New Resource: Preparing for Airport Security

While most transgender and gender non-conforming people get through airport security without any incidents, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) urges travelers to understand their rights before going through airport security with our new resource Airport Security and Transgender People.

The seasonal Holiday travel uptick can mean things are more hectic and potentially confusing for travelers and for Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) than usual. Airport security practices do not allow transgender travelers to completely avoid invasive screenings or pat-downs. However, all travelers have a right to safety, privacy, and respect.

Transgender travelers should be familiar with specific protections they have at airport security including:

  1. You can opt out of body scanning machines at any time. However, travelers who opt-out of body scanning machines will be required to undergo a thorough pat-down.
  2. Transgender travelers have a right to a pat-down by an agent of the same gender as the traveler. This is based on your gender presentation. The gender on your identification documents and boarding passes should not matter for pat-downs.
  3. Travelers have a right to request that a pat-down be held in a private screening area, and with a witness or companion of the traveler’s choosing.
  4. You should not any time be subjected to personal questions about your gender, or be forced to lift, remove or raise an article of clothing to reveal a prosthetic item. Prosthetic items include binding garments and breast forms.
  5. All children under age thirteen have a right to modified screening procedures.

NCTE recommends that individuals take simple steps to ensure a smooth experience at airport security including:

  1. Ensuring that the name and gender on your ticket reservation match the government-issued ID you bring to the airport with you. The gender on your identification and on your ticket reservation does not need to match your current gender presentation.
  2. Downloading the Fly Rights iPhone and Android application before your travel, which makes it easy to report complaints directly with the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
  3. For frequent travelers, exploring the TSA Pre-Check program which offers “expedited screening.”

Download the resource here to learn more about airport security procedures, your rights at the airport, and how to file complaints with the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security.

NCTE also encourages transgender travelers who do experience problems at airport security to email us at NCTE@transequality.org to help us advocate for improvements.

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17 Responses to New Resource: Preparing for Airport Security

  1. Clancy Nacht says:

    Reblogged this on Clancy Nacht.

  2. […] many people traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, the National Center for Transgender Equality has released a new list of tips to help those who are transgender or gender non-conforming avoid […]

  3. Candylee Weston says:

    This is a wonderfull Inight and very infomative article l really think all you gals/Ladies & even guys /men really need to read this.
    If you step through inspections security to fly travel this could help you eminsley. As we do all have rights for the does & donts .
    Happy Thanksgiving Happy Holidays Happy Travels to you all. Lol. Lol.xxxxxxxxoxoxoxoxxxx your friend as always SweetCandylee ! ! Xxxxxxxxoxoxoxoxxxx…

  4. […] many people traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, the National Center for Transgender Equality has released a new list of tips to help those who are transgender or gender non-conforming avoid […]

  5. Katie Thomas says:

    Last year I made a trip to Washington D.C. as my female self. I have NOT changed any of my legal documents but DO have a state of Illinois I.D. card. The (male) TSA examiner looked at me, at my I.D. and said “have a nice flight”. I had every legal right to present as I chose and had absolutely no hassle in either direction. As FDR said a long time ago,”We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. Of course, FDR wasn’t Transgender…

  6. Mari says:

    I’ve had my “toys” publicly searched and swabbed for explosives in front of everyone in an airport before. I’ve also experienced very rude reactions from TSA employees about the contents of my baggage while it passed through the x-ray machines. I haven’t flown in two years, and I’m probably never flying again. I don’t know what I’ll do when I need to attend family funerals in the future. I don’t want to subject myself to abuse.

    • Mari says:

      They even broke my pump when they took it apart… what am I supposed to do about that? I’m terrified that if I complain about anything, they’ll only make everything ten times worse.

  7. epochryphal says:

    If you’re non-binary and presenting as such, do you get to choose which binary gender of TSA agent does your pat-down? I don’t suppose they have non-binary TSA agents, so.

    • Unfortunately, TSA still lives in a binary world. If a TSO is unsure and asks about your gender, or if they try to assign someone of a gender you’re not comfortable with doing a pat-down on you, our best advice is to assert the binary identity you’re most comfortable being treated as for purposes of that interaction. We know it’s a really imperfect solution, but for now, with TSA, that’s the best advice we know to give.

      • Katie Thomas says:

        Unfortunately, we all live in a binary world. Trans folks are just a sliver of the entire populace so if we want to live a relatively peaceful existence we must conform to some degree; Ie: go along to get along. It’s not what we want but we can bend a little without giving up our principles and identity.

      • epochryphal says:

        @Katie,
        Speak for yourself, not in generalities. Me, I’ll do what I have to for my own safety, and for my own mental health, but pretending to be a binary gender when I’m not is in fact against my principles, is painful, and chips away at my identity. It implies it isn’t valid, isn’t worth being recognized, isn’t worth the trouble (disrupts a “relatively peaceful existence”) — and this is really hard not to internalize and be weighed down by, especially when this happens in transgender spaces. Transnormativity and assimiliationism leaves a lot of people behind.

        @Harper Jean Tobin, thank you for the advice. Depending on how anxious/confident I’m feeling, I’d like to try stating my actual gender identity (neutrois) and my preference of TSA agent, but I definitely realize that’s risky and could lead to delays and other issues. Otherwise, it’s a choice between dysphoria over assigned gender, or total weirdness and uncertainty over being treated as a gender I’ve zero experience with; not really sure, personally, which I’d choose.

      • Katie Thomas says:

        Really, do you think I’m speaking in generalities? I talked anout my own specific experiences and I’m NOT about hiding my identity. I am an out and proud Transwoman. I can’t be more clear than that.
        I have spoken to over 300 College classes about life as an out Transwoman. There are no ‘generalities’ when you are in front of forty to fifty curious college kids.’ The point that I was trying to make is that when someone else is making the rules, (TSA) if you want to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ you follow the rules. Our strength is in ‘following the rules’ and not ’tilting at every windmill’
        in our path.What I am is a Transwoman, what I am not, is a victim!
        I refuse to subscribe to this culture of victimhood that is so prevelant in our community.

  8. Jackie says:

    I can relate to both sides of this, from being in the no docs mode and having my baggage gone through and also having been patted down as they asked “what is this a holster ?” and of course laughing I said yes for my twins . I was wearing sports bra’s bras to compact things in my male mode . So the next time I flew , a tad nervous , but my documentation in gender was correct , I was more transitioned and dressed female as I should e , nothing happened , total respect and dignity . Honestly I feel that halfway part is what got me into trouble . Living in my correct gender was not an issue .
    Sometimes we can also attract the attention of a trained observer , in just the fact we are nervous. Hold your head high , be who you are in confidence and let the cards fall where they may. If you have done nothing wrong , nothing will wrong you .

  9. DeeInGeorgia says:

    TSA still has a problem with their instructions where they speak about gender on your identification. The State of Georgia puts your sex on the driver’s license, not gender. I called the TSA to verify gender vs. sex and they said gender. So I use my gender, not my sex. They may complain some time, but so far, no problems. It also works because my DL has a picture of my gender presentation which does not match my sex. I do travel as my sex and other times as my gender.

  10. Yes! Finally someone writes about security.

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