Airport Security and Gender Deviance.. different people, different approaches

Folks who’ve been reading this blog for a while know my story about getting special attention from TSA due to my packy being seen — and not understood — by a full-body scanner.  This was before the latest rash of security hysteria and increased use of those scanners in airports around the country.  As I discussed in another post, even if the current stupidity with invasive pat-d0wns and searches settles down, gender variant folks (trans, genderqueer, etc.) will continue to deal with misunderstandings, bigotry and good-old-fashioned ignorance for some time.

In Ivan Coyote’s latest column, Flying While Butch, she tells her story of being questioned about her packy while going through airport security.  Ivan already gets questioned about her apparent gender not matching that on her identification.  She worries about getting too much attention from Homeland Security and having her travel options curtailed.  With that in mind, it’s understandable that she passes on this advice to fellow gender variant travelers:

Rule number one is pack your unattached dick or your breasts, of all sorts. And by pack I mean in your suitcase, not on your person.

If at all possible, put them in your checked bag. This does not mean that some creepy bastard isn’t going to manhandle them, but it does lessen the chances that you’ll be standing in front of them when it happens.

I know this is fucked up, and for many of us it can be extremely uncomfortable to appear in public missing a part of our selves, but I think for me this is safer.


I understand why Ivan gives this advice, it makes sense for her situation and might make sense for others as well.  However, I’d like to make this pitch to my gender variant tribemates:  don’t hide.  If you can stand the risk of getting extra attention, if you can allow for the possibility of taking more time through security, please do so.  Please consider being a visible reminder that everyone doesn’t fit into nice neat little boxes that are easily defined.

I’ve gone through scanners twice in the past year, wearing my packy both times.  I’m 50/50 on getting a special pat down as a result.  The second time, I got no special attention at all.  So yeah, it’s a gamble.  Sometimes we get special attention, sometimes a whole lot of nothing.

Why do I want you to consider packing through security, even if it might get you challenged, harassed, searched and humiliated?  Because the idea of hiding who I am, just to make the rest of the world comfortable, curdles my insides, and I don’t think I’m alone in that reaction.  Sure, “me being me” is more than uncomfortable to some people — it’s threatening, it’s confusing, it doesn’t compute.  Fuck them.  I do not exist to make other people comfortable and secure in their little bubble of conformity.

So, yes, I’m asking you to put yourself out there and potentially get shit from a group of bullies in uniform.  But only if you can, and if you can’t, you can’t.   We’ve each got to make that call for yourself.

I read through the comments Ivan got on that column, most were supportive and positive but a couple were not, which reminded me of the crap I attracted when I posted my story earlier this year.  I guess that’s the risk any of us take in telling our true stories, but I doubt that will stop Ivan, and I know it hasn’t stopped me.  Our stories and the results of our actions will last long past our physical lives.  Let’s make those stories something to remember, eh?

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3 Responses to Airport Security and Gender Deviance.. different people, different approaches

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