Trans woman shows airport security her genitals to be allowed on plane
A transgender woman has revealed how she felt pressured into showing airport security in Florida her genitals to be allowed to fly.
Olivia – not her real name – told ProPublica that the incident happened at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on September 15, 2017.
After going through the full-body scanner, Olivia, 36, was pulled to the side by a female Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer whose scanner showed Olivia’s body with her groin region highlighted.
The TSA officer told Olivia she needed to have a pat-down because of something the scanner had detected.
Olivia said she had faced additional TSA scrutiny before, but that usually an explanation was enough to convince officers she didn’t have a weapon hidden in her underwear.
This time, the TSA officer – after patting Olivia down and checking her hands for explosives residue – told Olivia she still couldn’t clear her to fly and took her to a private room, where she patted her down again.
“I told her: ‘If the issue is what you are feeling, let me tell you what this is. It is my penis,’” said Olivia.
A TSA supervisor and three more TSA officers joined them, and Olivia said the supervisor then told her that she’d have to be patted down by a male officer.
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When Olivia refused, they told her that because she wasn’t consenting to a search, they couldn’t let her board the plane and would escort her out of the airport.
Olivia said she started crying and pleaded with the officers: “Can I just show you?”
TSA officers are not supposed to let passengers remove their underwear in front of them. But, according to Olivia, none of the TSA officers objected when she removed her pants and underwear to show them her genitals.
She was then cleared to board her flight.
Olivia’s story is part of a new ProPublica investigation into the treatment of trans passengers by the TSA.
ProPublica found that – despite the TSA saying it is committed to treating all passengers equally and fairly – five per cent of civil rights complaints against the TSA related to the treatment of trans passengers, despite trans people making up less than one per cent of the US population.
Jenny Burke, the TSA’s press secretary, said that airport screening is done “without regard to a person’s race, colour, sex, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability”.