When the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced a recent shift toward a more aggressive and uniform policy on pat-downs at airport checkpoints, transgender people had special reason to be wary.
Transgender passengers have used social media to document humiliating and sometimes hostile experiences at airport checkpoints in recent years. Given the apparent change on transgender policies already signaled by the Trump administration, some LGBT advocates are worried, reports the Washington Post.
“Every time transgender people navigate airport security they risk being demeaned and humiliated. While the Transportation Security Administration has taken steps to better protect the privacy of transgender passengers, there is a long way to go,” David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said in a written statement. “More invasive pat downs are a dangerous step in the wrong direction.”
Hailey Melville, 25, a transgender student at Northwestern University’s graduate school of journalism, said in an interview this week that she welcomed the TSA’s stated efforts to treat transgender people with sensitivity. But she said many of the problems she’s encountered start with TSA body-scanning devices that operate differently depending on the gender of the person being screened.
TSA checkpoint personnel must press a button on the advanced imaging technology (AIT) machines to designate gender based on the way passengers present themselves. The machine’s software scans male and female bodies differently and will trigger an alert over any anomaly. That means additional screening, often including a pat-down.
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Melville has asked the security officers to set the machine to the male setting and been refused because of her appearance. But when the machine operates on the female setting, it sets off an alarm that requires her to submit to a pat-down. She said she has tried alerting TSA personnel that she’s transgender but is often ignored, despite the TSA’s stated policies. The Advocate magazine wrote last year that the TSA’s policy on using body scanners would likely cause transgender and gender-nonconforming people to be regularly subjected to intrusive examinations.