Tis the season when many people are thinking about flying. In addition to all the usual travel stressors, the Transportation Safety Administration’s new screening policies have some very concerned. Those troubled by the new developments may include (but are not limited to) transgender or gender variant people, those with disabilities or medical devices and trauma survivors.
TSA’s new security measures will give travelers the choice between going through body scanners that show passengers unclothed or submitting to an “enhanced” pat-down technique. On the one hand, many see the full-body scans as a radiation risk and intrusive in their own right. There is also concern about what happens to the images, though the TSA claims to destroy them. The physical pat down is no less intrusive, and for trauma survivors may indeed feel terribly reminiscent of a sexual assault. Any unwanted touch may be triggering for trauma survivors!
The New York Times reports the following passenger complaints:
Some offer graphic accounts of genital contact, others tell of agents gawking or making inappropriate comments, and many express a general sense of powerlessness and humiliation. In general passengers are saying they are surprised by the intimacy of a physical search usually reserved for police encounters.
Will this impact your travel plans? If you must fly, what can you do about this?
Preparing a coping plan is a good idea for survivors who will be flying under these conditions. You can think through which scenario seems most manageable to you. You have the right to opt out of the scanner by simply saying “I opt out”. Arm yourself with the knowledge that you can ask for a supervisor or report anything that feels out of line. Practice and use your favorite grounding skills.
More information on filing complaints and protesting these measures:
FlyersRights.org operates a hotline for passenger complaints.
EFF provides other ways to file complaints.
The American Civil Liberties Union is conducting a survey regarding passenger profiling during airport security screenings through an online complaint form. They have already received over 400 complaints.