Meet a Traveler, Queer Culture, Social Justice, United States

What It’s Like to be a Black & Transgender Traveler

This post is a continuation of the LGBTQ Getaway Series. We are inviting writers with different identities to describe their experiences traveling the world. Today, we have black, transgender traveler and activist Devin-Norelle sharing zir experiences with travel.

The Roadtrip

You’re on a road with three of your best friends, road tripping across the country.You found ways to pass the time by singing, laughing, or playing games. Without warning a vehicle slams into your car. You are ejected, you feel your bones smash into the road.
Your mind goes black.
You’re on a gravel road, face down, with no clue where your friends are.
You want to scream their names to determine if they’re nearby, yet when you attempt to, you can barely whisper. Your head is throbbing in pain. Blood is rushing down the sides of your face and you’re unable to move.
You panic.
Barely conscious, you can hear sirens blaring from fire trucks and medical vehicles. EMTs run over to you and others in the nearby area. They ask you questions to verify if you’re conscious. While tearing your clothing off to check on your vitals, they abruptly stop.
“What is it?”
You can overhear other EMTs continuing to assist your friends in the distance.
I thought it was a man but, it has a vagina!
Slowly, the EMTs helping you back away from your frail body.
“What do we do?”
“Leave it alone.”
“But this person is in serious condition! We have to do something!”
“The world won’t care if a freak dies…..”
Their bigotry prevails over your right to live. You die, half clothed on an unmarked highway in middle America.

black and transgender travel- Devin Norelle-
Photo Credit: President DR

Tyra’s Story

This is the story of Tyra Hunter .  In 1995, she was denied medical treatment that could have saved her life. Tyra was a transwoman, who had undergone hormone treatment but did not have any genital surgery.
The hormones produced breast tissue developing a woman’s contour. She sustained serious injuries during a car accident, but she was refused medical care after it was discovered she had male genitalia.
The medical professionals at the scene uttered derogatory epithets. After an investigation, it was determined Tyra could have survived had she been given the proper emergency treatment.

I’m Paranoid.

Many things surrounding my trans identity give me anxiety including planes, road trips, and the suburbs at night.
Increasingly anxiety over medical treatment has become a reality to me. I am privileged to work for a firm that provides benefits covering Transgender care. I’m fortunate to have been born and raised in a liberal and progressive city where LGBTQ care is available. But I’m Paranoid.
I fear being denied medical treatment because my gender is ambiguous or because my scars. My concerns have motivated me to select doctors who specialize in Transgender health. But what if I were Tyra Hunt. What if while traveling with my friends to Provincetown, MA for vacation this May, I was denied emergency medical care? What if, like Shaun Smith, went into a diabetic shock, but was refused services? What if, like Erin Vaught, I was concerned about my health, but was treated horribly and denied services at a hospital because I am Transgender?
I constantly ruminate over what could happen if I find myself in a similar situation. Will I be denied treatment because my chest is not in harmony with my biological anatomy?
Will I be ridiculed at a hospital or shamed in my death at the scene of a car accident? I wish I could put these thoughts to rest. How can I travel when most of the world hates me for who I am?

Black and Transgender Travel- Devin Norelle-
Author Devin-Norelle

Prior to  top surgery, I hadn’t consider these things. I didn’t have a need to.
Additionally, most of the world doesn’t need to. Being cisgender (not Trans) is a privilege. No one questions you if you enter the bathroom opposite of your “assigned” sex.
No one prohibits you from entering another country (or even a club) if your body doesn’t match the gender marker on your ID. No one questions you when you want to try on clothes that match your gender while shopping. No one denies you service at a hospital, even if you’re near death.
I admit, I occasionally wish I knew these things might happen to me prior to surgery so that I might have been more prepared. Nevertheless I’ve come to realize that by sharing these ordeals, I can help open other people’s eyes to the experiences of trans people.
No one should be denied medical care.
Tyra Hunter, Shaun Smith, and many others didn’t deserve to die because their anatomy didn’t match their gender identity.
Everyone deserves to live.

How can you help?

Educate yourself on the experiences of trans people around the world. Advocate on behalf of those who cannot or do not have a voice in policy. Make a donation to the National Center for Transgender Equality. Or simply click through and read more articles. I recommend the Trans Guide to Staying Safe While Traveling.   Traveling while Trans*: US GenderQueer denied entry into Canada and this List of Cisgender Privileges.


  • Reply delia at 9:16 pm

    Thanks for this great piece and for linking to some resources as well. It’s really important for marginalized voices to be heard in the travel blogging world and elsewhere, and I’m glad there are people like you writing and people like Meg who want to use their platform for something larger than themselves.

    • Reply DevinRelle at 12:38 pm

      Good morning Delia, I agree. I only hope that my fears (and now realities) can help others think and see differently. I appreciate Meg for re-posting my article to her blog so that it can reach wider audiences and those who may not think twice about the potential pains of traveling when you don’t “fit” the gender binary. Thank you for reading!

  • Reply Adam at 11:08 am

    Really interesting to read this – thank you so much for sharing it! I’m still wrapping my head around transgender rights. I just read the book ‘Adam’ which was a nice, easy step into understanding some of the issues

    • Reply DevinRelle at 12:49 pm

      Hi Adam,
      I’ll have to check out this book! I plan to write more, especially about my experience with my state issued ID while traveling to Puerto Rico two weeks ago and about my upcoming trip to Las Vegas. If you’d like to read more about transgender issues, I can certainly link you to some very informative resources. Meg is also knowledgeable about transgender topics and can provide several recommendations.

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