Friday, August 14, 2009

Flying while transgendered: no match, no flight.

And this, friends and neighbors, is a terrific example of how -systemic- transphobia works. Via Helen of Bird of Paradox:

The fixation that every citizen is a potential terrorist has gained so much ground in recent years that any concerns about implications for international travellers whose documentation might not match their gender presentation have been swept aside.

Now, via The Wall Street Journal Online (link here) I see that the paranoia about “suspected terrorists” has been extended to domestic air travel too:

Airlines this week will begin requiring some people making reservations for domestic flights to submit their dates of birth and genders as part of a screening process aimed at keeping boarding passes out of the hands of suspected terrorists, the Transportation Security Administration said.


The government’s goal is to vet all passengers on domestic commercial flights by early next year.

Of concern is that the TSA appears to be relying on the judgement of commercial airlines to make these decisions; and these decisions can also be applied to people who aren’t actually flying, but just accompanying a passenger to the boarding gate:

The TSA said it would be up to individual airlines or travel agents to decide how to collect the required information at the time a reservation is made.


People who receive gate passes, which allow them to proceed into secure areas of airports without boarding passes so they can assist other passengers, also could be required to furnish the additional data.

In other words, if the airline staff don’t like the look of you – or the friend who’s come to wave you off – you may well find that you miss your flight simply because you wore that comfy dress, even though the gender marker in your official documentation dictates that you should have been wearing a collar and tie. It’s absolute nonsense, of course – and trans-misogynistic nonsense, to boot.

...[M]y y point is that being required to provide information about one’s date of birth and gender seems unlikely to deter a committed attacker from hir objective.

It’s hard to see how this measure would have prevented, for instance, the attackers on 9/11 from boarding their planes – and, once again, the people most likely to be adversely affected are trans and gender variant people...

No-match has other implications too, of course, for being hired and fired, for medical care, for being arrested, for any number of situations where "your papers, please:" unless there are specific legal protections for trans folk in place (which there aren't in most states and cities, and even then, what's on the books is not exactly stringently enforced when it comes to civil rights, particularly if you're talking about already-very disenfranchised people), for not presenting or identifying according to your legally identified sex. And if there's a situation where you need to disrobe and your body either doesn't match what the "M" or the "F' on your paper is supposed to represent, or doesn't fully resemble what "M" or "F" is supposed to look like regardless of paperwork,'re not supposed to exist, and can be treated accordingly with no recourse.

See, the papers represent more than national citizenship, date of birth, basic stats: it's a way of declaring -personhood-. Which boundaries hold you? What nation, what sex? Are you a citizen of Manland or Womanland? Are you where we think you belong? Are you God forbid attempting to straddle a line that's supposed to be a wall? Are you "real?" Prove to us that you deserve to get on this airplane, work in this job, get that emergency medical care, step on this land, breathe this air. That box you need to check tells us whether you're human or not. Your papers, please.

This is of course not unrelated to the paranoia over "illegal" immigrants, or even American citizens suspected of being such: no papers? Too foreign? Too brown? Wrong time, wrong place? You, too, are a non-citizen, guilty until proven innocent. You're in the wrong box, and we don't have space. You fall in the crevice between the box outlines. Too bad, so sad; just trying to keep the rest of us safe from our formless, nameless terror; we need names, we need faces, and if yours doesn't match any of the acceptable ones, why, we'll stamp it with our fears and lock you away, overtly or covertly. Denied, delayed, detained, deported. De-legitimized. Your papers, please.

This under-the-radar scapegoating is not anything like "hope and change." This is not keeping anyone safe. This is, in fact, killing people. This is wrong, and it needs to stop.


Nell Gwynne said...

The first thing I blurted out when I heard about these changes to airline security and regulations was "But what about transgendered or intersex passengers"????

Jesus tittyfucking Christ on a flying bicycle.

Ruth Moss said...

Oh fucking great. Just fucking brilliant. That's all we need. Bastards.

So... where do I send my angry letters and to whom do I make angry phone calls? 'Cos I'm assuming that being in the UK it means it's not my MP I write to for once... or is it?

belledame222 said...

no, this is U.S. based. yeah, wondering to whom to address this myself.

Anonymous said...

True story: just recently, I was denied access to my own credit card details on the telephone, because my phone voice is too feminine/"sounded too soft", and that was deemed reason enough for me to fail the security questions. I am still sometimes mistaken for being the "Mrs" of the home when I answer the phone (despite living alone!)

This sounds like the same thing only much bigger.

Nick said...

Oh my god

We do have our differences but are 100 percent in agreement here. I can't stand migration/movement controllers ~ yet another reason to in this post. I am supposed to travel to Israel early next year. One of my worries is dealing with the Department of Homeland Security/TSA crapola. I've heard some real fucked up stories ~ some dude getting his computer confiscated for having "anti-American" stuff on it. Despite my best efforts over the years; I am still not on the terrorist watch list lol ~ to the best of my experience. I do know one anarchist who is though and have a friend who was questioned by M16 in England. The FBI took one of their associates to be from a radical animal rights group ~ of which they were not.

Alon Levy said...

Nick, the Israeli air security is based on racial profiling. Hebrew-speaking Israeli Jews are just quizzed on whether they have packed their bags themselves (i.e. been in proximity to an Arab). White tourists are generally treated well. Nonwhite tourists are a mixed bag - their treatment depends on how mean the officer is. Arabs are treated the worst, and may expect cavity searches.

And that's just the beginning. The highways in Israel are littered with "Kahane was right" graffiti.

CrackerLilo said...

I didn't think about this issue at all when it came to these security regulations. Apparently the people who should've didn't, either, or more precisely, didn't *care* to think of people who exist outside the neat gender binaries.

belledame222 said...

Apparently the people who should've didn't, either, or more precisely, didn't *care* to think of people who exist outside the neat gender binaries.


Kristen said...

The TSA office of civil rights can be reached at:

Our mailing address is:

Transportation Security Administration
Office of Civil Rights and Liberties (TSA-6)
External Compliance Division
601 S. 12th Street
Arlington, VA 22202

Our email address is:

Also, I plan on scribbling off a note to Pres. Obama. I doubt it will do any good, but I voted for the dude, and this was one of the reasons.

belledame222 said...

Thanks, Kristen.

meloukhia said...

This infuriated me when I first heard about it, as did the totally anemic TSA response, which was basically "what? transgendered people? SECURITY, SECURITY!!!!!"

However, the fact that the first few comments on both the NPR and NYT articles covering the new security measures specifically brought up transfolk and how this is going to be a *huge* problem for them was really gratifying; glad to see members of the public thinking about these issues, even if the authorities aren't.

belledame222 said...

Hey, welcome, meloukhia, if I haven't said.

Recursive Paradox said...

What. The. Ungodly. Hell.

Have we Americans lost our minds? Have we seriously just gone straight down the tubes into outright paranoid delusion regarding terrorism?

This isn't even thinly veiled transphobia. This is outright, explicit transphobia. Fuck you, airlines. I will drive and use the damn train from now on. said...

No doubt, the writer is completely right.

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