New TSA Security Procedures Violate Privacy of Transgender Travelers

(San Francisco, CA, November 23, 2010)—The federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has implemented new security procedures that pose serious privacy concerns for all travelers, but pose particular risks for the transgender community.

Pursuant to TSA heightened security measures, numerous airports throughout the country have been outfitted with advanced imaging technology (AIT) machines—full body scanners, which reveal an intimate image of a passenger’s unclothed body. Passengers who are directed to these new machines but decline the scan, who set off a metal detector, or who are randomly selected for additional screening, will be subjected to an “enhanced pat-down,” which involves TSA officers using their fingers and palms to touch passengers’ inner thighs, groin area, and breast area.

In addition to being a gross and unnecessary invasion of privacy, these heightened security measures raise significant concerns for transgender travelers and any others who have bodies that may be perceived as deviating from the expectations of screeners. The AIT machine and the enhanced pat-down leave transgender passengers subject to subsequent screening measures and being “outed” as transgender to TSA staff and other passengers.

The National Center for Transgender Equality  has created a comprehensive guide   about the new policies, including travel tips for transgender travelers, what to do if problems are encountered in security lines, and information about AIT machines .

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center are working together to collect stories  from transgender people who were harassed and discriminated against in airport security lines under the new security procedures. The information—which can be submitted through an online form —will be reported to the TSA and individual airports to push for changes in policies, training, and attitudes.

Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell:

“The new TSA security measures are unnecessarily intrusive and will seriously compromise the privacy and the safety of transgender and gender nonconforming passengers. Security screening is supposed to keep people safe, but such invasive and humiliating measures pose significant safety risks to transgender travelers by making them a target for verbal and sexual harassment, and worse. We urge TSA to work with NCLR, the Transgender Law Center, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and other organizations that are working to educate the TSA about the need for effective safety screening measures that do not subject transgender travelers to harassment and inappropriate scrutiny. We need security procedures that respect privacy needs and protect the safety of all passengers.”

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