Lawmaker Wants Special Airport Screening Rules for Transgender Travelers

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 12:07 pm, December 7, 2016

A New York congresswoman has introduced legislation to change the way the Transportation Security Administration screens transgender airline passengers.

The “Screening with Dignity Act” would also require the TSA to conduct a study assessing “the disparate impact” of airport security body scanners “on self-identified transgender passengers as opposed to the general population of passengers.”

The bill was introduced on Dec. 1, and it has been referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security. By deadline, Rep. Kathleen Rice, the bill’s sponsor, did not respond to Heat Street’s request for comment.

In 2015, a group of 32 lawmakers sent a letter to the TSA administrator calling attention to how transgender passengers may face “humiliation or degradation at security checkpoints.”

For instance, they noted that before a passenger enters the full-body scanner, security officers must push a button designating them as male or female—a system the lawmakers said relies on “making often-subjective decisions about an individual’s gender identity.”

Since then, the TSA has met with several LGBT organizations and transgender activists, consulting and adapting their screening processes to accommodate transgender passengers.

Since 2014, 500 TSA officers have attended cultural awareness and sensitivity trainings. And the TSA has been working with transgender advocates to create webinars for current employees. Beginning in 2017, the training for all new hires will include a “Transgender 101” session.

The TSA recently sent out a guidance to employees on “best practices for use in the checkpoint to positively engage members of the transgender community,” focusing especially on how to handle chest binders or prosthetics during security screening.

The TSA has also changed the language it uses when such transgender apparel raises a flag during a body scan. Where it used to call those incidents “anomalies,” it now says that an “alarm” has been raised.

Transgender passengers uncomfortable with a body scan can instead get a pat-down from an officer “of the same gender as you present yourself,” a TSA spokesman said; transgender passengers can also ask for a witness or companion to accompany them to a private screening area during the pat-down.

Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.

 

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