A trans passenger has accused the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of severe mistreatment and is calling on TSA to provide better training to staff.
“One of the worst things about traveling as trans is going through TSA,” said photographer and activist NV Gay in a video posted to Instagram describing their experience.
Gay said they were going through security at the Orlando International Airport when they were flagged by the body scanner.
“Of course, if you’ve got boobs and a bottom part, well it’s gonna flag you, and ya know I’m ready for that, I’m expecting that…The problem is that the TSA continually does not train their employees on how to respectfully pat down and talk to trans people.”
Gay said the person patting them down “continually decided to rub ‘down there’ multiple times all over me and then very loudly put it out there to everyone in the crowd that I was trans with a penis and with boobs and that she had no idea and she didn’t know if she could clear me and that she’d have to get her supervisor to clear me.”
“It’s ridiculous at this point,” Gay lamented. “It’s so easy to just be respectful. Be like ‘hey, you’ve got flagged, I need to check’…Be better TSA.”
In the caption, Gay added that “the most disgusting part was that the TSA officer constantly said that my bottom part was poking her, which was not true at all.”
“Having to go through that was horrible,” they added. “No person should ever be treated this way.”
Gay told LGBTQ Nation that this is far from the only negative experience they have had with TSA and that since posting the video, other trans people have messaged them to share their own “truly horrific experiences.”
“The TSA needs to implement trainings on how to treat all passengers as humans and understand that different people look different and have various body parts,” Gay said.
“They should also have multiple agents present for screenings and make sure that the passenger has given consent. Passengers should also be able to record situations in order to make sure that they are not taken advantage of. This goes for everyone, not just transgender individuals.”
The official account of Orlando International Airport replied to Gay’s Instagram post with an apology for what they experienced and asked them to provide more detailed information about where and when the incident took place so the airport could reach out to the local management team.
This led to a Direct Message conversation between Gay and the airport on Instagram (which Gay shared with LGBTQ Nation), in which the airport representative apologized repeatedly and told Gay to reach back out if they don’t hear back from TSA soon.
On Twitter, TSA replied to Gay’s video that they “appreciate” the “feedback” and “continue to push for technological improvement that will provide effective security w/ out gender identification.”
Gay, who has also filed an official complaint with TSA, then replied that updating technology is a step but that it is far more important to train employees in respectful treatment. “The scan was not the problem. The way the agent treated me was the issue!” Gay emphasized.
In a statement to LGBTQ Nation, TSA stated that it “recognizes the concerns of transgender/non-binary/gender nonconforming passengers with the security screening process, and the agency continues to implement the new algorithm on the Advanced Imaging Technology units to significantly reduce false alarms and improve efficiency for all passengers.”
It continued, “At TSA, we are committed to ensuring every traveler is treated with respect and courtesy. When passengers have complaints about their specific screening experience, we encourage them to contact the TSA Contact Center.”