The introduction of “porno scanners” that show nude pictures of airport users have provided all sorts of unhappy experiences for travelers. The TSA has tried to change the way the scanners work so that staff have less fun looking at nude pictures of pretty women, but it has been the impact on trans travelers that has caused the most heartache.
Put simply, if the way your body looks under the porno scanner didn’t match the TSA agent’s view of your gender presentation, then you got flagged as an “anomaly” and were required to undergo extra screening. For trans women and non-binary people with penises this generally involved having your genitals groped by some random TSA guy. Because clearly the obvious way for a terrorist to smuggle a bomb onto a plane is to disguise it as a penis which would be detected by a porno scanner. If all of the extra scrutiny caused you to miss your flight, well that was your problem for being weird.
This policy has resulted in a number of deeply humiliating experiences for trans travelers, most notably for Shadi Petosky who is a well-known TV director (her animated kids show, Danger & Eggs, has just been picked up by Amazon for a full season).
So the TSA decided to take action. No longer will the presence of an unexpected willy generate an “anomaly”. Instead it will generate an ALARM!!! Because apparently characterizing trans travelers as dangerous rather than odd is an improvement in the way you treat them, according to the TSA.
All of which makes me rather glad that I’m no longer allowed to travel to the USA. In theory, of course, my body won’t produce any unexpected results under the porno scanner. However, I am pretty sure that the records being held for me by the TSA state that I am trans, and I therefore expect I would be subject to extra scrutiny, just in case. As I’m not a US citizen, I would have no rights whatsoever in such situations.
There’s more on the story at The Advocate, but I note that Shadi has said on Twitter that she has been mis-quoted in the article so please take that into account when reading it.