Air Travel Tips for Transgender Students Studying Abroad

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IES Abroad

At IES Abroad, we recognize that identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community while studying abroad can present unique challenges and opportunities in exploring a new culture. However, air travel as a transgender or non-binary student should not be one of those challenges. 

Here are 14 travel tips that we hope will give you the advice you need to get through airports and on your way to study abroad.

  1. Make sure to check out the legislation regarding transgender issues and the LGBTQ+ community in your study abroad location.
  2. You can select the binary gender option you would like printed on your passport without medical documentation even if it does not match your supporting documents. Keep this in mind when applying for your first passport or requesting a new passport.
  3. When making an airline reservation, it is strongly encouraged that you use the same name, gender, and birth date that is on your passport. The gender marker on your boarding pass must match the passport (or government-issued ID) you show the TSA Travel Document Checker.
  4. Complete a discreet notification card to privately disclose a personal item, medical device, medical condition, or other information that you think the TSA might ask questions about. You can hand this to the officer before going through the screening device.
  5. If you have medical equipment or prostheses in your carry-on, these items should be allowed through the checkpoint after you complete the screening process.
  6. Make sure that medications are in their original packages and that they marked clearly as being prescribed to you. You should also have a note from your doctor explaining their necessity.
  7. If you have medications that don’t fit the standard carry-on rules, make sure you declare them at the security check in to avoid issues.
  8. You have the right to wear whatever you wish. However, please keep in mind that certain articles of clothing, shoes, binding materials, prostheses, or jewelry may require additional security screening. You should never be required to lift, remove, or raise an article of clothing to reveal or remove a prosthetic or binding item.
  9. You can opt out of an AIT scan at any time, but you will then be required to undergo a thorough pat-down.
  10. If, for any reason, you receive a pat-down, the pat-down must be performed by an officer of the same gender as the traveler. This is based on your gender presentation. For example, a transgender woman must be searched by female officers. The gender listed on your identification should not matter for pat-downs and you should not be subjected to personal questions about your gender. If you encounter an issue, ask to speak to a supervisor and clearly and calmly state how you should be treated.
  11. You may ask for a private screening at any time. You are allowed to have a witness of your choosing with you when you are being privately screened.
  12. You can also obtain and fill out a TSA notification card in order to communicate with the TSA officer discreetly about a personal item, medical device, medical condition, or other information that you think they might ask questions about. You can hand this to the officer before going through the screening device.
  13. Call the TSA Cares helpline with questions before you arrive at the airport. They can be reached at 855.787.2227.
  14. Check out the following websites for more information:

For more information on transgender and LGBTQ+ advice, check out our LGBTQ+ & Ally Resources. The information listed above is current as of February 2022. 

Kandice RoseKandice Rose

As an alumna of our Dublin - Irish Studies Program (though her courses actually align with what is now our Writer’s Program), Kandice knows exactly how life-changing study abroad can be. In her free time, Kandice enjoys cooking, dancing, reading, and going on adventures that serve as inspiration for the short stories she writes.

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