When department stores unveil their holiday windows, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. In the last 2 years, these windows have become signs of hope, goodwill, and optimism — more than ever before.
Christmas wasn’t canceled last year, but in Melbourne, where I live, Myer, our 1911 department store, canceled its 65-year-old tradition of Christmas windows due to COVID-19 concerns.
Melburnians were horrified as these windows equate to nostalgia and childhood memories. Each year over one million people normally file past the Bourke Street store. many with their pajama-clad children hoisted on their shoulders — their eyes agog at the window tableaus depicting treasured childhood classics such as The Nutcracker, Aladdin, and The 12 Days Of Christmas.
It felt like COVID had stolen Christmas — never mind the Grinch.
Myer relented and created in 6 weeks windows that would normally have taken its design team six months to finalize. It based Its 2020 windows on an original story it commissioned by writer Corinne Fenton called Christmas is Uncancelled.
Fenton says: “I felt strongly that the words for these windows had to be sincere, as right now the people of Melbourne need honesty. The words, ‘It’s Christmas After All’ came through loud and strong to me. After all, it infers that after all we’ve been through, in spite of the hard times, the struggles, the sickness, and the suffering, Christmas is still being celebrated by our city, by the Melbourne people, and by Myer.”
In one tableau, Santa’s workshop was in lockdown; elves wore masks and complained how stuck and bored they felt. But how they will find a way to save Christmas. And they did.
Attendance was sparser than usual, but the show went on.
Myer rising to the occasion made me think about what Christmas means. And how it’s more than spending money on gifts and a chance for department stores to showcase their wares. So many of our famous department stores see themselves as integral to the Christmas tradition using their windows to mirror the way the world is or could be.
So here’s what to expect from some of our best-loved department stores in our much brighter Christmas of 2021. A Christmas when people are out and about and even traveling overseas — placing them in the vicinity of some of the world’s great department stores.
1. Macy’s, New York City
Macy’s flagship store on 34th Street has decorated its windows every Christmas since 1874. The store’s first Christmas window was scenes from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, using porcelain dolls. In 1883, the store introduced a panoply window (a circular track) showing Santa pulled by a reindeer. Word spread of Macy’s “miracle.”
Holiday window displays have since become a fixture in New York City, such as those at Lord & Taylor, Tiffany & Co., Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue. But when it comes to Christmas, people still think of Macy’s. Perhaps because scenes from the movie Miracle on 34th Street were shot in Macy’s. And many of Macy’s windows have been based on this famous film.
Last year was different. Macy’s dedicated its 2020 holiday windows to essential workers as “a form of a thank you letter to first responders, essential workers, marchers for equality, and New Yorkers who showed their grit, good humor, and hopeful spirit” during a particularly trying year.
This season, you can expect to meet Tiptoe, a gorgeous little blue reindeer who is too scared to fly until her friends help her out with a balloon flying machine. The balloons burst and Tiptoe discovers she can fly on her own even though she takes Santa on a bumpy ride. To fly, she only needed to believe.
In the accompanying commercial bound to reach you in the lead-up to Christmas, Tiptoe’s story ends with a little girl at the airport reluctant to fly to grandma’s and her father alleviating her fears by telling her Tiptoe’s story. She starts to feel confident, believing that she can board that plane — a timely message as we head out into the holiday season and the world.
2. Selfridges, London
Many of us know of Selfridges from the British television series about the founder Harry Gordon Selfridge. In 1909, Selfridge brought his department store concept from Chicago to London, including the American way of celebrating Christmas. He had every inch of his store decorated for the festive season. But the windows were, and remain, the real crowd pleaser. Selfridges window displays are sometimes controversial but always artistic and often feature the work of hip new artists.
This year’s theme is Christmas of Dreams. The windows draw inspiration from Busby Berkeley’s 1930s Hollywood visions and technicolor film musicals from the 1950s. There’s a focus on British actress and singer Jane Horrocks and drag artist and sculptor Juno Birch. It’s like Christmas on steroids.
In describing the dream theme, Andrew Keith, Selfridges Managing Director, said, “We know our customers have been dreaming of being together… And after a year of so many families being separated, this Christmas is for many a dream come true.”
3. Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, Paris
Galeries Lafayette on Haussmann Boulevard is one of the world’s most beautiful department stores. Opened in 912, the architecture was inspired by Opéra (the Parisian opera house), and the interior features striking Art Nouveau balconies and jaw-dropping stained-glass dome. Each year, the store hangs a gigantic Christmas tree from the dazzling dome trimmed in accordance with the theme set by the window display. For example, in 2015, the window’s theme was A Christmas From Another Planet with robots, Jedi, R2D2, and Stormtroopers, so the store decorated the Christmas tree with stars and meteorites.
Last year, the windows displayed 11 scenes showing Céleste, a little girl who traveled the world to meet fantastic characters (inspired by Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince). Ironically people couldn’t travel then, but the gaily colored display lifted people’s spirits — as Christmas should. Galeries Lafayette reveals this year’s theme on November 17, 2021.
Pro Tip: Galeries Lafayette is one of many incredible Christmas window displays in Paris. For a walk past the best displays, see The Best Things to Do In Paris During Christmas.
4. Brown Thomas, Dublin
The unveiling of the Brown Thomas Christmas window in Grafton Street marks the start of the festive season in Dublin. This year, Christmas came 127 days early. To make up for the Christmas that wasn’t, Brown Thomas launched the windows digitally last year. The 2021 Christmas windows are luminescent, shimmering theater sets, each representing a moment of festive celebration with a hint of glittering disco. The theme — Those Who Shine — showcases scenes around the Christmas table of people coming together with loved ones for gift giving and getting all glammed up for sparkling celebrations. A very different Christmas than last year.
5. Smith & Caughey’s, Auckland
All major cities seem to have a department store that has stood the test of time. In Auckland, Smith & Caughey’s has been in its present Queen Street location since 1884. The store is just reopening as Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, has been closed for almost 3 months during a lockdown. The much-loved tradition of Smith & Caughey’s Christmas window depicts the children’s book The Fairies’ Night Before Christmas by New Zealand writer Sarina Dickson, illustrated by Sarah Greig. The story is a Kiwi take on The Night Before Christmas. The windows depict a forest fairy community working together under the shade of Pōhutukawa trees, a tree known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree because of the blazing red flowers around Christmastime. The scenes show the fairies pulling together in a crisis and how resourceful, clever and adventurous they are. Onlookers will identify with the rousing scenes after what has been a challenging year. No doubt these windows will long be remembered. You can see the windows here.
6. Ogilvy At The McCord Museum, Montréal
Many Montrealers will recall the Christmas tradition of visiting Ogilvy’s windows. The custom-made scenes by the German toy manufacturer Steiff featured mechanical toy animals, such as dancing ducks, cheeky monkeys, adorable hedge-hogs, and jumping frogs. These window displays were among the last of their kind in North America, and visiting them had been an annual tradition since 1947.
Part of that tradition was standing in the snow and warming one hand curled around a cup of hot chocolate.
Ogilvy donated the beloved installations to the McCord Museum in 2018. The Mill in The Forest scene is outdoors, so the snow boot viewing tradition continues. The second display, The Enchanted Forest, is inside. The outside attraction is free. The McCord Museum is also offering free entry to its interior from October 13, 2021, to January 19, 2022.
Last year, Melbourne Museum held a similar display called Make Believe the Story of the Myer Christmas Windows, showcasing 65 years of Myer’s Melbourne windows. Museums recognize how these windows are an important part of our social history — of how they offer a window into a community’s soul.
7. Myer, Melbourne
Myer Melbourne was started by Sidney Baevski Myer, a penniless Russian who spoke little English who emigrated to Australia in 1899 and sold goods door-to-door. His store became the biggest department store in the southern hemisphere. While no longer the largest, the store is ingrained in our culture. My parents took me to see the Myer Christmas windows when I was a child, and I, in turn, took my children.
