Flying While Trans

Butterfly WomanIt’s been far too long. Admin stuff aside first, I’m going to have to find a better day of the week to do posts and the like than Fridays, as I’m usually working on the weekends. Maybe Tuesday or Wednesday, as I typically have one of those days off. Either way, I’ll figure it out. On that note, there will probably be no post next week either. I’m going to be spending the latter half of the week on a business trip, and as my laptop is permanently dead, I’m using a desktop to make all my posts. Won’t be bringing it with me. Business trips however bring me to today’s topic of discussion.

If you’ve gone through the news lately, you’ve possibly seen this story about the former Navy SEAL being embarassed by the TSA during her flight screening because she’s trans. Sadly, while this event is new, it’s an old story. More specifically, trans people being harassed by the TSA (or airport security in other countries) simply because we’re trans.

Take for example the most recent changes in TSA policy regarding transgender passengers, implemented back in December. In a move to address the issue with the full body scanners where someone would have something that doesn’t match the gender they’re perceived as, the TSA changed their policy so that such instances (such as someone who presents outwardly as a woman but has a penis) would no longer be classified as “anomalies.” However, the wording they chose for the new classification, “alarm,” is actually sounding like a downgrade. And this became enough of an issue that five months later, it was being called out by the National LGBTQ Task Force, as seen here.

Now, a look at the current informational page for transgender passengers on the TSA’s site says that: “Advanced imaging technology uses automated target recognition software that eliminates passenger-specific images and instead auto-detects potential threats by indicating their location on a generic outline of a person. The generic outline is identical for all passengers.” Sounds like an improvement, right? Well, first off, just as with the move to the full body scanners in the first place, not every airport uses these new, generic figure ones. Second, that still raises the question of what’s going to happen to a passenger who has both breasts and a penis. Are they going to show up as a “potential threat” due to this?

And on top of that is the simple factor of existing prejudices with the TSA. We already know that they racially profile those they select for screenings, to the point that some are even being ordered to do so, as with this story from earlier this year. In fact, they have an entire system, called SPOT, where they add or deduct points based on certain things that happen while you’re in line. Yawn too much? Add a point. Fidget a lot? Add a point. Have a cold, hard stare at the frustration of it all? That’s two points. But if you look like a woman of 55+ years of age, that removes a point. It lends itself to profiling minorities, as was addressed both here and also here.

So how well does it work? Well, according to those links, only about 1% of people they pull aside as possible terror suspects is actually detained, and usually for something unrelated, like an undeclared item, refusing to dispose of their drink, or having drugs in their possession. But hey, a little hassle is acceptable as long as it keeps us safe, right? Wrong. Early to mid last year, the TSA was subjected to several tests by professional screeners to determine where their weaknesses in security lay. And boy were there a lot of weaknesses. In fact, their security was so lax that they missed 95% of banned items and possible threats, including one instance where they patted down the suspicious person who had set off the alarm, but failed to find the mock explosive strapped to his back.

So they improved, right? Still wrong. In September, just a few months later, they were tested again, across the country, with results being horrible across the country. So not only are we being inconvenienced at the airport, with minorities (be they racial minorities, transgender, or other) facing the brunt of this humiliating experience, but we’re not even any safer because of it.

There’s a rather famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin. “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” And while the initial context of the quote was literally about spending money to pay for defense during the French and Indian War, specifically in regards to taxation, it has been used a lot in the modern times to talk about too much government oversight, or about issues such as the Patriot Act’s allowance of tapping of civilian phone lines. Whatever version of this iconic quote you adhere to (because many conservatives use the original context as a way of decrying those liberals who use it in the modern context), what we have with the TSA is a situation where we are sacrificing liberty (and tax money) to an organization that only provides the illusion of security, while failing to provide any actual security or safety. As such, the TSA either needs to up their game, a lot, as well as stop profiling minorities, or they need to be done away with.

The simple fact of the matter is that another attack like 9/11 is highly, HIGHLY unlikely to happen again, and not because of the TSA, but because of the simple nature of terror tactics. They will find ways to cause destruction, such as with the recent explosions in New York and New Jersey. The goal isn’t even to cause death (though that’s an added bonus to them), but to spread fear. They want us reacting in terror to these attacks. Something which, at least with New Yorkers it seems, failed. The rest of the country is up in arms over this, while New Yorkers seem more annoyed and inconvenienced than anything. They have the right attitude. Don’t give in to terrorists, and you won’t create situations that allow for minority groups to be targeted.

Think I’m making that last bit up? Hitler rose to power based on fear and anger. Trump is doing as well as he is based on fear and anger. Many other powerful and terrible men throughout history have gained power through the fear and anger of their people, all directed at some minority group. Jews. Muslims. Gays. The Japanese. Fear is a powerful tool, if we let the terrorists use it. If we don’t, then they have no power over us. We can make a better place and a better world, and do away with issues like we have with the TSA< the Patriot Act, and more.


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