On Facing New Realities

Long-term travel can often introduce unexpected challenges. Often they’re minor and relatively insignificant (“Why are there no bagels?”). Sometimes they induce self-hair pulling. At other times, though, life throws in some things that can surprise you.

For us the first big change moment was Tigger’s major announcement. Just how much it would affect our future travels wasn’t readily apparent until we were having a problem finding an apartment in Budapest and had to face the possibility that we might have to leave for a few months because of Schengen restrictions.

As I looked at the countries that were affordable and outside the Zone, I had to ask about safety. There were plenty of news reports about violence against trans people in Turkey, so that removed them as a possibility. I messaged an LGBT group in Ukraine and asked what the risk level would be for Tigger. “We cannot recommend you come to Ukraine. It is not safe for such situations.”

Thankfully, Romania was still on the table. Although they aren’t the most accepting of LGBT folks, they don’t usually respond with violence. Nearby Bulgaria was a question mark, but most of the responding Bulgarians were offended by my question. “We aren’t like some of you first world countries.” So that was hopeful.

How about Croatia? I asked some organizations, in a Facebook group, and on Reddit. I was basically told it might be safe, it might not be. “But since you’re tourists, you should be okay.”

Not the most reassuring response. Is a bigot going to see someone who looks like a boy wearing a dress, get motivated toward violence but hold themselves back—“Wait! They might be tourists. Perhaps we shouldn’t punch his face in.” It seemed some of the large, expat-centric cities were a safer bet, but it still left me in a near panic at the idea.

A friend suggested I was perhaps overreacting, and I couldn’t disagree. But it’s hard to not take your child’s safety seriously when you see that 1 transgender woman is killed every 21-29 hours (depending on the source). And that number could easily be higher since not all police reports record the person’s transgender status.

After I finally calmed myself down about perceived and possibly imaginary dangers, another issue came to the foreground—Tigger will turn 15 in a few months. As she nears adulthood, she is thinking more about her future. She wants to be able to get a job and start building work experience.

What are the chances of her getting a job in Hungary?

Well, for starters she doesn’t have work rights. If we get residency, our particular path does not grant that permission. Furthermore, there’s no way she’s going to become fluent in Hungarian in a year’s time to get a job even if she had that type of visa. She really isn’t interested in too many of the things that can be done online either.

She also wants to do a legal name change, which we have to do in the US.

Also, there is the question of seeing a therapist who specializes in gender issues, and she would like to do a medical transition (no surgery). Her insurance covers that treatment in the US. It isn’t covered in Hungary. Chances are it would be affordable here, but the quality of treatment, especially from a therapist, would definitely not be there.

Our initial reaction was to return to the US. So, we started looking at that. But the idea made me ill. She wasn’t too enthused about it either even though there are some positives for her.

After doing more research, sitting down and doing a pros and cons list, and chatting some more about it, we decided we would go forward with Hungarian residency. Hormonal treatment doesn’t usually begin until age 16 anyway. So that would give us a year to save up money and emotionally prepare ourselves (me especially) to return to the US. She could begin her treatments, get her legal name change, the gender marker changed on her passport, get a job, etc., and start establishing a local sense of community as she begins the approach to adulthood.

As is always the case for us, this is the thought right now. The idea could change several times between now and then, too. In one year, we still may not feel ready to go back. Also, Hungarian immigration could throw us a big curveball and not grant us residency in which case we’d have to make some fast, hard choices.

For now, though, the idea (I can’t say plan because we just don’t do those things) feels good and right. I can actually, shockingly, see myself being ready to return in a year. We’ve been bouncing around for just over five years. I think I may finally be ready for some “normalcy.”

At least for a month or two [insert wild laughter].

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  1. I hope that you have peace in your heart about what direction to take. I know the uncertainty must be hard. I admire you for putting her first, and I don’t think you are overreacting at all. It’s been different being back in the US for me. I’m glad I’m in Hawaii with different cultures, but the prices on housing, food, health insurance have all reminded me why I left. And, yet, I want roots, to be surrounded by a bigger LGBT community etc. I guess there really is no perfect place! Sending lots of love.

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    • The downsides of long-term travel. You find so many places you love, but no matter where you are there is always something pulling you elsewhere.

      I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely emotionally ready to return to the US. I guess knowing that it doesn’t have to be forever will help.

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  2. Come to Australia! In Sydney or Melbourne you would have no problems at all.

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    • Not really a place I’d want to live, and we’d still have the same issues regarding name change and legal documentation.

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  3. Talon, I really admire you and what you’re doing for Tigger. I know – as you do – that there will be bumps along the way, but you will get there in the end. I hope Hungary will be the right choice for the both of you 🙂

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    • Nothing is permanent. If we do have to return to the US, at least we always have that knowledge.

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  4. I have a friend who lives in Istanbul, and it would definitely not be the place for a transgender person to be safe, good call on nixing that one right away. It sounds like you have a good plan in place, and you are flexible enough to make changes as needed. Hopefully the residency will be granted and you won’t have to work on a new plan!

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  5. I know of an LGBT Christian group in Croatia that could be helpful if you went that route. They are in a good position to share safety concerns. They also do a lot of education and counseling.

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    • Thanks. I’ve chatted with a couple of different LGBT groups as well as some Croatians and expats. The general consensus is safety shouldn’t be an issue.

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  6. Just go back in the states. In a cheap area like Tennessee or something similar and benefit of the health insurance and whatever you need from that point of view. Europe is way too complicated

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    • Tennessee for a trans person? You must be joking. We’ve turned in our application for residency, so we should be set for a year. Although if they reject us, we’ll have to reconsider when we’ll be doing reentry.

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  7. Oh, I do not envy you this ongoing hassle, but I do know that you always do what you need to do. I also feel like you’ll work this out, but I appreciate reading your thoughts about the process. It’s not just sharing, it may actually help someone else in the future. As for normalcy: what’s that??

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    • That’s why I put it in quotes lol. Things always work out. Just sometimes it’s quite the ride getting there.

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  8. I’m sorry to hear you’re having some difficulties getting Hungarian residency. I can commiserate. Getting my French residency visa wasn’t easy and now finding an apartment has proven even more difficult.

    I too didn’t/don’t feel ready to return to the US after 7 years living in Europe. It’s a battle, but keep at it if you feel Hungary is the right place for you and Tigger to be.

    Things will begin to fall in place. Even when it feels like everything is working against you, keep your head up and persevere on.

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    • Yep, we always do. Residency wasn’t the hard part, really. It was finding a damn apartment since a lease (or ownership) is required to obtain residency. We have that settled, and our apps have been turned in. Now we wait to see what happens. The joys of expat life, right?

      I still don’t know if I’ll be ready for the US in a year. I guess we’ll just have to see what shakes up as the time draws near.

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