Myer Melbourne will launch its windows on November 14, 2021. Like many department stores, the theme is under wraps to increase the mounting excitement. But no doubt, it will be a tearjerker. I’m almost sorry I won’t be in the country to see the unveiling. But Australians can travel again, so I will visit my family in the U.S. I imagine the tears will definitely flow as Melburnians file past those famous windows, and I file past customs into the arms of family.
In Melbourne, we spent more time under stay-at-home orders (we call them lockdowns) than any other city in the world — 262 days or nearly 9 months, since March 2020. Like many Melburnians, I stopped counting days. The Christmas windows signal our freedom. And whether it’s Fortnum & Mason, London; Bergdorf Goodman, New York City; Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh; or KaDeWe, Berlin, each city has its famous Christmas windows. What will your city’s holiday windows mean to you this year?
Here are some other Christmas events to consider:
Movement restrictions, including international travel bans do clearly slow and limit the spread of infectious disease, and as is the case is with the current pandemic, allow countries the time and breathing space to prepare medical countermeasures as well as adapt strategies to control local outbreaks.
While for drug and vaccine manufacturers, largely based in the global north, it represents the firing of a start-gun in the next race for market share and profit as they test whether their currently licensed IP-protected vaccines will be effective and whether or not a new, modified vaccine is necessary.
So in effect, a low/middle income nation – along with the continent it sits in – is economically penalised, socially ostracised and socio-politically stigmatised for demonstrating global solidarity and doing the right thing through their timely reporting and sharing of the variant’s genetic data. Meanwhile, a small group of hugely wealthy pharmaceutical companies find new opportunities to generate exorbitant profits as fear starts to once again grip politicians and the wider public.
What’s necessary, therefore, to limit the negative socioeconomic impacts of these restrictive measures on trade and travel, is to have a sufficiently resourced global regime in place. This should support countries reporting new variants through the significant financial and social hardships that then ensue – a disaster or pandemic fund specifically engineered around the impacts of trade and travel restrictions.
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand on Saturday said it would ban entry of people travelling from eight African countries it designated as high-risk for the new B 1.1.529 COVID-19 variant, a senior health official said.
Starting in December, travel from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, will be prohibited, the official told a news conference.
(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.
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BRUSSELS (AP) — Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world raced Friday to contain a new coronavirus variant potentially more dangerous than the one that has fueled relentless waves of infection on nearly every continent.
A World Health Organization panel named the variant “omicron” and classified it as a highly transmissible virus of concern, the same category that includes the predominant delta variant, which is still a scourge driving higher cases of sickness and death in Europe and parts of the United States.
“It seems to spread rapidly,” U.S. President Joe Biden said of the new variant, only a day after celebrating the resumption of Thanksgiving gatherings for millions of American families and the sense that normal life was coming back at least for the vaccinated. In announcing new travel restrictions, he told reporters, “I’ve decided that we’re going to be cautious.”
Omicron’s actual risks are not understood. But early evidence suggests it carries an increased risk of reinfection compared with other highly transmissible variants, the WHO said. That means people who contracted COVID-19 and recovered could be subject to catching it again. It could take weeks to know if current vaccines are less effective against it.
In response to the variant’s discovery in southern Africa, the United States, Canada, Russia and a host of other countries joined the European Union in restricting travel for visitors from that region, where the variant brought on a fresh surge of infections.
The White House said the U.S. will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region beginning Monday. Biden said that means “no travel” to or from the designated countries except for returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents who test negative.
Medical experts, including the WHO, warned against any overreaction before the variant was thoroughly studied. But a jittery world feared the worst after the tenacious virus triggered a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people around the globe.
“We must move quickly and at the earliest possible moment,” British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers.
Omicron has now been seen in travelers to Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel, as well as in southern Africa.
There was no immediate indication whether the variant causes more severe disease. As with other variants, some infected people display no symptoms, South African experts said. The WHO panel drew from the Greek alphabet in naming the variant omicron, as it has done with earlier, major variants of the virus.
Even though some of the genetic changes appear worrisome, it was unclear how much of a public health threat it posed. Some previous variants, like the beta variant, initially concerned scientists but did not spread very far.
Fears of more pandemic-induced economic turmoil caused stocks to tumble in Asia, Europe and the United States. The Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly dropped more than 1,000 points. The S&P 500 index closed down 2.3%, its worst day since February. The price of oil plunged about 13%.
