We’ve all heard horror stories about trans people being harassed—and sometimes violated—when going through security at the airport.
But last weekend one TSA agent scored an A-plus when faced with a potentially uncomfortable situation.
Amanda Sapir, who identifies as gender-nonconforming and trans masculine, was in line for a flight at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
Sapir suspected the airport body scanner would go off because they were wearing boxer briefs. That’s because the machines are coded differently for male and female-presenting passengers.
TSA agent pushes a pink-for-girls or blue-for-boys binary gender button when a passenger enters the body scanner. The scanner then looks for “anomalies” under the passenger’s clothing–and in the process, engages in technological sex/gender policing.
“Anomalies” like a bra on a male-presenting body or boxer shorts on a female-presenting body.
But instead of causing a scene or delaying Sapir, agent Darlene Thi Lac showed professionalism and sensitivity.
After exiting the body scanner I told TSA staff, “The scanner is going to flag my crotch with a big yellow square.” At that exact moment, the scanner results indeed showed the yellow square.
“Happens every time,” I say.
“Why do you think?” she says.
“Because I wear boxer briefs.”
“Oh, what is the gender you would like to be identified as?”
“Well, I consider myself gender nonconforming. I am female and also trans masculine.”
“Let’s see what happens when I tell the machine you are male,” she says.
She sends me through the scanner one more time. The yellow square disappears.
Though a yellow rectangle has now appeared across my chest. We both start laughing!
“Now the machine is wondering about…”
“Boobs,” we say in unison laughing some more.
She asks me how I identify so that she may pat me down accordingly.
“You get to decide how you are identified,” she says.
After the screening and pat down, which confirmed I pose no harm and I am not hiding anything anywhere, I let her know, “Thank you. That was the kindest and most socially aware TSA experience I have ever had. Your thoughtfulness really means the world.”
“I love people,” she says, “We should be kind to everyone.”
After Sapir, a writer, posted about their interaction on Facebook, the story went viral—with calls for Thi Lac to be made “employee of the month.”
“I wish her so much of all good things,” said Sapir in a followup post. “Such a sweet person. I almost missed my flight writing a positive comment card about her at the TSA counter.”
Last fall, after a number of incidents involving trans passengers, the TSA issued a statement indicating that “transgender persons will be screened as he or she presents at the security checkpoint.”
The statement also noted that the agency, regularly meets with organizations representing the transgender community… to improve the screening process for transgender travelers.”
Sounds like it’s working.
To learn more about the obstacles trans people are met with everyday watch Logo’s “Fill in the Blank: Transitioning in the Workplace” video below: