The Biden Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has reportedly been spending $18.6 million to make America’s airport screening technology more “inclusive” for so-called “transgender” people, particularly those who identify as “non-binary.”
“Data from the TSA shows of the 26,542 screening complaints they receive annually, just over 6% are from members of the LGBTQ+ community. In an effort to lower that number, the agency is spending $18.6 million on nonbinary screening systems,” Burlington, Vermont station WCAX reported Tuesday.
The problem with the old systems was that they offended members of the transgender community, who often failed the screenings and were forced to undergo pat-downs because their gender identity didn’t match their biological makeup.
“The technology currently being used by TSA takes a very binary approach to security screenings. As a result, noncisgender individuals are likely to be brought aside for often embarrassing physical pat-downs,” WCAX explains.
Is airport security technology inherently gender biased? The Transportation Security Administration tells us the answer is yes. @wcax
— Rachel Mann (@rmann_news) December 14, 2022
“The way that we’ve operated the system is specifically based on blue button if the individual is perceived by the officer to be male, pink button if the individual is perceived by our officer to be female,” Jose Bonilla, the TSA’s executive director for traveler engagement, explained to the station.
What this reportedly means for transgender/nonbinary travelers is that they’re that much more likely to be flagged and then patted down — which apparently affects the quality of life of such individuals.
“It is that level of barrier and exclusion that leads to trans people not being able to live their lives with self-determination and joy,” Dana Kaplan, the executive director of Outright Vermont, said to the station.
The goal of the new systems, therefore, is to make it so that transgender individuals aren’t forced to deal with unnecessary pat-downs.
Bonilla believes the new system will be successful.
“After roughly one year of testing, Bonilla is confident the sharper image technology will reduce the number of physical pat-downs happening at TSA checkpoints,” according to WCAX.
All these efforts are being backed by Rep. Taylor Small, the first transgender legislator in Vermont. According to him, he gets patted down in the groin every time he flies.
“I went through the scanner, the alert went off that the TSA agents needed to check my groin area. Everyone knew, I knew exactly what was happening. The TSA agents knew what was happening at that moment and yet they felt the necessity to go through that protocol nonetheless,” Small told WCAX.
“It really is an uncomfortable process. I felt very lucky that at the time there were not a lot of folks traveling, that it wasn’t this public affair,” he added.
Thank you @TSA for your transphobic screening processes. I guess I should expect one of your agents to pat down my crotch every time I fly, huh?
— Rep. Taylor Small (@TaylorSmallVT) November 30, 2022
Just 2 months ago I traveled abroad but left from Montréal, Canada instead and can you guess how many times my crotch was examined by airport security? None. I went through five different countries and none of the security personnel had an issue.
— Rep. Taylor Small (@TaylorSmallVT) November 30, 2022
Small added that proper TSA agent training and education will also be needed.
“One TSA agent offered for us to do the scan again while the other was very adamant that they were going to do a pat-down in that moment. So, I think there are some discrepancies based on which TSA agent you are seeing,” he said.
The new systems are slated to officially roll out in January, according to Fox News. In the meantime, “individuals who feel their gender was incorrectly assumed now have the option to ask for a re-screening before submitting to a physical pat-down.”
The administration’s desire to modify these screening systems first became apparent in March when the admin announced a spate of new measures it intended to take on behalf of the transgender community.
“Today, on International Trans Day of Visibility, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced new measures to better serve all Americans, regardless of their gender identity,” the administration announced through a Department of Homeland Security press release.
“Through technology updates, process changes, and expanded partnerships, TSA and CBP are improving their screening procedures and ensuring they are conducted in a manner that respects the dignity of each individual. These measures are part of a concerted effort by the Biden-Harris Administration to advance equality for transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming Americans.”
Regarding the new screening tech, the press release promised that this new tech would “advance civil rights and improve the customer experience of travelers who previously have been required to undergo additional screening due to alarms in sensitive areas.”
— Wanda Rufin (@WandaRufin) April 1, 2022
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