“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said. Members of the 27-nation EU have experienced a massive spike in cases recently.
Britain, EU countries and some others introduced their travel restrictions Friday, some within hours of learning of the variant. Asked why the U.S. was waiting until Monday, Biden said only: “Because that was the recommendation coming from my medical team.”
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said flights will have to “be suspended until we have a clear understanding about the danger posed by this new variant, and travelers returning from this region should respect strict quarantine rules.”
She warned that “mutations could lead to the emergence and spread of even more concerning variants of the virus that could spread worldwide within a few months.”
“It’s a suspicious variant,” said Frank Vandenbroucke, health minister in Belgium, which became the first European Union country to announce a case of the variant. “We don’t know if it’s a very dangerous variant.”
Omicron has yet to be detected in the United States, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert. Although it may be more transmissible and resistant to vaccines than other variants, “we don’t know that for sure right now,” he told CNN.
Speaking to reporters outside a bookstore on Nantucket Island, where he was spending the holiday weekend, Biden said the new variant was “a great concern” that “should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations.”
He called anew for unvaccinated Americans to get their widely available doses and for governments to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines so they can be more rapidly manufactured around the world.
Israel, one of the world’s most vaccinated countries, announced Friday that it also detected its first case of the new variant in a traveler who returned from Malawi. The traveler and two other suspected cases were placed in isolation. Israel said all three were vaccinated, but officials were looking into the travelers’ exact vaccination status.
After a 10-hour overnight trip, passengers aboard KLM Flight 598 from Capetown, South Africa, to Amsterdam were held on the edge of the runway Friday morning at Schiphol airport for four hours pending special testing. Passengers aboard a flight from Johannesburg were also isolated and tested.
“It’s ridiculous. If we didn’t catch the dreaded bug before, we’re catching it now,” said passenger Francesca de’ Medici, a Rome-based art consultant who was on the flight.
Some experts said the variant’s emergence illustrated how rich countries’ hoarding of vaccines threatens to prolong the pandemic.
Fewer than 6% of people in Africa have been fully immunized against COVID-19, and millions of health workers and vulnerable populations have yet to receive a single dose. Those conditions can speed up spread of the virus, offering more opportunities for it to evolve into a dangerous variant.
“This is one of the consequences of the inequity in vaccine rollouts and why the grabbing of surplus vaccines by richer countries will inevitably rebound on us all at some point,” said Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at Britain’s University of Southampton. He urged Group of 20 leaders “to go beyond vague promises and actually deliver on their commitments to share doses.”
The new variant added to investor anxiety that months of progress containing COVID-19 could be reversed.
“Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known,” said Jeffrey Halley of foreign exchange broker Oanda.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discouraged any travel bans on countries that reported the new variant. It said past experience shows that such travel bans have “not yielded a meaningful outcome.”
The U.S. restrictions will apply to visitors from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi. The White House suggested the restrictions will mirror an earlier pandemic policy that banned entry of any foreigners who had traveled over the previous two weeks in the designated regions.
The U.K. banned flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries and announced that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test.
Canada banned the entry of all foreigners who have traveled to southern Africa in the last two weeks.
The Japanese government announced that Japanese nationals traveling from Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Lesotho will have to quarantine at government-dedicated accommodations for 10 days and take three COVID-19 tests during that time. Japan has not yet opened up to foreign nationals. Russia announced travel restrictions effective Sunday.
Woodward reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Lorne Cook in Brussels; Colleen Barry in Milan; Pan Pylas in London; Jamey Keaten in Geneva; Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands; Dave McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany; Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal; Andrew Meldrum in Johannesburg; Frank Jordans in Berlin; and Darlene Superville in Nantucket, Massachusetts, contributed to this report.
Our latest ranking of Top 100 Courses in the World went live last week, and — dagnabbit! — not a single one of those sweet-looking properties offers bookings on GolfNow. Where does that leave us? It leaves us daydreaming about playing courses that are famous for playing hard to get. It also gets us working on a list-within-a-list. Because it’s human nature to crave what you can’t have, we offer you this rundown of the 10 toughest tee times on our roster of Top 100 Courses in the World.
