I wonder if I’ll ever get to fly again

Transphobia among airliners and the corresponding security staff is nothing new, with the TSA’s storied history of abusing trans passengers just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t flown since I came to terms with my gender, and I’m not sure I’ll ever want to.

Well, airliners strike again. This time it’s Air Transat, who ignored numerous legal documents affirming a trans passenger’s identity and denied her and her girlfriend flight to a wedding they were going to:

The situation is as follows: I am a dual citizen of the Italian Republic and the Republic of Argentina. Today, Air Transat has denied me boarding a flight bound to Toronto, Canada from Glasgow, Scotland.

I am a transgender woman. My Italian documentation was made before transition and uses the first name “Ariel”, shows an older photo, and a gender marker “M”. However, I have used it consistently to travel for the last 8 years, both within Europe, to the United States, and to South America, with no issue. This is the first time I have been denied boarding a flight.

I travel with supporting documentation because I have been questioned about my passport photo before. This documentation includes my Argentinean passport with the correct gender (and a recent photo), and a notarized sworn affidavit with a legalized translation. This affidavit is a binding document of the Argentine Republic declaring my change of name from Ariel to Ari Bianca, and declaring my change of gender.

When asked for documentation, I provided all three documents (two passports and affidavit) to an Air Transat representative. They spoke to a representative of the Canadian High Commission in the United Kingdom and told me that I can only travel on my Argentinean passport, but I wouldn’t be travelling today as I didn’t have a visa. I did not apply for a visa because it was not needed with my Italian passport.

The Air Transat representative called “Emma”, refused to give me her last name but phoned the High commission representative for me. The High Commission representative kindly explained this was a decision made by the airline at their discretion. In other words Air Transat made the decision to deny my flight, today, despite my carrying two legal documents, simply because I don’t look the same way as I did 8 years ago, before I began taking hormones.

I have not managed to obtain a new Italian passport yet due to the complex nature of gender recognition procedures through Italian bureaucracy. However, this decision is probably illegal under anti-discrimination UK law; it refuses to accept my valid Italian documentation, maybe breaking Canada-Italy travel treaties; and it fails to recognise my Argentinean sworn affidavit and its connection to my Italian passport as valid.

All because of a simple photo. A photo which, when provided with supporting documents, has never caused any airlines (Ryanair, American Airlines, British Airways, EasyJet, to name a few) from ever preventing me from boarding a flight.

I have contacted Air Transat on Twitter. After a four hour wait, they responded with a different story. In their new version of events the issue wasn’t my passport photo, but rather that since I’m Argentinean, I need a visa for Canada anyway, ignoring my valid Italian passport which entitles me to visa-free travel.

I believe Air Transat have changed their sorry to cover up the discrimination issue.

Aoife goes on to cover the ensuing Tweets from Air Transat, telling a very different story–exactly what happens every single time a trans person goes public with their abuse at the hands of airliners and security staff: (emphasis from original)

So let’s be clear about this:

  • Air Transat took issue with AB’s transness. They refused to let her fly because she is trans and because her documentation made that clear.
  • They told her that she should pretend to be a man in order to get on the plane in future, explicitly denying her gender.
  • They are now trying to make people believe that this is because she didn’t have a visa that she doesn’t have to have.

Gotta love that. “Travel as a man.” The fuck does that mean? If this ever happens to me I’m going to wave my fingers and say “poof! That’s how that works, right? Gender is something you can just fucking take off?”

I’m going to echo Aoife’s request:

Here’s where I’m going to ask you to do something: don’t let them get away with this. Please. Please tell people about this. Tweet@AirTransat and let them know that they can’t do this and sweep it under the carpet- and please keep it firm but civil. If you have a bigger platform or know someone who does? Tell them about this. Use them. Air Transat want to make this go away. Don’t let them.

Maybe in a decade or two when airliners and security catches up, I’ll be able to fly again.



  1. says

    Even though Canada signed the ICAO agreement which requires the government provide third gender passports, they refuse to because of official officious policy. Trudeau has proven himself all talk, claiming to do something about this but nothing has come to pass yet.

    I’m in the process of applying for British citizenship to get a third gender passport, but am now hesitant because of the vote. I wouldn’t put it past a new English (not UK) government to take away people’s right to have legal documentation.

    The last time I flew, I was forced to travel as a “man” despite living as a woman full time by that point. But that didn’t stop me from wearing makeup, earrings, rings and the loudest leggings I have, and I’ll dress louder next time if I can’t dress as the right gender. At least when I travel by train within Taiwan, nobody says a word.