Way back in January, I posted about the new airport scanners, following a discussion I engaged in on another site:
Without being sarcastic, some of us are concerned about having their small penis put up for display. This will inevitably be TMI, but I know I’m not the only trans woman who reads Slashdot, and presenting and being perceived as a woman but smuggling a dick through security runs the risk of harassment (if you’re lucky) and arrest/sexual assault/murder (if you’re not).
I’m all for safe air travel, but I can see a million ways to abuse this technology, and use it to harass and humiliate people who aren’t terrorists for every one way it can be used to “fight terrorism.”
Well, airport scanners have been in the news a lot this past week. Bruce Schneier has a good rundown of everything that’s been going on. But, in short, there has been some major backlash against scanners that are able to take and store effectively naked images of all passengers.
From a livejournal post:
It is no accident that women have been complaining about being pulled out of line because of their big breasts, having their bodies commented on by TSA officials, and getting inappropriate touching when selected for pat-downs for nearly 10 years now, but just this week it went viral. It is no accident that CAIR identified Islamic head scarves (hijab) as an automatic trigger for extra screenings in January, but just this week it went viral. What was different?Suddenly an able-bodied cisgender white man is the one who was complaining. (Emphasis in the original)
An interesting segue into my own take on the issue, Schneier quotes that same section on his blog, but leaves out the word “cisgender.” Which is ridiculous, because this is an issue that effects trans and gender-nonconforming people more than any other population!
(There’s a note at the bottom of the livejournal post, saying “cisgender” was unintentionally left out, so it’s possible Schneier copied the quote before it was put back in.)
Since beginning my public transition, flying has made me nervous. Way back in July of last year, I posted about my worries concerning an upcoming flight. That one was particularly nerve-wracking, since it took place a few weeks before I legally changed my name and documentation; I was flying under a name and license that said ‘male,’ but trying to hide my breasts under baggy clothing. Now, the reverse is true: I have a proper ID and name documentation (though still haven’t gotten a new passport, more out of laziness and cheapness than anything else) but I’m terrified about the idea of having my genitals show up on these new backscanner imaging devices. As I said in January, being laughed at is the least of my concerns, and being harassed, detained, or sexually assaulted aren’t out of the realm of possibility.
As such, I feel cut off from some of my family, as well as any thoughts of having The Surgery. Most of my friends are in Chicago (where I live) or Minneapolis or the east coast (pretty drivable or bus-able), but I have family in western Colorado and in San Francisco, and I have no desire to drive to either of those destinations. (Or money to afford a train ticket, which is what I’d really like to do.) For my entire life, flying has been an affordable if cramped way of getting from point A to point B quickly and cheaply – I’ve flown around the US, to Canada, and to Europe.
Now, without even having any particular plans to travel in the near future, I feel trapped and unable to fly.
But at least I can be reassured that the policy of either submitting to the scanner or going through the “enhanced pat-down procedure” is being applied inconsistently:
When we got to the scanner, I opted out. Then [the family behind me] opted out. She’d already convinced the family behind them to do the same. Her response to the TSA agent was awesome, I wish I’d thought of it:
“Ma’am, please step over here.”
“No thanks, I’ve already had cancer, just feel me up or whatever.”
After the first 4 “OPT-OUT” calls, they just passed us all through the regular metal detector. No one got groped.
So if it’s inconvenient, the TSA has the authority to ignore these new “security” regulations. Awesome! I feel so much safer!
The ACLU has a page where you can email your congresscritters, so please take a moment to do so.