I usually get butterflies in my stomach before a big adventure, and my 2016 study abroad trip to Rome is no exception. Most of it is the usual mix of nerves and excitement—I wouldn’t travel if I didn’t love it—but there’s another element as well.
This would be the first time I am outside the country as a transgender person.
When you do a quick Google search of “trans travel,” you tend to end up with a list of things that could go wrong: getting held up at the airport, harassed by strangers, more airport horror stories, getting killed. And these are things I know I should be aware of, but none of this is new information. What I’m worried about is the unknown. What is Rome’s queer community like? Are transgender people on their radar? Should I tone down my femininity? Google doesn’t say.
The flight goes about as well as it can—thankfully no horror stories here—and before I know it I find myself in my university’s Rome Center, filling out my Declaration of Presence. Nome? Noah. Sesso? Female.
From there I make my way down the narrow cobbled streets to find my apartment, the wheels on my suitcase getting trapped between the stones (sanpietrini) when they aren’t clattering embarrassingly loudly in the quiet residential area. By the time I reach my vine-covered apartment I’ve worked up a good sweat in the humid June heat of the city. I’ve also realized that it’s going to be impossible to wear my chest binder here. I’m not supposed to wear it more than eight hours, certainly not while exerting myself in the heat, and I already know I will probably walk more than I have in my life.