Despite denials by TSA that they deliberately harass and molest young women, celebrities, children, the handicapped and elderly, new document confirm that they also target members of the LGBT community.
A recent reports concluded that TSA specifically targeted Transgender travelers for enhanced scrutiny and molestation.
Transgender travelers singled out in TSA screenings, docs show – May 26, 2014 – By Alissa Bohlin
Department of Homeland Security documents obtained last month reveal details of incidents in which transgender travelers were subjected to heightened scrutiny when passing through airport security checkpoints.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests netted civil rights complaints, incident reports and internal memos and emails from the DHS’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Transportation Security Administration. They show that trans people have been required to undergo pat-down searches by officers of the opposite gender, reveal or remove items such as chest binders and prosthetic penises and defend challenges to their gender identities and their right to opt out of body scans, among other problems.
The body scan machines used at most airports nationwide feature pink and blue start buttons, which activate computer algorithms designed to screen female and male passengers. If a TSA officer presses the wrong button or if a passenger has body characteristics of more than one gender, unexpected body shapes may register as anomalies. These are considered potential threats and prompt an additional screening in the form of a pat-down. At Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in 2012, a trans woman was selected for a secondary screening after the body scanner identified a “groin anomaly.” During the pat-down search, drugs were found in her pocket, and she was arrested.
The screening problems chronicled in the documents confirm concerns long held by transgender people and their supporters, like Portland, Oregon, resident Joy, who asked that her last name be withheld. Last year she took a long-awaited trip to Europe without her partner because he had fears about going through security. “Since he has not had bottom surgery,” she said, “I think the fear was, ‘What’s going to happen when I don’t have all the body parts that they expect?’ I got home, and I thought, he cannot be the only person that is concerned about this.” She co-organized an informational session on trans people and the TSA held in March at the Portland branch of the Q Center, an LGBT organization.
The firsthand accounts in the TSA records include a complaint from a trans passenger who was searched by an officer of the opposite gender at Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport in August 2012; the traveler called the incident “one of the most uncomfortable and terrifying experiences of my life.
At Louisville International Airport in Kentucky the same month, a trans man who wore a brace around his chest missed his flight after being selected for a pat-down screening that the subsequent complaint described as inappropriate and exaggerated. At LAX, also in 2012, another trans man wearing a strap-on was required to remove it and put it through the X-ray machine despite his telling the TSA officer that “this item is as much a part of her [sic] as a prosthetic leg or arm would be to an amputee,” according to an email the officer wrote to the airport’s TSA customer-service manager.
In an incident described by an LAX transportation security manager in a July 2011 memo, another passenger at LAX told the manager she identified as female and “if he [sic] was to be screened by a male he would feel violated.” The manager insisted three times that the passenger’s gender presentation was male; the passenger was ultimately screened by a male.