The latest hubbub about airport security, and why it might not change much for me and other trans/genderqueers

You’ve probably heard about the recent changes to airport security and the outcry from far and wide about privacy and health concerns around the new full body scanners.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you already know about my experiences with Biometric scanners at San Francisco International Airport.  Today has been declared National Opt-Out Day by some.

I don’t have an issue with the scanners, actually.  I don’t fear health consequences, and I don’t feel especially invaded by that technology.  I do believe that if you pack your briefs (as I do) or utilize other prosthetics that present gender markers that contradict your legal gender, you may get some special attention, even if you go through the scanners to avoid it.  In January 2010, I went through the scanner and got pulled aside for a very non-invasive pat-down, eventually having to pull out my packy in order to satisfy the concerns of the TSA agents searching me.  The next few times I traveled, I passed through a metal detector and another full body scanner, but didn’t get additional searching either time.  With the heightened security hype and more invasive protocols we have now, however, I wonder what my next trip through security will be like.   I still have a foreign object in my pants, if it’s tagged as suspicious by the scanner operator, I’ll get pulled aside for an enhanced pat-down.  I’ll get a female agent, since I’m legally female.  She’ll come across my packy in her pat-down and, no doubt, need to know what it is.  Should I ask for privacy or let it all hang out?  Judging by some of the stories that are coming out lately, a lot of people are being exposed in unnecessary ways.  Breast cancer survivors asked to pull out their prosthetic breasts,  colostomy bag wearers exposed and humiliated, it goes on and on.

It will be interesting to watch all of this, to see how loud and widespread the stink gets.  How many airports will follow Orlando Sanford International’s lead and look into alternatives to the TSA to staff their security checkpoints?  Which big name politicians or celebrities will step up and speak out against Homeland Security and TSA and challenge the security benefit of their current policies.  Security theater, anyone?  Groping people, exposing them to humiliation — this does not enhance our security.

During my encounter with the TSA in January, I felt as though I was being treated like a criminal, or at least someone without rights, based on minimal evidence of risk.  The agents didn’t extend common courtesy and barely brought themselves to speak directly to me about the procedure they were taking me through.  Since that time, we’ve made some strides in equality because now everyone has the opportunity to be treated like a potential threat without any real cause.   I do think things will settle down, eventually, but I wonder if the inconveniences will remain for those of us who live outside the norm.

Links of interest:

NCLR press release New TSA Security Procedures Violate Privacy of Transgender Travelers

National Center for Transgender Equality, article for Transgender Travelers and New TSA Policies


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