AUGUSTA NATIONAL, Augusta, Ga.
Hello, friends. Please enjoy our broadcast with minimal commercial interruption. Marvel at the blushing colors of magnolias and dogwoods as you soak up the soothing trill of birdsong. By Sunday evening, you’ll swear that you’re familiar with every hill and hollow of Alister MacKenzie’s most famous course, which is nice, because playing it yourself isn’t likely in the cards.
CHICAGO GOLF CLUB, Wheaton, Ill.
One of the five founding members of the United States Golf Association, which was formed in 1894, and the site of the country’s first 18-hole golf course, Chicago Golf sure acts its age. If courses were codgers, this C.B. Macdonald design would be standing on the stoop of its own clubhouse, yelling at the world to get off its grounds.
CYPRESS POINT GOLF CLUB, Monterey, Calif.
“One year they had a big membership drive at Cypress,” Bob Hope once quipped of the club where he belonged. “They drove out 40 members.” What remains today is a roster of 250-some-odd lucky souls who’ve got ready access to a coastal course so scenic that it could be confused for a National Park.
When it opened, in 2001, this Greg Norman-Bob Harrison design had a membership of one: the Australian media mogul Kerry Packer, who commissioned the course on his private estate in a remote swatch of New South Wales, roughly four hours by car from Sydney (as if anyone ever drives here). Packer died in 2005, and still under the direction of the Packer family, Ellerston has meted out a smattering of corporate memberships. Otherwise, access requires an invite from someone in the ownership’s inner circle. Norman was one of Packer’s pals. So, if you’ve got the Shark on speed-dial, now might be the time to ring him up.
FISHERS ISLAND CLUB, Fishers Island, N.Y.
An island in the literal and metaphoric sense, this Seth Raynor design sits in the Atlantic, just off the eastern tip of Long Island, accessible only by boat or private aircraft and well beyond the reach of average blokes. You’ve heard of old money? The dough here is so ancient, you could carbon-date it. But it doesn’t like to call attention to itself. In 1979, when GOLF included Fishers Island on its inaugural ranking of world’s greatest courses, a club representative wrote a letter to the editor: thanks for the kudos, it read, now please remove us from your list.
HIRONO, Kobe, Japan
In a nation rich in custom and formality, Hirono fits right in. As for fitting in non-members, that’s another matter. Unaccompanied play is not allowed. What’s more, despite its top-tier ranking, the intensely private club and its C.H. Alison design have played host to only two events of note: the Japan Amateur and the Japan Open. It’s a short list of people who get to see it, and — in the wake of a recent restoration by Martin Ebert — an ever-swelling group of people who are keen to sneak a peek.
A lot of folks would like to peg it at this glorious heathland layout, some 40 miles north of Paris. Only un peu ever get the chance. Built in 1913 as a private playground for the 12th Duke of Gramont, it remains a hush-hush redoubt for French golf royalty, and others in possession of princely fortunes. Unaccompanied play is as rare as steak tartare, so unless you’re tight with one of the Duke’s descendants, we’re not optimistic you’ll gain access to a club that — speaking of tartare — serves what many say is the finest lunch in the wide world of golf.
THE OLD COURSE AT ST. ANDREWS, Scotland
Yes, there is a ballot. There’s also standby. But unless you’re a local or an R&A member, you’ll likely need assistance from a tour operator to find time on a tee sheet that routinely books out several seasons in advance. Life is filled with ironies, and one of them is this: precisely because anyone and everyone can play the Old Course, it sometimes feels as if no one can.
PINE VALLEY GOLF CLUB, Pine Valley, N.J.
Since everyone is into data nowadays, let’s run some numbers. Pine Valley is the top-ranked course in the world, so pretty much everyone wants to play it. Too bad that the majority of its members don’t live in the area, and unaccompanied guests are not allowed. Add to that the fact that the club doesn’t stage regular fundraisers or corporate outings (a common way to access other premiere private courses) and, well, it’s grade-school math: the odds are hard against you.
