The Transgender Law Center is extremely concerned by the implementation of invasive airport security screening protocols by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA).  While we understand the need for heightened airport security, we do not believe that the country is made safer by the implementation of invasive body imagining and groin and breast-area pat downs, especially while much checked luggage continues to go un-screened.  We are fearful that transgender air travelers will be subjected to discriminatory or degrading conduct by TSA staff, and we are fearful that a transgender passenger’s gender identity may be revealed to other passengers during the security screening process. We urge the TSA to re-evaluate the implementation of Advanced Imaging Technology.

If you are traveling, here is what you need to know…

Full-Body Scans and Pat-Downs

  • Airports are increasingly using full-body screening technology (“Advanced Imaging Technology” or AIT) to screen passengers as a primary or secondary method of screening. This screening technology reveals the intimate contours of travelers’ bodies, including breasts and genitals.
  • The screening may also reveal any prosthetic device or binding materials, including a “packy,” binder, breast enhancement material, etc., that you are using.
  • You have the right to choose whether or not to be screened using the full-body scanner.
  • If you opt out of using the full-body scanner, you must submit to a pat-down search instead.  Many people find the pat-down search extremely invasive, as it may involve TSA officers using their palms and fingers to touch underneath and between breasts, inside thighs, and in the groin area and buttocks.
  • You may be selected for additional screening including an enhanced pat-down, for other reasons, even if you have successfully passed through the full body-scanning machine.
    • If you are selected for additional screening you may not opt out.
    • If you are selected for additional screening, you may request that the screening be conducted in private. A companion may accompany you during the additional screening.
  • According to the TSA, pat downs are conducted by a TSA agent who is the same gender as you. Please let us know if they do not respect your gender identity.
  • Although media reports show conflicting practice, according to the TSA these invasive pat-downs are not to be used on travelers under the age of 13.
  • You MAY NOT opt out of BOTH the full-body scanner and the pat-down search.  If you refuse both options, you cannot fly.
  • Once you reach the security checkpoint you must complete the screening process or you may be fined up to $11,000.

The new policy presents transgender travelers with a difficult choice between undergoing an invasive touching and or an imaging scan that reveals the intimate contours of the body. Unless and until the Transgender Law Center and our partners can get these unreasonable policies fixed, transgender passengers must submit to the indignity of these searches or not travel by air.

Reporting Mistreatment and Inappropriate Behavior

Make a Complaint to TSA
If you believe a security screening has been conducted inappropriately, you should immediately ask to talk with a screening supervisor. Tell the supervisor what happened and ask to make an official complaint.  You should record the details of what happened, including the names of any TSA agent involved.

You may also obtain a feedback form at the security checkpoint, or contact the TSA; information is available on the TSA website or contact the TSA Office of Civil Rights toll-free at 1-877-EEO-4TSA (4872).

Notify the Transgender Law Center and Our Partners
The Transgender Law Center and our partners at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and National Center for Transgender Equality are keeping track of incidents during which transgender passengers are mistreated or discriminated against.  Tell us what happened to you by completing and submitting this form. TLC, NCLR, and NCTE will use this information to advocate for trans-friendly policies and training. Your name will not be used and you are not required to provide your name.

File a Report with the Department of Homeland Security
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Travel Redress Inquiry Program (SHS TRIP) provides a single portal for travelers to seek redress for adverse screening experiences and other travel issues.  To initiate an inquiry visit DHS TRIP’s interactivewebsite.