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Canada: Trans woman detained under US flight rules

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  1. I can understand that security questions would need to be asked if the person in question does not look like the gender on the passport. But I would assume a letter from the doctor and a current photo in the passport should be enough. Being asked a collection of embarrassing personal questions by curious staff is unacceptable.

    1. sorry, andrew…don’t understand that at all.

      There is a world of difference between “looking like your pic on your passport” and “looking like a particular gender.

      The problem with that is that sooner or later, if that rule is there, then strip searches are going to follow.

      If you don’t match your pic that’s one thing…the rest is sheer bigotry.

      jane x

    2. Really? Sorry, but no.

      Would you be the one to stereotype the genderqueer, then? What are we like? What must we wear to fit into this exciting little box that society has allowed us? Should I grow my hair long? Get rid of my suits? Have my tits cut off? Stop looking like a boy? Stop acting like one and be a nice little girl, just because I happen to have a vagina? Sign a note that I’m one or the other of this constructed reality?

      I’d say, though, that when “neutrois” or “fluent” are actual choices when it comes to gender on passports, I’d gladly pick one. Until then, could we not be forced “to look like the gender on the passport” for any reason, thank you very much. The violation is big enough as it is, identifying as a gender one is not.

      I fail to understand how my appearance is in any way a “security question” and it is as Jane writes, sheer bigotry to make a correlation between the two.

  2. Staircase2 6 Feb 2012, 6:11pm

    What an awful awful story of what can happen when people have their bigotry, ignorance and prejudice backed up by a system which hasnt been clearly thought through in the first place.

    On the face of it (pun intended) it would appear to be ‘common sense’ that having a gender assignment on a Passport would help resolve someon’s identity.

    As the article clearly points out – this is a fallacy as it actually requires someone to make what is, in fact, a value judgement about someone’s gender which plays no real or substantial part in corroborating someone’s identity.

    This smacks of the shoddiest and unclear thinking and Canada needs to address this immediately.

    The story made me question how valid any gender mark is in real terms on a passport in the first place.

    Abolish them

    1. Totally agree, people come in many different shapes. I’ve met a few people who you would struggle to tell if they are male or female. In long run does it really matter?

    2. from working on a project with (a bit confidential at present but i’ll be wrioting about it shortly) the cliché view initially was that gender was helpful in security terms. But after experts, including UK gov security experts at the highest level had kicked that one round a bit, it soon became clear that gender was really NOT very useful for identity purposes.

      Whether government in general will take that on board remains to be seen…but still.

      There are two questions: does someone look like their pic (or other biometric identifiers)? Do they match some subjective view of gender.

      The first question contributes to security. The second does not.

      jane x

  3. This incident is tragic for the individual concerned and shows a complete lack of understanding of trans issues by the officials involved. Imagine if they treated people from certain religious groups and gender in this off-handed manner.
    To balance the argument however and having worked at a very busy international airport, photographs and passport gender markers are 2 important components (and NOT the whole) story when ensuring the passenger in front of you is the one who is meant to be travelling. Clearly if the gender on the ticket (Mr vs. Ms) contradicts the gender in the passport in addition to appearance being substantially different (for example, beard/stubble and different hairstyle) it will result in questions having to be asked. My point being is that governments, agencies and airlines can do a lot to ensure that, where this situation occurs, this can be dealt with correctly.

    1. Of course, some situations call for questions to be asked. However, it doesn’t mean that those questions can’t be asked in a respectful form.

  4. The new Birth Certificate was not issued in an acceptable time frame.

    That is all.

    The law is not in place to hurt transgendered people and is very appropriate.

    What is NOT acceptable is the delays this individual was made to be put through, when a simple series of phone calls to a variety of medical practitioners could have easily rectified the situation.

    1. the law is NOT very appropriate…and i write that from experience of working with large commercial organisations and the UK Gov on seciurity issues. It does bugger all to enhance security and is always open to this sort of nastiness.

      Further, since US officials can justify what they do on Canadian soil by reference to Canadian law, the Canadian regs quite possibly contributed directly to Ms McCreath’s treatment.

      jane x

  5. Please note that the regulation wording requires that a person not be allowed to board if there’s a discrepancy regarding any one of: a) a photo ID check, b) a discrepancy regarding date of birth / age, c) a discrepancy involving the gender marker and d) a discrepancy between multiple pieces of ID. No one has an issue with the photo requirement, nor b or d. Why someone could be refused passage because of a subjective appraisal of gender versus the gender marker, even if identity can be proven with all the other criteria is beyond me.

    Transport Canada (and following their lead, also the media) are talking about the photo match requirement as a reasonable security check. It is. They’ve missed the fact that this is not about the photo requirement at all.

    It should be noted that there also appears to have been an attempt to include an exemption to the regulation for transsexed individuals. However, this attempted exemption failed in two ways.

  6. Jennifer McCreath 6 Feb 2012, 10:43pm

    great article Jane, although to clarify, a contract was signed between Canada and USA to allow USA Customs officers to be immune from Canadian laws, while conducting business at Canadian airports. Therefore, USA laws (or lack there of) were applicable. Not sure if i need to blame the rules or blame the customs officer who may have failed to adhere to the rules. a complaint was filed 8 months ago, but no response as of yet (surprise, surprise).

    1. US customs inspectors are NOT immune from Canadian law while operating in Canada. In fact, any individual at a screening point for the US inside Canadian territory has the right to immediately cease going through the screening and leave. (He or she has to check in with Canada customs and immigration again afterwards, however).

      The US authorities have no detention nor interrogation powers inside Canada. All they can do is deny entry to the United States.

  7. The problem here was the stupid people doing the screening; they should all be fired. There are approximately 1,000,000 trans people in the USA alone, you can’t seriously yell me these people haven’t dealt with trans people before. She had a carry letter from her doctor, so they had no excuse for trating her like they did. These screeners choose to hassle this traveler and, as a result, they should be fired.

    1. 1,000,000 trans people? How did you arrive at this figure? I lecture on the subject of gender variance and I’ve never come across that figure before.

  8. This makes the information about Canada being LGBT friendly go right out the window.

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