SEMINOLE GOLF CLUB, Juno Beach, Fla.
To get a sense of life at Seminole, picture your standard gated Florida golf community, with an ostentatious clubhouse, gaudy-money members and geezers riding carts everywhere you turn. Now envision its opposite. “If I were a young man going on the pro tour, I’d try to make arrangements to get on Seminole” Ben Hogan once said of this Donald Ross design. Sound counsel but not so simple. This is a club that is said to have turned down Jack Nicklaus for membership.
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday advised against travel to Germany and Denmark because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in those countries.
The CDC raised its travel recommendation to “Level Four: Very High” for the two European countries, telling Americans they should avoid travel there.
The CDC separately lowered its COVID-19 travel advisory from Level Four to “Level Three: Low” for Israel, Aruba, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Curacao and Guadeloupe.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese)
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Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A group of international university students arrived in Australia from Singapore on Sunday after nearly a two-year pandemic absence, as a travel bubble between the two countries came into effect.
Fully vaccinated travellers from Singapore are now allowed into Melbourne or Sydney without the need to quarantine – part of Australia’s gradual reopening of its borders that began this month. Australia closed its international borders in March 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia, which represents 39 universities, said the flights from Singapore saw the first international students enter Australia since small numbers returned in November last year.
“We understand these initial numbers are small, but they are a clear signal of the intent to allow many more students to return to classes and our communities soon,” Jackson said.
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There are about 130,000 international students remaining outside Australia, she added.
Before the pandemic, international students made up 21% of Australia’s tertiary education students, compared to 6% on average across countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Australia’s closed borders have also intensified a skills shortage across sectors, forcing firms to start offering sign-on bonuses for the first time in years.
The closed borders, however, together with quick lockdowns, strict health measures and public compliances with the rules, have made Australia one of the most successful countries in managing the pandemic.
Despite the Delta outbreaks that led to months of lockdown in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia has had only about 760 confirmed cases and 7.5 deaths per 100,000 people, according to data from the World Health Organisation, far lower than many other developed nations.
On Sunday, there were 1,460 new infections across Australia, most of them in the state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital. Six more people have died. A cluster in Northern Territories grew to 31 cases after nine infections were reported in some of the Territory’s remote communities.
As of Saturday, 85% of eligible Australians over the age of 16 have been fully vaccinated, health data showed.
There were 149 new community cases reported in nneighbouring New Zealand, which is also learning to live with the coronavirus through high vaccination rates. Some 83% of the Pacific nation’s eligible population have been fully vaccinated.
($1 = 1.3824 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Michael Perry)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.
Transgender Awareness week: Rights, visibility and hate crimes
Transgender Awareness Week is devoted to raising the visibility
of the trans community and addressing issues like military service.
STAFF VIDEO, USA TODAY
Transgender Awareness Week comes around once a year, but all year round, transgender travelers remain all too aware of the challenges of #travelingwhiletrans.
Roughly 1.4 million U.S. adults identify as transgender, according to the latest numbers from the Williams Insititute at UCLA’s School of Law.
While the U.S. recently issued its first gender X passport, many transgender Americans still don’t have identification that reflects their identities, some still face invasive or humiliating screenings at airports, and others are misgendered, harassed or worse.
Whalen describes herself as a transgender advocate, autistic advocate and YouTuber. Haseen describes himself as an openly visible South Asian transgender man and med student. Their responses have been edited for length.
►’The world is yours, too’: ‘Real Queer America’ author Samantha Allen has a message for LGBTQ travelers
►Words matter: LGBTQ definitions every good ally should know
What have your travel experiences been like?
Whalen: First of all, I understand there are a lot of reasons why a lot of transgender people are afraid to travel. That’s why I’ve made videos and tips about it on YouTube. Right now I’m in Guatemala to learn more about my family history … but I was afraid to travel for years … because I didn’t have ID documents, (a) passport that matched my gender, that matched who I am as a transgender woman.
I think it’s really important for trans people to encourage other trans people to travel and kind of be a supportive community because I think there’s a lot of value in traveling the world and learning about other cultures.
