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Fionn Davenport on Navigating Identity: How to Serve Transgender and Non-Binary Clients with Respect and Ease.

The following question came into us here at ITTN over the last couple of weeks.

I’m having a small issue with prefixes. I have young people who are transgender and non-binary who have one gender on their passport but identify as another gender and are giving me the prefix of the other gender – i.e. it doesn’t match the sex assigned at birth or the name on their passport. Could you advise?

Fionn Davenport

Navigating the respectful use of prefixes for transgender and non-binary individuals can indeed be delicate, particularly in the context of official documentation like passports.

When your clients identify with a gender different from the one on their passport, it’s essential to prioritise their comfort and identity while also ensuring compliance with travel regulations.

The law

In 2015 the government passed the Gender Recognition Act, which allows Irish citizens to legally change their gender through self-determination on government documents. When you legally change your gender, you are given a Gender Recognition Certificate issued by the Department of Social Protection.

However, in order to travel your client will need a valid passport or ID card (for travel within the EU) that reflects their stated gender: for official travel documents and processes, it’s usually required to use the information exactly as it appears on the passport to avoid travel disruptions or legal issues.

The law on obtaining a new passport with updated gender markets and names is relatively straightforward: they must present the gender recognition certificate, an updated birth certificate that reflects their status and must show that they have been using their gender marker and name for a minimum of two years.

A delicate balance

Striking the appropriate balance between respecting your client’s wishes and abiding by the law isn’t always easy. However, there is a way of making sure that you give them the best advice while still showing respect and acknowledging their identity.

For interactions and communications, always use the prefix and pronouns that align with your client’s expressed gender identity. This practice fosters an inclusive and respectful business environment.

Explain to your clients that, for the purpose of booking flights and other travel-related documentation, you’re required to use their legal name and the gender marker as it appears on their passport. Explain that it’s a matter of international travel law and not a reflection of your agency’s desire to respect their identity.

If your clients are planning to travel frequently, advise them on the process of updating their gender markers and names on their passports, if they wish to do so.

Personalised travel planning

Transgender and non-binary clients may have specific concerns when travelling, such as navigating airport security, finding trans-friendly accommodations or understanding the social climate of potential destinations.

If you can, try to tailor travel experiences that address these concerns, including being familiar with local laws and customs regarding LGBTQ+ rights so that you may advise your clients accurately and ensure their safety and comfort during their travels.

Be sensitive

Issues around transgender and non-binary identification can be fraught with difficulty. They can provoke confusion, misunderstanding and downright hostility. If you are dealing with clients for whom these are live issues, ensure that any conversation around this topic is handled with utmost sensitivity and confidentiality. If necessary or possible, create a safe space for your clients to discuss their needs and concerns.

The Gender Recognition Act 2015 provides a strong legal foundation, but translating this into practical travel advice requires sensitivity, awareness and a commitment to inclusivity.

By focusing on personalised service, advocating for clients and continuously educating ourselves on the needs of transgender and non-binary travellers, Irish travel agents can ensure that the journey is as rewarding as the destination, for everyone.


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