I don’t really travel much.
Why? Well, for one, my work rarely requires that I travel, so that’s one aspect of it, I suppose. Another reason I’m reluctant to travel is that my dog Meatball is kind of a handful, so I feel bad trying to ask friends or family to watch her for any extended period of time. And then there’s my anxiety — that’s key to not wanting to go, I guess. Oh, and money — traveling costs money, and I don’t really have all that much. I don’t particularly like being around strangers.
Am I missing anything? Oh! Right!
Now, “Parker, what does your gender have to do with not wanting to travel? That seems a little strange,” you say. Here’s the deal:
Recently, a story about a woman named Shadi Petosky made the news.
Shadi, someone I know through social media, was flying home from a trip with her mother to Orlando. At the Orlando airport, however, her trip hit a snag as she tried to go through the TSA “body scanner” screening.
Standing in the machine, the TSA agent hit the little pink button, and it scanned Shadi’s body. It flagged an “anomaly,” which was, well, her penis.
Something kind of like this.
From there, a whole bunch of stuff went down that’s probably best understood by reading her Twitter timeline (or Googling her name and checking out one of the news items that come up). It comes down to this: she missed her flight, she was treated like a threat, the police even got called. It’s pretty much worst case scenario for any flying experience someone could possibly have.
The TSA proved to be pretty much worthless here.
In 2012, they had guidelines for how to treat trans passengers on their website. Now? Nowhere to be found.
— Gender Queeries (@GenderQueeries) September 23, 2015
.@JennyBoylan TSA takes all potential civil rights violations very seriously. We are looking into the situation now for further information.
— TSA (@TSA) September 21, 2015
And it’s not like this is a new issue. Last year, Al Jazeera confirmed what we already knew: trans people are unfairly profiled at airports. So… what changed? Nothing.
Then came the backlash.
Soon after she tweeted her experience, I noticed that some people began making arguments like “We were just following procedure” (then your procedure is messed up, TSA), “It’s a security issue!” (What?), and most disturbingly, a bunch of nonsense about how Shadi should have gone in the “men’s line” or something to that effect.
@shadipetosky U broke the rules, acted flippantly towards TSA doing their job correctly & U want sympathy?! Trans-star hopes accomplished?
— Shades Kelly (@ShadesKelly) September 25, 2015
— SuzyZ (@suzyz40) September 25, 2015
What makes the last statement so ridiculous? Well, if you’ve flown anytime in the last… ever, you’ll know that these screening lines are not separated by gender. There is no “men’s line.” All that happened was she stepped into the machine, a TSA agent read her as a woman and hit the pink button, the machine scanned her, and it showed that there was an “anomaly” in her groin region. Shadi was not trying to “debate transgender issues.” She had a ticket, she walked up, she followed instructions, she was open and honest when asked questions. WTF do you people want from her? She never even said she was a woman. They don’t ask you what gender you are. They simply look, hit the button, and it scans. See? This has nothing to do with IDs or names or even self-identification. This has to do with TSA agents looking at a passenger and then guessing what body parts come with. All Shadi did was show up, wearing clothes that didn’t say anything one way or another about her gender, and got in trouble for it.
Oh, and before anyone chimes in with “She should have declared herself as transgender before she went through the line, and asked to be scanned ‘as a man!'” Cool your tits. Had she done that, the scanner would have flagged her chest as an anomaly, and there she is in the same position as before.
The US Government created a system where a person looks at another person, guesses their sex, then presses a pink or blue button
— Shadi Petosky (@shadipetosky) September 24, 2015
While I’ve never, ever been through anything as ridiculous as Shadi, I’ve set off that machine (honestly, I don’t know what buttons they hit for me) maybe… 65% of the time? That comes with a mandatory pat-down. Yay freedom… :/
But none of that will ever be good enough for some.
There are some people who — without a hint of irony — will both declare themselves fans of “freedom,” but also believe that certain groups (like trans people, for instance), should be profiled as security threats or, in the case of this dude, just straight up not allowed on flights.
Oh no! Not trying to board a plane with 200+ other souls! The horror! Seriously, though, how is that at all in line with “freedom” or supposed conservative values of “small government?” It’s not. It’s a cry for trans people to be scrutinized simply for existing.
“Special accommodations?” No one is asking for “special accommodations.” In fact, it’s statements like these that seem to ask for “special accommodations” for people who aren’t trans.