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Got a moment? I need to hear first-hand or reliably-sourced experiences with the TSA full-body scanners and/or patdowns in US airports. I especially need to know what trans people have experienced while wearing "prosthetics" and could specifically use experiences flying out of SFO and SEA.

I am a transsexual man who packs and I am also a survivor of sexual abuse and assault. Given that, just how extensive is the average patdown? I would probably refuse a trip through the scanner if the patdowns themselves were not storied as invasive and traumatic. Either way I feel like I am bound to have a bad experience if I fly, but it is the cheapest way to travel on short notice.

Please share, and keep in mind that what is "no big deal" for a cisgendered or average body may not turn out to be no big deal for a trans person's body. That and I am not sure I would be able to refrain from punching someone if they touched my genitals. PTSD is a funny thing.

This entry was composed @Dreamwidth.
Feel free to comment either here or there.

Post@Dreamwidth | Comments@Dreamwidth


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:11 am (UTC)
If you're flying from SFO to SEA, you should go with Virgin Airlines. I just flew them (on August 13), and Terminal 2 -- which Virgin flies out of -- has no advanced imaging technology scanner, only old-fashioned metal detectors. No AIT means there's nothing to opt out of, so that means no groping. Keep in mind that other airlines at SFO are not safe. Other terminals at SFO do have naked-scanners and groping.

Another option is to fly out of Santa Rosa or Monterey. Obviously, there is extra cost and time involved in getting to one of these airports. I've flown out of Monterey, but not out of Santa Rosa. Monterey is a tiny airport with easy security -- again, only metal detectors, no groping.

As far as getting back from Seattle, I recommend taking the bus or train to Portland and flying out of PDX. Portland has no naked-scanners whatsoever, and may never get them. There is a lot of local opposition to it. This is what I did recently to get back from Seattle, so I can tell you that this plan still works as of August 16.

tsastatus.net is very helpful. I haven't flown out of a single airport that has naked-scanners ever since they were deployed. I've made sure to plan to fly out of alternative airports, no matter what the inconvenience. As a trans man who packs, I take this very seriously -- I'm not going to put myself in a situation where someone may discover I have genitals they're not expecting.

The only *bad* TSA experience I've had was in mid-2009 when I was flying out of O'Hare after having top surgery. I was hassled because my ID still said 'F' and they couldn't believe I could be the person on my ID because of that. Ironic that. Since then, I've gotten my ID corrected and I've, like I said, avoided situations where I'm likely to encounter an aggressive pat-down.
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:12 am (UTC)
Sacramento is another airport that should be safe to fly out of, and you can take Amtrak there.
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:13 am (UTC)



I didn't see that SEA was worth the risk of flying out of, when I was there -- I preferred to spend most of a day on Greyhound getting to Portland in order to fly out of there.
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:14 am (UTC)
Oops, I should have posted this on DW so the links would work. Oh well.
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:21 am (UTC)
No problem. I can copy and paste. :)

Thanks for the extensive info. I am getting bad vibes from people regarding SEA but since I would probably fly Virgin out of SFO it sounds like I'd be ok on the way out. What a PIA. I've been pissed off about this since rumors of the scanners started surfacing. I keep waiting for the court case that will stop the TSA but.. I dunno. I think the ACLU got paid off or they just don't give a shit about certain classes of people.
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:23 am (UTC)
I guess I'm slightly less cynical than that: I just think the percentage of people who care at all is vanishingly small. Even the paranoid libertarian types who are cis, and who don't want scanners, don't constitute a big enough group to have any political power.

Apathy is a dangerous thing.
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:58 am (UTC)
It's interesting that PDX has managed to buck the trend, though. What sort of coalitions were formed there? They must be/have been substantial.
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
TSA employees were, at least at one point, handling out the number to call to say "I don't want scanners installed at PDX."
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:59 am (UTC)
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:33 am (UTC)
I've never been patted, but I've been wanded, because I kept setting the metal detector off.

After being pulled aside, I was given a wanding by a person of my target gender, who was courteous and charming. We eventually determined that my underwire was setting it off.

I've gone through modern full-body scanners without question/incident, despite having a rather atypical blend of body parts.

My last flight was from Indianapolis to BWI, which is a pretty high-traffic and tight security destination. Full body scanners at both locations. No problems on either my flight out or back.

Now, if someone were to tell me that they will get down in my junk as part of a pat-down, I think I might wish to quietly pre-brief them on things. I'd be ok with doing that. Your mileage may vary. My past is what it was. My present is what it is. There's no shame in either. I will not succumb to fear. This is not to say that I am foolhardy; I am vigilant and aware of my exceptional circumstance as I progress through TSA each time. But there are all kinds of people with exceptional body/presentation circumstances... people with alopecia, ostomies, implants, prosthetics... they all go through the TSA every day. I'm not so special, really. I'm just another sheep on the farm... and for the purpose of travel, I'll play nice for the sheepdog.

Since transitioning in 2007, I've flown through SFO, SNA, ORD, IND, BWI, PDX, MCO and SJC on major carriers. I'm flying Southwest from IND to SFO next month.

I have a US passport and Indiana drivers license with my target gender, although my birth cert and social security records don't match those other things. I plan to fly to Europe in the next year or so.
Aug. 24th, 2011 12:56 am (UTC)
Thanks for the info. I am trying to figure an itinerary that will bypass body scanners altogether. I don't seem to set off metal detectors if I remember to remove my belt.
Aug. 25th, 2011 03:22 pm (UTC)
They don't touch your genitals but darn near close. I'm a girl though so maybe hanging down bits would get touched in the proceedure. They pull the waistband of your pants out and that felt horrible to me. They run their hands over your rear end and up under your breasts and across your chest. I found it pretty awful. I just had to have a pat down on the way back because if you have a service dog they don't want you to go through that screening machine. I'm not sure what else to say.
Aug. 25th, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC)
Yeah I'm getting the impression from all I have been told that, even though the patdown is supposedly done in a "professional" manner (usually..), it is something that I would not want to undergo. I am very sensitive about strangers touching me purposefully in places that other people might not have a problem with. If someone pulled at the waist of my pants I might hit them--honestly I don't know what my reaction would be, but I get very anxious just thinking about it.

I don't think I am going to fly this time at least.
Aug. 25th, 2011 10:59 pm (UTC)
Funnily enough this topic came up in my therapy session. Apparently now if you have a service dog it doesn't go through the screener and you have to have a pat down but I don't do well with being touched.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


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