UPDATE: TSA Investigation of Shadi Petosky Incident at Orlando Airport Continues
Equality Florida Meets With TSA Officials; Calls for Improvement
of Transgender Security Screening Guidelines Following Orlando Incident
Equality Florida’s Transgender Inclusion Director, Gina Duncan, met this week with high-ranking TSA officials to discuss the treatment of transgender travelers. The meeting was called following an incident in which a transgender woman, described demeaning and humiliating treatment by TSA while she tried to go through security at Orlando International Airport. Her tweets describing her ordeal immediately went viral, drawing national attention and outrage and prompting many in the transgender community to recount similar experiences.
Currently, there is great concern from the transgender community about the imaging technology being used to screen travelers. Any physical “anomalies” which show up based on specific male or female profile screenings, trigger a series of additional screening requirements, such as pat downs, and hand chemical trace detection procedures. These extra screenings can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and humiliation of the transgender traveler if not conducted correctly.
As a result of Ms. Petosky’s experience, a renewed national dialogue has emerged where countless transgender travelers have shared their apprehension about the process with many expressing that they now just refuse to fly.
A person’s civil liberties and the right to travel by air should not be restricted by a fear of TSA security screening procedures at airports that “out” and humiliates transgender travelers. Since 2009, national transgender rights organizations like the National Center for Transgender Equality have called for sweeping changes and a complete overhaul of the screening process. (Please see NCTE resource links below.)
Equality Florida joins with the national LGBT advocacy organizations in calling for changes in airport security technology, guidelines and procedures so that transgender travelers will not feel humiliated, marginalized and deprived of their right to travel.
In the meantime, what can be done?
We are encouraged that the TSA has launched an investigation into the Orlando Airport incident and that Jerry Henderson, TSA Federal Security Director for Central Florida was in attendance as an indication that they are taking this issue seriously. TSA leaders also have invited Equality Florida to participate in future LGBT diversity training webinars for their agents and passenger support specialists. Equality Florida will also be working with TSA to improve their TSA Cares program and help develop a Transgender Travelers’ Toolkit.
While the presentation of the TSA Cares program looks to be designed for travelers with a “disability or medical condition,” it can be utilized by transgender travelers to more effectively navigate the security screening process. Travelers can call TSA ahead and be escorted through security by a trained Passenger Support Specialist to minimize stress and potential delays due to inconsistent transgender educated agents and misreadings by current scanner technology. The TSA also offers Pre-Check, a program designed to pre-screen travelers so that the screening process at the terminal is simplified and less invasive.
We have concerns about this program but believe the community should know it exists even as we seek to improve this process.
There is still much work to do. Until all citizens feel comfortable and free to fly without their civil rights being violated, the discussion must continue and changes must be made. In the meantime, know your rights, know the process and know how to navigate TSA security with confidence and with dignity.
- TSA Cares: tsa.gov/news/releases/2011/12/22/tsa-announces-launch-tsa-cares-toll-free-helpline-travelers-disabilities
- TSA Pre-Check: www.tsa.gov