How One Trans Man Got On a Plane With No ID

7.8.2013

By Jacob Anderson-Minshall

Writer Jacob Anderson-Minshall recounts his harrowing experience boarding a plane after losing his wallet and provides tips for anyone in a similar situation.

Think ahead when you’re traveling and only take the material you actually need. Don’t take everything with you. I didn’t need to be walking around with my Medicare card, blank checks or my medical cafeteria debit card. Also consider leaving some important cards in a separate location. Take one credit card with you during the day and leave another locked safely in your hotel. Put some cash in your wallet and some in your pocket or backpack.

But let’s say you didn’t follow those instructions and like me, you’ve lost all of your stuff. First you’ll want to contact your credit cards and bank accounts, and let them know that your wallet has been lost/stolen. If you aren’t sure which, you may just want to close everything. If you think you may still find your wallet, you’ll still want to contact financial institutions, so they will be alert for unusual activity and they can stop things before it gets out of hand. Here’s a tip for making all these calls go smoothly: memorize or leave your credit card numbers and bank account information with a trusted family member. Because having those numbers on hand when you call to report things stolen/lost will dramatically speed up the process.

Next, if you have time, file a police report about your lost or stolen wallet. While this is not essential, it is highly recommended. It will document your loss, and will be an important paper trail for TSA agents, financial institutions, and law enforcement. Do it as soon as possible because it will help establish a timeline. And any bureaucrats you have to deal with (including TSA agents) will want a copy of the report or the report number.

Now let’s say you don’t have time to file a police report. I didn’t. At the time I didn’t think about how it would help me and I had a very limited amount of time. Instead, I spent the morning running around New York looking for my wallet. I had realized a much more urgent problem than having my identity stolen: without my driver’s license, how could I get past airport security and fly home, as I was scheduled to do later that afternoon following a very important meeting?

At first I thought my only option lay in staying in New York a few more days and having another form of identification over-nighted to me. I did have a passport at home. But it could just as easily be dismissed as unacceptable. After all, it contains a rather glaring error. Although my name is Jacob and I sport a scruffy goatee; my passport indicates that I’m female. Of course, this “error” is certainly explainable: I’m after all a transgender man. At one point I was female. Still, using it as identification when traveling is always a quandary. Do I trust that the travel official will assume it’s a mistake? Do I out myself and hope they’re not trans-phobic?

Tags: Travel Tips
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