Why Trans People Need the Screening with Dignity Act of 2018

Trans people face a number of barriers when it comes to traveling, but one thing we can easily control is ensuring the TSA approaches trans and gender variant people during airport screening with the respect and kindness they deserve.

That’s exactly what a bill introduced into Congress by U.S. Representative Kathleen Rice aims to do with her Screening with Dignity Act of 2018.

At the moment, the TSA uses a framework that puts people into male or female categories. Obviously, for trans people and gender variant people who do not neatly fit those boxes, this can be a problem. If a trans person then triggers an alarm during body scans and other screening procedures, they may then be flagged as “anomalies” and may have to out themselves or be outed by staff  during additional screening measures.

This isn’t an abstract scenario, either. There have been multiple reports of trans people saying they have been made to remove things like chest binders and prosthetic genitalia in front of other passengers, that they have been repeatedly dead-named by TSA staff, misgendered by security staff conducting physical examinations and more.

This has even provoked the social media hashtag #TravelingWhileTrans which, while first surfacing over three years ago, is still disturbingly active today.

In recent years the TSA has made a concerted effort to address some of these concerns, and, in a broad sense, many trans travelers report that they have noticed improvements in the service. But, Representative Rice agrees with trans passengers that the TSA could be doing more, and that’s why she wants Congress to pass the Screening with Dignity Act.

“The transgender community deserves to be treated with fairness and respect in all aspects of life, including travel,” Representative Kathleen Rice is quoted as saying in a statement.

Rep. Rice continues, “Maintaining high safety standards and screening all passengers with dignity should not be mutually exclusive. It is clear that TSA needs to reassess its technological capabilities and improve its screening procedures to be more inclusive and ensure that no American is ever humiliated or discriminated against while going through security.”

The Screening with Dignity Act of 2018 would require the TSA to develop new frameworks for accommodating trans passengers.

The legislation recognizes that the TSA is tasked with a difficult job. During screenings, they must make quick judgments about people and funnel passengers into heightened screening measures, if anomalies present themselves. However, this process has much room for improvement.

For example, the TSA could phase out gender-specific alarms currently used as part of the screening process. This is something the TSA is actively working on, but as yet there isn’t a time-frame for when that could be in place. This legislation would push the TSA to make that a priority.

In addition, the act would require the TSA to create two studies. One is to look at how it would be possible to retrofit scanners currently in use to make them gender neutral or, if necessary, how they might use new gender-neutral scanners.

The second—and arguably more interesting—study required by this legislation is for the TSA to look at how its screening procedures impact trans and gender non-conforming travelers. This would be an important data-gathering exercise, as it would create a direct way for trans passengers to influence screening measures in the future and to flag particular areas of concern. Given that the TSA has already shown a desire to work with passengers to improve its screening frameworks, this also seems appropriate.

The legislation would also put legal weight behind common standard practice within the TSA and prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, as well as ensure that the agency doesn’t retain digital imaging data.

“Transgender people should not have to face constant fear of discrimination as we go about our lives, especially in vulnerable spaces like security screenings at the airport,” Human Rights Campaign press secretary Sarah McBride is quoted as saying. “HRC thanks Rep. Kathleen Rice for re-introducing the Screening With Dignity Act today and for standing for the safety and dignity of trans and gender non-conforming people.”

The Screening with Dignity Act is commonsense legislation that puts the force of law behind a very simple but necessary idea: that trans people deserve to be treated as people when they travel.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

48 comments

Marie W
Marie W1 months ago

Thank you.

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Daniel N
Past Member 7 months ago

Thanks

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Barbara S
Past Member 7 months ago

tyfs

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Louise R
Past Member 7 months ago

Thanks for posting

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Sophie A
Sarah A7 months ago

thank you

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Tania N
Tania N7 months ago

Thank you

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Tania N
Tania N7 months ago

Thank you

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Camilla V
Camilla Vaga7 months ago

thx

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Leo Custer
Leo C7 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Diane E
Diane E8 months ago

All human beings need their dignity and privacy preserved. Please allow everyone of any gender to have privacy and space.

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