The USA is open for transgender ESTA travellers

Prepare well for your trip to the USA when requesting your ESTA as a transgender person.

This week, Chelsea Manning, known for having provided Wikileaks with classified military documents, chose to follow a hormonal treatment to allow her to change gender.

Like the soldier, formerly known as Brad Manning, millions of men and women live as transgender people. This is the case for many famous Americans, of which the most well known cases tend to be top models or actresses. Nevertheless, transgender people are also parents, such as Thomas Beatie (known to be the first pregnant man), or the athlete Bruce Jenner, brilliant cinematographers, such as Lana Wachowski, doctors, journalists and those people who carry out the most common jobs around.

Transgender people often encounter discrimination or, at least excessive red tape when the claimed sex doesn’t correspond with that of the person’s ID card. If this is the case for you, this article will help you to fill out your ESTA form and prepare you for your trip to the USA:

How to travel to the USA as a transgender person?


First of all, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of the USA recognises the difficulties that transgender people face when going through security controls in airports, and therefore aims to handle the issues with dignity and respect. On their site, they also give some advice so that your trip goes as well as possible. This advice aims to simplify your journey, even if indicating a name/gender that doesn’t correspond to you frustrates you:

Make reservations: use the names and gender as indicated on your passport to avoid errors or misunderstandings. Don’t forget that your flight ticket is specifically in your name and, even if you now use a different name that is more appropriate, it’s the one that’s on your passport that counts.

Request your ESTA: It’s the same as when making reservations. When filling out your ESTA form, ensure that you use all your personal details as indicated on your passport. Remember that an ESTA authorisation is linked to just one passport.

How are body searches conducted for transgender travellers?


Body searches are carried out to ensure that a person is not carrying contraband on their body or in their clothes. Aware that this is an unpleasant and invasive experience, the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency has elaborated strict guidelines for the process.

If the transgender person has undergone a total transformation, the current gender of that person determines which border protection agent will carry out the search. If, for example, the passenger was a man, but has breasts and has still conserved male genitals, a female agent will carry out the search on the upper half and a male agent will carry out the search on the lower half.

If you have prostheses, they may draw the attention of the agents when going through different scanners (luggage, body scanner, etc.) or when going through the airports security gate. This can be cause for a more thorough search, but under no circumstances will you have to show your intimate parts. At any point you can request for your body search to be carried out in private and accompanied by a witness of your choice.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with official American bodies for more information or if you have any doubts, and, above all, have a good trip!

Travelling to the United States? Do you have your pre-planning checklist in order? Visit our ESTA Guide for more information about obtaining your travel permit. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions for travel assistance.

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