Justice for trans woman’s rough airport experience becomes undone by lack of facts shared on social media

AirportTHE GUERRILLA ANGEL REPORT — This is a tough topic to tackle. What ought to be a no brainer decision for a reporter becomes a moral dilemma because the victim involved also had a hand in the spreading of misinformation on the internet.

Of course, anyone experiencing what appears at first glance to be mistreatment by law enforcement officers may make emotional and not entirely correct statements at first. However, even after the passage of time, the victim in this incident did not disclose facts nor correct errors in her follow-up posts on social media. Nor did she set the record completely straight during or after being interviewed by a LGBT publication. As a result, neither I or other trans advocates can make completely favorable comments on her behalf.

Fortunately for the victim, there was a recourse for her to report her mistreatment and she has stated she has done so. So hopefully this matter comes to a satisfactory conclusion for her.

I’m not using the victim’s name because this story is not about her personally, but rather, focused on the importance of stating only the facts. Simply put: if you don’t know, don’t guess! Us trans people do not need to create our own misinformation and spread it on the internet! We already have our hands full with the misinformation society has regarding us.

As an aside, there are times when one ought to speak to a lawyer before making any public statement, but in this case, the victim went ahead, and continued to make, public statements including talking to the media.

This is a summary of the events that unfolded. The story first broke on social media by a friend of the victim:

“. . . Monday, December 10th, 2012, my good friend [victim] was at [airport of a major U.S. city] on board her flight to [another major U.S. city] when the police boarded the aircraft, handcuffed and arrested her. They held her for a few hours telling her she had no rights and demanded why she was “Transgender”. . . .” (this story was shared on social media at least 50 times, likely in the hundreds.)

There was no mention of which airline, flight number and other key details. Nevertheless, over the next several days I searched the net for additional information, anything that would confirm this story, including the city’s police arrest database which listed people arrested at the airport. Her name was never on the list each time I checked it.

As we eventually found out, she was never arrested, nor did that city’s police officers board the aircraft or handcuffed her in the aircraft.

Later, the victim posted this on her social media page that began with [this post has since been deleted from her social media page and I thus cannot confirm the date]:

“Arrested in [city] . . .”

Again, this turned out to be a false statement, this time stated by the victim.

Meanwhile on social media, people shredded that city’s police department, the TSA, airport authorities — which ever law enforcement agency happened to be the favored target of that particular thread. Again, we did not know at the time which, if any, of these authorities “arrested” her.

Likewise, people unloaded on Delta, Southwest Airlines, a number of smaller regional carriers that partners with the major airlines. Which one was the actual airline, if any of these, at all? We don’t know. We still don’t know.

On Dec 12th, another post from the victim on her social media page:

“. . . . This is going to be an overwhelming day . . . contacting lawyers and commissions, the news media, and in general just keeping it all together. . . . This arrest in [city] . . .”

She again repeats her earlier false statement, but mentions she’ll be talking to the media, but does not mention which airline nor correct any of the misinformation being posted on social media.

On Dec. 13th, a story came out in a LGBT publication and this is the gist of the whole incident:

“Shortly after she boarded the plane, [victim] said a flight attendant walked her off the plane to a group of [city] police officers, who handcuffed her and detained her for public drunkenness for two hours.”

It was the, still unnamed, airline that removed her off plane. Not the city police, nor the TSA or airport authorities. She wasn’t handcuffed on the plane either.

Later in the article, there is a quote from a detective with the city police:

“If a pilot feels there’s a safety issue with a person on a plane, that person is removed. . . .”


Well, there you have it. Did the airline go overboard here? Perhaps. Did we go into a gossip feeding frenzy spreading misinformation on the internet? Certainly.


A sampling of literally thousands of comments posted on social media:

Sue the police and TSA and the airline and the airport authority.

That is total BS!! The TSA is a joke.

I won’t fly as long as the TSA has the power they do. They are simply thugs

 the TSA and gestapo-like tactics

Southwest Airlines

I thought I had read it was a Delta flight.

That’s why I never fly Southworst!!!!

It was Delta Connection.

chances are it was Southwest Airlines

It was Express Jet Airlines



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Categories: Transgender, Transsexual, Trans

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16 replies

  1. When I first read about this incident I thought it might be, at the least, exaggerated. It seemed unlikely that events unfolded as posted as stated.

  2. as i said when it happened “if” this happened like was said it was so wrong but something didnt seem right….something didnt add up and I asked “what was missing?”….I have flown and never experienced anything like this….TSA was courteous to a fault and i was not subjected to anything that all the other passengers were not also subjected to (checking bags …..metal detectors etc)…..since i am diabetic i even had needles in my bag along with a dr’s note explaining why….everything went as smooth as it could be…..I am sure there are sisters that do run into things that arent as they should be but hopefully that will become less and less as the general population becomes more educated and less fearful.

  3. Good call, Lexie. We always need to speak up and report mistreatment, however; this ‘victim’ has been guilty of hyperbole, if not misinformation. It’s looking more & more like an exaggerated incident and a ploy for publicity. Which, if that turns out to be the reality – will make our whole community look bad! This is sad; there is so much violence against us, and bigotry – we don’t need to ‘cry wolf’ and reinforce the view of ‘some’ media that we are some kind of joke.

  4. Given that the TSA has gone to the point that they have a specific web page for transgendered travelers, this story should have failed the sniff test immediately. (See: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/transgender-travelers ) We all know that we can’t trust everything we read on the internet and should always question. I have traveled so many times without incident. There could always be a rouge agent but this was beyond that.

  5. We all have enough trouble without making stories up.
    Thanks for clearing this up Lexie and putting the story into the right perspective.

  6. Thanks for the comments all! 🙂

  7. You state the Dec 13 article mentions the incident was the result of public drunkenness”. In that case may I suggest it wouldn’t matter if she was trans, gay, lesbian or just a garden variety drunk – she would have still been removed from the aircraft for the safety of the other passengers.

  8. Thank you for the update, Lexie. As a trans woman who has flown extensively, I was amazed at the castigation loaded onto the TSA; so much so that I posted a note elsewhere, for folks to go to the TSA.gov website. There, they have a page dedicated to the “Transgender Traveler”, that is filled with information regarding safety and respectful treatment of trans folks while travelling via the airlines.
    As another note, having trained as a pilot myself, the flight crews will remove ANYONE they deem a threat or nuisance to the safety of the flight and the other passengers. And yes, on an aircraft, the Pilot in Command is the final authority in that regard.

  9. im impressed! thank you for presenting the facts. you won me over as a reader.


  1. Transgender travelers vs the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) « The Guerrilla Angel Report by Lexie Cannes
  2. Tis the Season of Traveling While Trans: A Few Suggestions and a Vital Resource You Print Out and Carry With You « Women Born Transsexual

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