I Felt Unsafe Traveling As A Non-Binary Person, So I Wrote A Safety Guide For LGBTQIA+Travel

If you feel unsafe traveling, you are not alone.

nonbinary person on beach Olezzo/ Shutterstock

Did you ever have a moment where you felt like you were in the wrong neighborhood?

A long while back when I was in my late teens, I had that feeling. I was a goth kid, and I had made the mistake of walking into a country bar in God-knows-where Virginia with my Black guy friend. 

The waitress gave us a long look, then sat us down at a table. The guy at the table next to us looked at me and said, "I’ll give you $20 if you take your top off."


My guy friend told him to lay off. 

The dude looked at him, looked at me, then said that we were not in the right neighborhood for that.

That was the first time I ever realized that there were parts of the country that were truly dangerous for people that didn’t look like they belonged there.

We left without ordering anything. 

I had already come out as non-binary by then, though I only really knew the term by my mid-twenties.

For the longest time, I genuinely thought I could travel safely in America. I thought stuff like that only happened in podunk towns.

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How stupid I was. 

These days, I realized that being open about being LGBTQIA+ and living an alternative lifestyle can have lethal consequences. If you have been paying attention to the news for the past five years, things have gotten grim for minorities, women, and LGBTQIA+ people across the country. 

Ever since the downfall of Roe, America has felt very different to me.

I think it felt different to most people — especially women and LGBTQIA+ groups. There was a certain magical feeling that being American had with Roe. We felt safe. We felt protected by the Supreme Court. 


We felt like we belonged to America, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Sure, things were starting to look bad, but we could always point to a law and say, "Hey, you can’t do that."

Since then, I noticed that things changed.

There’s a certain unspoken tension that most of us feel, almost like stillness in the air. We know that things have changed in a way that cannot be repaired.

Whether we want to say it or not, battle lines have been drawn and the government made it official that women are not equal to men in the eyes of the law.

Most women I know no longer feel safe — and now, the government is targeting LGBTQIA+ people as well. 

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When I heard the laws being passed in Florida and Texas, a part of me broke. 

It wasn’t just women anymore. The GOP has made a point of telling the world that anyone who isn’t white, male, and straight does not matter as much.

Book bannings, bathroom laws, and even the right for doctors to refuse treatment for any reason have all come to pass in Florida. 

Texas isn’t far behind, and I’m afraid that these laws are going to get innocent people killed.

While I live in a blue state, the truth is that I can’t help but feel affected by these laws. One of my best friends lives in Texas. Several live in Florida, though they are now fleeing for their lives. 


The more laws got passed, the more I couldn’t stop but think about that moment I had in Virginia with my friend. I couldn’t stop thinking about the feeling of helplessness, of fear, and of realizing the dangers that came with going where I was not welcome. 

Was it just me?

As weird as it sounds, I honestly thought I was overreacting by feeling hunted and hated in my own country. I thought, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe it’s not that bad. I wanted to believe it was just me being stupid.

As someone who’s fairly alternative, I'm used to feeling unwanted and unwelcome in many places. I thought, maybe this is just one of those things where it couldn’t be that bad.


Even so, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being scared in America.

I went to the New York Public Library and saw a copy of Victor Hugo Green’s The Negro Motorist’s Green Book, a travel guide for Black Americans that helped keep them safe during the days prior to integration. 

I remembered thinking, "Wow. Imagine not feeling safe traveling…Wait, I know that feeling."

After thinking for a moment, I walked away, uncomfortable at what I realized about my standing in America. 

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Things came to a head when a LGBTQIA+ friend of mine had a panic attack about traveling cross-country. 


I guess it was one of those moments where I had to hear that same fear from someone else to realize I wasn’t crazy.

Travel is becoming legitimately dangerous for both LGBTQIA+ people and people of color. We can’t go everywhere and expect to have our rights respected. 

After giving my fellow non-binary buddy advice on how to fly under the radar in red states, I realized that I wasn’t alone. Other people probably needed that advice and needed a resource they could study up on prior to going to an area that’s noted for hostility. 


So…I made a book. It’s called The Rainbow Travel Book

Admittedly, it was a one-person journey and there’s only so much I could understand from all the legal jargon. However, it was filled with knowledge that I wish I knew back in the day — plus a fairly up-to-date writeup of everything from bathroom laws to your rights to medical care. 

This Pride Month, stay safe and spread the word.

Now, more than ever before, we need to know our rights, how to help others in need, and what to do when people want to discriminate against us. My book features:

  • A map of bathroom laws as of May 26, 2023. 
  • A guide to asking for medical assistance in America.
  • A guide to travel insurance.
  • A list of the most gay-friendly cities in America.
  • A guide involving what to know about modern sundown towns.
  • A guide to demanding your own rights be respected.
  • A guide to interacting with police.
  • Safety tips for both "out" and "in" LGBTQIA+ travelers.
  • A list of resources and works cited.

If you feel unsafe, you are not alone. Just know that knowledge is power. Together, we shall overcome.


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Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others.