+ events online has led me to spaces that have been so much fun, including Halloween parties and open mics. If you find yourself on an LGBT+ website or forum, see what local collectives and organizations are doing; I also checked EventBrite a bit.  

Overall, I found being abroad to bring a sense of relief in being so far from the U.S., which is so polarized on people like me simply existing. I have the somewhat fairytale hope that one day, trans people will just be treated as, well, people. I believe it can become reality, but we obviously can’t forget our history and the way we are treated in this moment. 

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Ezren Herzog headshot

Ezren Herzog

he/him -- I'm studying Creative Writing and Studio Art at Knox College, class of 2025! I mostly dabble in cartooning, poetry, creative nonfiction, portraits, and humor writing. Outside of my majors, I play guitar and electric bass and sleep a lot.

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