TSA Officers Allegedly Insisted Trans Teen Show Genitals Before Flying

The TSA supervisor said she needed to “feel up in there," according to a recently filed lawsuit.

Jamii Erway and her mother Kimberly were ready to fly on May 1, 2019. The two arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina with tickets and valid IDs. But when 16-year-old Jamii stepped into the full-body scanner, the trans teen’s life changed, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday, April 6.

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The federal lawsuit claims Jamii set off a false positive when she entered the scanner. Jamii told the scanner operator that she was transgender and that if they tried scanning her using the other gender marker on the machine, the issue would be resolved. Instead, the TSA employee flagged a supervisor.

“Notwithstanding, and for reasons still unknown to plaintiffs, [the supervisor] advised Jamii that she would need to accompany her to a private room, expose herself, and allow [the supervisor] to “feel up in there,” i.e., touch her genitals,” the complaint reads.

Jamii refused. When her mother overheard the interaction, she demanded to be part of the conversation about her underage child. The supervisor allegedly told her to her to “mind her business.”

Kimberly refused to let agents conduct the search. Court documents state that police called to the scene likewise declined to enforce the search. The two were ultimately unable to board the flight and had to drive 600 miles to their destination, they claim.

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“Jamii continues to experience symptoms of severe emotional distress, including symptoms of panic, anxiety, fear, racing heart, shortness of breath, uncontrollable shaking, and nausea, whenever reminded of the incident described herein and has been unable to fly since,” the complaints reads.

A TSA spokesperson tells NewNowNext the agency does not comment on pending litigation. The agency has faced allegations of misconduct against transgender passengers in the past. An investigation by ProPublica last August found that 5% of all TSA complaints were related to screening of transgender travelers, while trans passengers made less than 1% of the population.

According to the TSA webpage on trans travelers, agents only submit travelers to pat-downs, and it is against policy to perform strip-searches. “You will not be asked to remove or lift any article of clothing to reveal sensitive body areas,” the site states.

Kate Sosin is an award-winning, trans-identified news and investigative reporter.