When you travel, you realize trans people always existed. … There (are) very thriving trans communities with a long, rich history in many of the places I’ve traveled to, including the Philippines and Thailand. And I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them.
What’s it like connecting with other transgender people when you travel?
Whalen: It’s been fun. It’s inspired me to learn Thai, Vietnamese and Spanish, which I’m working on. But for me, the most valuable thing about meeting trans people in other countries is learning that the gender system we live under in the United States is very artificial, very constructed. Every culture I’ve traveled in understands gender differently.
►This is America: Gender expression in a socially distanced world
Haseen: Whenever I make plans to go to a new city, I always search for other trans and queer (folks) who are living in that city. I generally get a lot of valuable advice on which places are safe and where I can meet other queer people. Meeting with other trans (folks) really makes traveling more magical because I can quickly make friends and be completely myself in a completely new setting. I don’t have to worry about hiding who I am.
What are some positive experiences you’ve had traveling?
Whalen: I think it’s really interesting how other cultures let you kind of self-identify and use the pronouns that work for you and don’t really judge you in a way I think a lot of Americans are like, “Whoa, pronouns. You’re being so politically correct.”
I think the other thing that was really cool was just exploring the really vibrant ways that trans people make communities in other countries, whether it’s through cabaret shows in Thailand or pageants (elsewhere) in Southeast Asia. I got to do the Miss International Queen pageant (as Miss USA), and it really changed my perspective of beauty pageants as a more kind of radical, activist experience that I never expected.
What are some challenges you’ve faced traveling?
Whalen: I still kind of panic a bit sometimes in airports. I’m lucky my gender identification matches. And to be honest, I don’t like this word too much, but I’m generally able to pass. But I have past triggering experiences of being screened and mistreated. But for the most part, I have been navigating and meeting lots of trans folks and an awesome community.
Haseen: Not only am I trans, but I am also a South Asian Muslim transgender man, so I face a lot of intersections of bias when it comes to traveling. Airports have never really been a safe space for me because of TSA (Transportation Security Administration) policies that can make the security check an anxious process.
As a trans man, I always deal with the uncomfortable experience of being patted down and wondering if the TSA agent has figured out that I am trans and whether there would be repercussions if they were to figure it out, especially if I am in another country where being caught … can be very dangerous.
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I still haven’t changed my gender marker on my passport, so I always must be discrete when I present it to security and hope that they don’t notice the big “F” in my sex category heading. So far no one has ever said anything, but it’s a fear that’s always in the back of my mind.
I notice, compared to the rest of my friends who go through the security check-in, that I often get more scrutiny when my bags are being checked. I sometimes wonder if it is because of my dark brown skin or (because) I have a beard. One time a woman who was in the line in front of me was joking with an agent that they wouldn’t find a bomb in her bags, and I remember thinking how the situation would be completely different if I said anything of that sort of joke in an airport.
How important is it to have safe spaces while traveling?
Haseen: Whenever I travel, I usually take a companion with me. It’s to make sure that I am safe and that my companion can advocate for me in case security personnel made it hard for me to stand up for myself if I am being mistreated. Even when I don’t travel with a companion, my dad always watches the security line to make sure that I go past the detectors before going back home when he drops me off. It’s been hard to travel independently because I always have to factor in discomfort, how to navigate around it.
What kind of tips would you give newly transitioning transgender travelers?
Whalen: The National Center for Transgender Equality has a Know Your Rights guide for traveling well trans, which I highly recommend …There’s a LGBTQ (Travel) Safety survival guide by Man About World as well. (Whalen also shares tips on YouTube.)
Do your research beforehand. It’s going to make your experience better in another country if you know about the history and at least the current political situation about LGBT rights.
One of the most rewarding and positive things I’ve done before I travel is I will contact LGBT transgender organizations in the countries before I even arrive. For example, the Asia Pacific Transgender Network has helped me contact trans organizations all across the Asia Pacific region … They are an amazing resource.
There are horror stories about trans people getting really badly harassed, and we need to fix that as activists, but by and large, don’t be scared by those horror stories. Go in knowing your rights.
