U.S. Congress members call for changes in protocol for trans travelers in open letter to TSA

At the end of September, many watched in horror as one woman, Shadi Petosky, live tweeted her experience of being detained by the TSA at Orlando International Airport. After being told there was an "anomoly" in her body-scanner image, Petosky was detained by TSA agents for several hours, where she was questioned, humiliated, and eventually missed her flight. Petosky's story resonated with many transgender Americans who have been detained, questioned, patted down, and inconvenienced simply for travelling while trans. These stories surfaced through the hashtag #travelingwhiletrans and exposed the injustices transgender people have faced while attempting to board an airplane. These stories have prompted a larger movement to change TSA guidelines for handling transgender individuals.

Yesterday, 32 members of Congress signed onto an open letter to the TSA, calling for vast changes to current protocol for screening transgender travelers. Some highlights of the letter include a call for:

  • implementing a screening protocol that does not rely on the TSO to subjectively select someone's gender
  • providing more guidance on TSA screening procedures and assurance that transgender travelers will not be subject to invasive screenings in public
  • a publication of TSA guidelines outlining FAQ and protections for transgender travelers
  • TSA personal become adequately trained in issues related to transgender travelers.

The letter closes with a powerful statement from the Congress members that highlights why these changes to TSA protocol are truly necessary:

"The experiences of many transgender airline passengers such as Ms. Petosky demonstrate that more must be done to ensure transgender individuals are able to travel without fear of facing humiliation or degradation at security checkpoints. While being mindful of enacting the appropriate security precautions to keep all travelers safe, the TSA must also take steps to ensure that its employees are prepared to serve transgender individuals with the dignity, discretion, and respect that they, like all Americans deserve." 

The letter comes after the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) filed a lawsuit against the TSA in June for "failing to follow basic required administrative procedures" in regards to the use of body-scanners.