One of my nicknames in the trans community is the Air Marshal for two reasons. When I first got involved in community activism in 1998 I was working for a major airline. Being based in Texas also meant as an trans advocate I had to hop a plane to get to either coast, Washington DC, the Midwest, the Southeast US, the Rocky Mountain states, the New England states or the Pacific Northwest where many of the trans events and conferences were happening.
And yes, that means because of my heavy travel schedule at times, I have had more than a few opportunities to engage not only with the local TSA officers at Hobby and Intercontinental Airports, but airports throughout the country.
And it never fails that I get a patdown search either at the beginning of my trip, the homeward bound leg of it, or on both legs. It also happens no matter whether I start my trip at Hobby or IAH..
While I have yet to (and hope I never have to) experience the horror of what Shadi Petosky experienced in Orlando last month, I have had more than my share in my travels across this country of patdown searches by female TSA agents, snide comments made by TSA officers running screening machines as I waited to be scanned, and twice being sent to the chemical analyzer for more screening before being sent off to my departure gate.
In the wake of the Petosky mess, a TSA investigation into her allegations was launched, and a federal lawsuit was filed in July over the regulations that govern scanners and patdown searches.
On Thursday, 32 members of Congress sent a letter to TSA Administrator Peter Neffinger to review the TSA protocols and procedures that affect trans travelers.
As much as people hate on the TSA, the reason it exists is because the private security companies that were handling the job at our nation’s airports failed massively on 9-11 and had been failing at doing so for years before that 2001 terror attack.
As a former airline employee and someone who is a frequent air traveler, I support the existence of the TSA and their personnel who are handling their duties with the utmost level of courtesy and professionalism for the flying public.
However, the flying public also includes trans people, and there is room for improvement when it comes to interacting with trans travelers.
Neither should I or any trans person face dehumanization or disrespect when we are simply doing what other cis people are doing and are traveling across the country for business or pleasure.