I’m taking the train!

Cross posted at Fukshot

Marlene says:

The TSA has implemented new screening procedures for airline passengers. Passengers who “opt-out” of full body scans are subject to an “enhanced patdown”. I have read accounts of these procedures that sent me in to a full-blown triggered tailspin this afternoon. I will not fly. My risk of violent death as a result of being outed as trans by a TSA officer might be greater than the risk of having my plane blown up would be if there was no screening whatsoever. There is nowhere I need to fly to so badly that I will allow a stranger to grope my genitals or see me naked.

There is also concern about the safety of the scanning machines. I’m not quite clear enough on the science, but major pilots’ unions are advising their members to endure the “enhanced” groping rather than undergo frequent x-ray back scatter scans.

I’m not surprised that the coverage of this issue has not discussed trans people. I am, however, pleased to see that much of it has centered the concerns of sexual assault survivors. There has also been a good deal of discussion involving concerns over children’s experience of genital touching by a stranger, even if that stranger is paid by the federal government to wear a blue polyester blazer.

For those of you who might be planning a flight this thanksgiving, November 24 has been declared National Opt-Out Day. As a protest of the current procedures, travelers are encouraged to opt-out of the body image scan, forcing the TSA to administer an unanticipated level of patdowns on the heaviest travel day of the year. I encourage anyone who can stomach the invasive groping to do so. It seems to me that this is potentially the most effective protest. If you do experience the patdown, and you find it in any way problematic, please report the incident to the TSA as well as completing this form for the ACLU, who is gathering data on the problem. I would like to warn that the gender marker options on the ACLU form are problematic. (male, female, transgendered; only possible to choose one; while many people are, I and many other trans folks do not consider ourselves a third gender)

I am now sure (it was up in the air) that I will not be attending a conference in New York this spring. I will also not be going to Paris.

11 thoughts on “I’m taking the train!

  1. The transphobia that can be unleashed is indeed frightening. FTMs who haven’t done bottom surgery are also likely to be vulnerable.

    Moreover, we already know we can’t rely on TSA workers to take ordinary physical variations in a mature manner. There has already been workplace violence over the full-body scans. After enduring a full year of jokes and taunts about his penis size, which had been revealed by a full-body scan, a TSA worker beat up a teasing co-worker. Even the written news stories were generally in a lewd nudge-nudge-wink-wink tone, too. Imagine how the shock jocks would handle an unpleasant incident with a transsexual person.

    Thanks for the post. It’s not good news unless (like me) you’re glad of an ironclad excuse to skip visits to distant relatives.

  2. The continuing escalation of security theater (thanks for the term, Bruce Schneier) leaves me glad I don’t have the financial resources to fly as much as I did 5-10 years ago. Even then, it was getting bad. Now it’s appalling.

    I’ve been through the body image scan once. For me, the most troublesome part was that they made me stand in a way that I couldn’t see my personal belongings waiting for me on the end of the conveyor belt. That’s not okay. Thefts happen, even in that supposedly-controlled area.

    Even though the person seeing the scan is in another room, we’ve already seen the sort of harassment that can come of it. There are also way too many issues for people across the full spectrum of body types and past experiences. Saying “some machines emit no radiation” is hardly reassuring. Saying there’s no health risk strikes me as foolhardy at best, but then I know a baggage handler who had his stomach removed after he and the majority of his coworkers developed cancer and the baggage scanner they were using was shown to be emitting far more radiation than it was supposed to.

    I’ve also had a handful of the pre-November 1st pat-downs. They’ve been getting steadily more intrusive, and the descriptions of the “enhanced” pat-downs show they’re even more problematic.

    When it comes to public vs. private pat-downs at airports, I’ll take public any day. You think I’m going to voluntarily go into a PRIVATE space with a stranger I know is going to grope me? No way. If an authority figure is going to be touching my breasts or any other part of my body, they can damned well do it where there are witnesses, where I have some illusion of safety vs. in a private room, where I have none.

    “Sense of safety” is a personal measure, a personal standard. The very public forum that I find safer than a private room is the opposite to someone else. Giving everyone passing through security points choices helps make the process more tolerable on an individual level, but when all of the choices are unacceptable, there isn’t any tolerance left.

    I’m sorry this latest escalation in security theater means you won’t be at the New York conference in the spring, and that Paris is off the table, too. On a national level, I hope we are able to restore sanity to the point where our security processes are real, effective, and supportive of the individual rights and freedoms that are the hallmark of our country.

  3. What is even more amazing is how most Americans, it seems, thinks these scans are good things. The level of paranoia about terrorism has reached the stage of mass hysteria as well as psychosis. Are those who refuse to put up with this idiocy the only sane people left in this country?

  4. The TSA has lost control. WE can’t believe it’s come to this in the usa. Occurrences regarding TSA agents behaving like Nazi’s and embarking on petty power trips to frighten average folks have exploded completely of control and it has got to end right now. Even disregarding the primary issues of major trampling of constitutional protections and decency, in truth that the large number of men and women have merely declined to travel to The united states anymore

  5. I am facing the probability of flying a bunch this coming year..the last time I was in the air was 1991.I am transgender FTM, but no surgery and no testosterone…and still get called “Sir” about 3-4 times a week. I also have abuse issues. And I do not have a choice on the train or driving, as I am in graduate school and will be trying to get from the deep South to the Pacific Midwest and back without disrupting my class schedule. I honest to God don’t know what I am going to do. From some standpoints, since my birth sex and my drivers license still match at this point in time, the scan might be less problematical…and I still don’t like it. The idea of being groped I like far, far less. My very loving, activist aware supportive partner for once and in a very rare moment of “no clue” hasn’t caught on to the invasiveness of the situation yet and I haven’t found a way to broach the subject that gets it across. Its a *head-desk-thud-repeat* situation that feels like an (pardon the slight pun) on-coming train. Glad to read your post, If nothing else, it affirms that I am not over-reacting or being a twit.

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