A trans woman named Olivia spoke about an encounter she had at Ft. Lauderdale International Airport in 2017 to ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that is currently launching an investigation against TSA for discrimination against trans passengers. Olivia, 36, decided to only use her middle name due to fear of being exposed as transgender.
During check in, Olivia was given a full body screen. The screen highlighted her groin area, so she was pulled aside and patted down by a woman. Usually that would be the end of it for Olivia, but it was far from it. TSA instead checked her for explosive residue, took her inside a private room and patted her down again.
Olivia explained that she had held no sort of weapon anywhere.
“I told her: ‘If the issue is what you are feeling, let me tell you what this is. It is my penis,’” said Olivia.
So it makes since that after that explanation a TSA officer and THREE more employees came in. At this point we have a crowd of people in a private room surrounding Olivia. She was then told she would have to have another pat down by a male officer.
When Olivia refused she was told that because she was resisting the search she would not be allowed to fly and would be escorted out. Olivia begged the officers to let her fly and insisted she wasn't a danger.
Olivia said she then started crying and pleaded with the officers: “Can I just show you?”
Olivia then undressed in front of the crowd to show her genitals.
It is an explicitly against SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) to allow anyone to take off anything to officers. However, many trans people have complained that they have been directly asked or pressured to show their genitalia. Trans people only make up 1% of the population and yet April 2019 showed 5%, or 298, complaints were related to trans people screening.
For black women who have locs, dreads, or braids we have all been put aside and had our hair "checked." This is because full body scanners are programmed to sense things that may not be metal, but it also doesn't understands a penis on a woman, so the machine flags it.
Airports do not have a system in place to treat trans individuals with dignity and the TSA investigation is revealing how many trans/non-conforming individuals are facing this problem. If you have a story or video to share please reach out and share your experience to gain awareness on the problem.