Virginia Congressmen part of push for TSA policy updates for transgender passengers
When Shadi Petosky went to fly out of Orlando back in September of this year, troubles with Transport Security Agents (TSA) lead to her missing her flight. According to the artist and activist, the problems she faced stemmed from her being a transgender woman.
“I am being held by the TSA in Orlando because of an “anomaly” (my penis),” said Petosky in a tweet. She continued to record her struggle on twitter through out the day, but was left crying in the airport, stuck in Orlando.
The TSA at the Orlando Airport told me I couldn’t take photos but this is denigrating. I have missed my flight pic.twitter.com/PHwBLiJ0cB
— Shadow Petoscary (@shadipetosky) September 21, 2015
Her story spread around the internet and reached the desk of congressmen in Washington. Their response was a letter sent to the TSA hoping to update the agency’s policies to better handle transgender passengers.
“It is a sad reality that members of the transgender community face adversity every day,” read the letter signed by 29 members of Congress and sent to the TSA last week. “The experiences of many transgender airline passengers such as Ms. Petosky demonstrate that more must be done to ensure transgender individuals are able to travel without fear of facing humiliation or degradation at security checkpoints.”
The policy updates include training for all TSA staff in transgender issues, not just managers, updating the technology which currently only has the option for male or female body scans, and doing more to inform trans individuals of the availability of private screenings.
Among the signatures is Virginia Congressmen Don Beyer.
“It’s a human rights issue,” said Beyer (pictured below) in a phone interview with GayRVA about the problems transgender airline passengers face. “It seemed like total confusion and total lack of respect for the individual. I think it woke up a lot of people.”
Beyer entered office this year, but he’s been involved in politics since the early 90′s.
He’d first heard about the TSA letter and Petosky’s incident from the lead-signers - Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Brian Higgins (D-NY).
“They’re thoughtful and good people,” he said. “But when they laid out the issue itself, people getting harassed at airports; it’s a commonsense letter, too.”
Beyer said making sure everyone who works for TSA understands the needs of transgender Americans should be a no brainer. “Lets make sure we have a good protocol in place so people don’t have to miss their plan just cause they identify as transgender,” he said.
For those who think this move might be an unnecessary burden on an already taxed government agency, Beyer suggested otherwise.
“The only person who could think that is unaware of what’s happening the in world.” He said, calling such a line of though short sided. “As people are increasingly coming to grips with their own gender identity… then [TSA scans] are a real issue.”
But TSA scanning policies aren’t the only issues transgender folks are facing these days, and Beyer was willing to embrace those concerns as well. He compared it to the topic transgender bathroom use for public schools in Virginia – where Fairfax County has passed supportive policies while other school district have not.
But he was confident progress would be achieved on the issue.
“We’ve got a good Attorney General and a good Governor,” he said. ”We’ll come out in the right place.”
With more than 20 years in politics, Beyer can remember a time when these issues were not front in center. He said when he ran for governor in 1997, the topic of transgender citizens never come up once.
“It’s new, but it’s good cause it’s real,” he said. “It describes the positive journey that we make in terms of self awareness and our authenticity as human beings.”
The TSA has yet to formally respond to the letter. For transgender passengers heading out on flights in the near future, check with the National Transgender Center for Equality’s websites as they have resources for those in need.
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