Transgender travelers vs the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

tsa290THE GUERRILLA ANGEL REPORT — There’s no doubt the TSA has been the ire of plane travelers in the United States, especially transgender ones. In the early days of the program, trans people were getting “outed” unintentionally (perhaps sometimes even deliberately). Then, contact with the TSA proved to be intrusive and embarrassing. Understandably, many choose not to fly for that reason alone.

The program has been around for a while now, so certainly some progress has been made, not just for trans people, but for the entire flying public. However, in a recent matter not directly related to the TSA, trans people still had harsh words for the TSA.  Here are a few juicy choices:

“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”

(You can read the story behind that here:

This had me thinking about the TSA . . . are they really still as bad as trans passengers making them out to be? An answer came in the form of a comment made by a reader of my article who pointed out that the TSA is actually concerned about transgender passengers to the point that they have a specific web page for us:

Indeed, the very first thing you see is this:

“TSA recognizes the concerns members of the transgender community may have with undergoing the security screening process at our Nation’s airports and is committed to conducting screening in a dignified and respectful manner.”

The webpage contains travel tips and explains the screening process for trans people. But most importantly, I thought, was this section:

“Reporting Travel Issues or Concerns

Travelers who believe they have experienced unprofessional conduct at a security checkpoint are encouraged to request a supervisor at the checkpoint to discuss the matter immediately or to submit a concern to TSA’s Contact Center at:

Travelers who believe they have experienced discriminatory conduct because of a protected basis may file a concern with TSA’s Office of Civil Rights & Liberties, Ombudsman and Traveler Engagement. Travelers may also file discrimination concerns with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.”

Yes, that’s correct, the TSA suggests you ask for a supervisor immediately at the checkpoint if there is a problem.

No, I’m not going to say the system is perfect, but I’m arguing headway has been made and means are available for transgender people to help improve the system.

I’m also suggesting that comments about the TSA on the internet may not reflect how things really are.

If you’re going to fly, I’d suggest printing out the webpage and carrying it with you. If you get a rogue agent, ask for a supervisor and show them the flyer.

Feel free to post your own recent experience(s) with the TSA in the comments section below.

Transgender Travelers | Transportation Security Administration.

Thanks to Leann Lapine, Judith Frances.



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Categories: Policy, Administrative, Transgender, Transsexual, Trans

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12 replies

  1. Very, very valid concerns. Last January, I flew for the first time since transitioning, and was so incredibly nervous I felt ill. In both Sea-Tac and the tiny regional airport in Laramie, Wyoming, I was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and courtesy. I am M2F, and at both locations as I approached the screeners, male agents stepped aside and motioned for female agents to handle my screening. It was a very reassuring experience for me.

    I am contemplating another trip by air soon, and am again incredibly nervous, because I know I can’t count on that one positive experience being repeated.

    Just thought I’d chime in. Thanks for the post!

  2. I just made it into Bangkok a few hours ago and had zero issues with the TSA. They were nice, friendly, and made good natured jokes about the contents of my bags. 🙂 Dealt with them in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

  3. Thanks, Lexie for the details about contacting TSA if a problem and all the protective measures they have in place. I have only flown once since transition. I was apprehensive to say the least, but had no problems. I think sometimes, if one looks for trouble, that’s what you’ll get. Being confident and pleasant goes along way to gaining someone’s respect!

  4. hmmm… I know those quotes. I made one of them myself. And I stand by my words. I don’t trust them and unless I really really have to fly out of country I will drive to my destinations. It seems to be cheaper to do these days anyway 😛

  5. I have traveled around the world and never encountered any problems and I am usually an individual that picks up all kinds of problems.

  6. I’ve been through the TSA scanners about half a dozen times while being a full-time, pre-op trans woman, and only once have had any issue. That was with a TSA agent in the Dulles Airport in DC giving me this evil smirk after the scan revealed my medical realities, and he left me with a “Have a nice day, /sir/.”

    I opted to just walk away, but it really ruined my day.

    All the other times they’ve been respectful, even when discovering that I’m not entirely factory standard.

    I really, deeply won’t miss the TSA asshole lottery when traveling after my surgery.

  7. I was a frequent flyer through SFO when I was Pre-op. I always refused to go through the body scanner opting for the pat down. As I always flew out of the USA on a Friday night, I always got the same female TSO officer for the touchy feely exercise. All I can say is she was very professional and pleasant and we chatted away like old friends.

  8. I will never go through one of those x-ray machines, which have recently been shown to cause health problems. Even if they didn’t, giving the TSA my biometric data, down to the point of nudity, goes against every fiber of personal conscience and dignity I hold. Making the “process” easier for them is not something we should do. These security theater thugs are not our friends. They are not screening us for our own safety, but to condition us and control us. The TSA do not deserve our thank yous for their participation in the erosion of liberty. They do not deserve our fear. They deserve our contempt and resistance. Period.

  9. Never had a problem. I’ve been patted down sometimes, but always by the same gender as I present as with not a single comment or rolled eyeball that I was anything other than what I’ve seemed. And I always carry a TSA printout with me every step of the way.

  10. Thanks for the comments everyone!

  11. I recently flew from the UK to Denver Colorado, and as an MtF
    Woman expected to have some problems.
    I was surprised how countlessly I was treated both in entering the USA and leaving through San Francisco Airport.
    A very positive and affirming experience for me


  1. Transgender embarrassment at airports to end — TSA to yank nude body scanners « The Guerrilla Angel Report by Lexie Cannes

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