Haseen: My biggest advice is to never let anything stop you from living your true self. It might mean sacrificing certain places you have wanted to travel to, but many trans people in the world don’t even have the privilege to be themselves. It is our duty to be visible and to fight for the rights of those who cannot.
Always do your research about where you want to go, build a network of trusted colleagues you can be yourself with, keep loved ones informed about where you are periodically. Know the laws about where you are going and how to protect yourself … It is better to be prepared for anything and (know) how to get legal help when you need it.
What would you want other transgender travelers to know?
Whalen: Respect the local culture. Sometimes I’ve read or seen really indignant LGBT travelers that are like … “I’m just treated so badly. They’re a horrible country. They’re a horrible culture.”
Going on YouTube or whatever platform and saying, “I hate X country because X country did this to me” is often very racist, colonialist and hurts LGBT activism in that country by portraying them in a negative light when there are activists actively trying to change that culture for the better. If you’re upset about being mistreated, talk with local activists and see what you can do to support (them).
►Not a ‘two-sides issue’: Transgender people exist. Why is there a debate over whether they should have rights?
Haseen: There will always be trans people and allies wherever we go in the world. There will always be a community for us.
In many non-western nations, trans people are even more accepted than they are here in the States. There are beautiful cultures that embrace gender diversity, and it’s rooted in their history.
Traveling should not be something that’s a fear for us. It is something that we should come to embrace.
What should other travelers to know?
Haseen: If you are traveling with a trans companion, it is important to practice allyship. That comes in the form of protecting their identity and (building) a community of travelers with us. Often, we feel isolated already in our lived experiences so even small acts of kindness and camaraderie while traveling can make a wonderful experience for us. We want to be able to see the wonders of the Earth without bias or judgment and to capture the human experience like everyone else.
What would you change about travel, if you could?
Whalen: I think border crossings and airports are a place of intense personal surveillance. They’re a place of racial profiling. There’s the term flying while Muslim, traveling while trans because many communities – the Black community, the Muslim community, the trans community, pretty much any people of color – are going to be much more heavily profiled at border crossings and at airports and other ports of entry to a country. And that’s just really unfair … We need to end this violence, policing of marginalized folks.
Haseen: Traveling needs to be safer for gender minorities, and there needs to be international laws that protect trans travelers. There are some places in the world that I would love to travel to but will never have the chance because my life would be in danger if I were to travel there.
You could say that I can change my gender marker and try to blend in, but many trans people don’t have the luxury to medically transition and pass as cisgender to the outside world. And even then, we always face the fear of persecution and even death no matter where we go.
Now that coronavirus restrictions around the world are beginning to ease up, it’s time to start thinking about travel again.
On Thursday, National Geographic revealed its annual “Best of the World” list for 2022, showcasing some of the best places to travel in the upcoming year.
The list of 25 global destinations — which include locations such as Procida, Italy, and Caprivi Strip, Namibia — are split into five categories: Culture, Sustainability, Nature, Adventure and Family.
“Travel options kind of vary right now,” George Stone, National Geographic Travel’s executive editor told Fox News. “So we have a whole bunch in North America, some that some people can even drive to. And then we have a handful that are quite far away for some of us, but are closer to our international partners.”
“Things we highlight include new trails, new experiences,” Stone said. “We definitely dig into conservation aspects and sustainability partly, because I think that in this time away from travel, people are reflecting on how they want to be, you know, a more responsible traveler in the future and what that might mean.”
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention, National Geographic’s list features 10 UNESCO-designated destinations including Hokkaido, Japan; Parque Nacional Yasuni, Ecuador; Lake Baikal, Russia; the island country of Palau; and Lycia, Turkey.
The list also features several U.S.-based destinations such as Atlanta, for its strong cultural identity and the Arapahoe Basin, Colorado, for its adventurous mountain trails that are accessible even to “average outdoors people,” Stone told Fox.
“With this time off from travel, people are going to be making much more conscientious choices about where they’re going,” Stone said. “And so we wanted to meet that with specific ideas about what is a unique, revealing and a safe destination for the year ahead.”
For more of National Geographic’s Best of the World list, visit NatGeo.com/BestoftheWorld.