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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.