Things That Matter

White House Announces Big Changes To Airport Security Policies on International Transgender Day of Visibility

Today, March 31, is the International Transgender Day of Visibility. A day that, according to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), is “dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of transgender and gender nonconforming people while raising awareness of the work that still needs to be done to achieve trans justice.”

In honor of this day, the Biden Administration announced they are taking several steps to ensure a more dignified and respectful traveler experience from transgender individuals.

“For far too long, transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming Americans have faced significant barriers to travelling safely and many have not had their gender identity respected as they travel within the United States and around the world,” the White House wrote in a statement.

According to the White House, the Department of State will now allow U.S. citizens to choose “X” as their gender on their U.S. passport starting on April 11.

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security will replace their current, “gender-based” imaging technology with new technology that will “increase security and efficiency by reducing false alarm rates and pat-downs” for trans folks at airports.

The White House also says that TSA is now “working closely with air carriers,” to “promote the use and acceptance of the ‘X’ gender marker.” TSA has also updated their Standard Operating Procedures to “remove gender considerations when validating a traveler’s identification at airport security checkpoints.”

This is a big step for trans rights, as many trans folks who travel have been candid about how traumatizing airport security can be to their gender non-conforming bodies.

Last year, model and influencer Rosalynne Montoya — a Latinx trans woman — went viral for a TikTok she made about the difficulties of traveling while trans.

“Can we talk about how horrible it is to travel while being transgender sometimes? I always have immense anxiety leading up to going through security,” she said in a TikTok video that has since been viewed over 26 million times.

“… Going through the scanner, there’s a male scanner and a female scanner in the TSA checkpoint,” Montoya continued. “And, looking at me, I look like a woman and I am a woman… but, going through the scanner, I always have an ‘anomaly’ between my legs that sets off the alarm.”

According to Montoya, the TSA agent asked her if she wanted to be “scanned as a man instead.” When Montoya complied, her “boobs set off the scanner.” It was then that the TSA agent said that security would have to pat her down.

“So then [the TSA agent] was like, ‘OK, well, we have to pat you down. Do you want a man to do it?'” to which Montoya responded: “NO! Absolutely not.”

Montoya’s story is just one of thousands of similar stories from trans folks. In fact, her story is so common that the hashtag #TravelingWhileTrans is commonly used by trans people when describing their experiences with TSA on social media.

A 2019 ProPublica investigation found that “trans travelers are frequently subjected to “pat-downs” of genitals, misgendering, pressure to expose private body parts and invasive screenings.”

After the announcement, the National Center for Transgender Equality tweeted out: “Today’s actions will help reduce harassment, discrimination, and violence against transgender people who are just trying to live our lives.”

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