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Challenges of Flying as a Transgender

A recent review on all publicly available data regarding complaints filed against TSA found that 5% of the complaints filed with the TSA between January 2016 and April 2019 are from trans people and gender non-conforming individuals, despite that they add up to less than 1% of the population

The airport security comprises scrutiny on luggage, body, and person identification of all the travelers. A deep focus on people’s image, what they are carrying, and the person’s resemblance compared to their identification can be overwhelming to some people. This kind of invasive scrutiny has a negative impact on trans gender people, especially transpersons that belong to groups under suspicion as security threats in the airports, for example, South Asian and Middle Eastern trans persons. Here we look at the challenges of flying as a transgender person.

The differences between the physical appearance and what is on the identity documents may lead to harassment of this minority group.

Having to prepare for the possibility of harassment and discrimination due to gender identity confusion is a stressful procedure for lots of trans people before they head to the airport. However, trans people can mostly go through security check-ups without any incident.

Regardless, it’s always better to know how to minimize potential incidents and how to respond if there will be any at the airport.

Flying as a Transgender or Gender Non-conforming

A recent review on all publicly available data regarding complaints filed against TSA found that 5% of the complaints filed with the TSA between January 2016 and April 2019 are from trans people and gender non-conforming individuals, despite that they add up to less than 1% of the population. And remember, there could be unreported cases.

The TSA body scanners used in quality security procedures in airports are not designed for persons with gender-normative bodies. TSA agents just hit a blue or pink button before individual steps into the machine. If there is a vagina where there should be a penis, the alarm goes off.

Recently, TSA agents were required to undergo training on how to deal with trans people passengers. However, there are not enough resources. The training consists of a 30 minutes online program, and the level of turnover in the TSA is huge, with about a 17% attrition rate.

Things That Can Make You Feel At Ease

If you are a frequent traveler, consider getting TSA PreCheck.The line for scrutiny will be shorter, which will allow you more time with any issue that may arise. According to the TSA website, you will have a quick screening process and the comfort of not removing your shoes.

However, it will cost you some dollars. For a 5-year membership, you will pay $85. If you can not afford this for any reason, there is always a way to ease the anxiety.

For less frequent travelers, it’s advisable to be sure that you are packing the right things in the right way for the trip. Be sure you know what you can bring along and what you can’t. Be in comfortable shoes and double-check the items you are not sure of. If you are on medication that requires the usage of syringes, such as testosterone, ensure that you have the prescription on hand for proof in case the syringes are flagged.

For those who use binders or any other enhancing garment, there is always a possibility that it will set off the machine. If it happens, do not panic; respond calmly and straightforwardly. For instance, if you are wearing a binder and the machine goes off, step aside and explain what it is and the reason for having it.

Preparing yourself for any incident can ease the tensions of flying. Having a straight and confident answer prevents further interrogation that can lead to cases of harassment and discrimination. If the TSA agent insists on you stepping aside, providing reasonable and honest answers may help you file for a complaint later.

How a Cisgender Can Be Helpful When Travelling With a Trans Person

If you are a cisgender traveling with your trans friend, you should be aware that they face challenges that you can’t deal with or you may never think of. Before you book the flight, you should discuss using airlines with a good reputation in dealing with LGBTQ+ issues.

Ask if they would like you to intervene in case of an incident. If possible, go through security together. When they ask for your help, do not be hesitant. Advocate on their behalf if there is a chance to do so, although sometimes there is nothing much you can do since people are taken to separate rooms in case of security issues. Knowing they have a friend waiting nearby can be a little comforting.

Flying as a Transgender – What Should You Do in Case of an Incident?

Whether it’s you or your friend who has been caught in an unsafe incident, you must know your rights. The National Center for Transgender Equality will guide you on filing a complaint in case of discrimination and harassment. You can even file a report from your phone using the FlyRights app.

The challenges faced by transgender people while flying are only signs of a larger problem. There is not much acceptance and equality for this group despite them being members of the community. Lack of awareness concerning gender identities is a massive issue.

Although there are some adjustments in travel rules to include the trans people community in some travel companies, there is still much to be done.

For example, the TSA body scanners are designed in a binary manner that makes it a challenge for trans people. Fortunately, people are working on improving this area to make things easy for trans people.

In the meantime, ensure that you follow procedures that can ease your travel experience, and don’t forget to be or to ensure the safety of your loved ones.

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Samuel Njoroge

MODEL: Samuel Njoroge

Samuel (he/him) is a freelance writer, blogger, copywriter, and marketer. And a career spanning three years and enjoys crafting error-free content that increases subscriptions and sales. Samuel excels in mental health, self-improvement, technology, and marketing topics.