Traveling While Trans

Next Year We’ll Finally Get Gender Neutral TSA Screening

Gender-neutral screening is finally coming to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The updated screening technology is aiming to be implemented in January 2023, nearly a year after the plan was first outlined.

The “new standards for screening transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming airline passengers” were originally announced in March. The TSA received $18.6 million to develop new imaging technology as part of the Biden administration’s wider reforms coinciding with 2022’s Trans Day of Visibility, including the introduction of the “X” gender marker on passports.

The current screening system requires TSA agents to select either male or female on the full-body scanner. Not only does this lead to misgendering, it has incited nearly 300 complaints from transgender passengers between 2015 and 2019, according to a ProPublica report. These account for 5% of civil rights complaints, a disproportionate statistic compared to the estimated number of trans people in the US.

One of the complaints detailed by the report comes from Olivia, a 36-year-old trans woman, who was taken aside during a screening. “On the scanner’s screen was an outline of a human body with the groin highlighted,” the account reads. “The officer told Olivia that because of something the scanner had detected, a pat-down would be necessary.” After multiple invasive searches, Olivia was eventually forced to disrobe.

The new machines will hopefully limit incidents like these by removing the gender requirement altogether. Additionally, the TSA is updating its operating procedures for agents to “permit less invasive screening procedures for certain passengers who trigger the AIT scanner in a sensitive area,” according to the press release.

Related: Gender, Passports, And The Problem With “X”

Since the TSA machines will no longer require a gender input, it might also be a good time to reconsider the purpose that gender markers serve on IDs. “In reality, it would make more sense, be more inclusive, and ultimately be safer for all to simply remove gender from the majority of IDs entirely,” Faefyx Collington writes for INTO. “There’s no truly compelling and non-bigoted reason for the gender to be listed there.”

An exact date for the new measures has not yet been announced, but the TSA hopes to have them up and running around January. “As efforts listed here become operational, TSA will continue to remain in close coordination with key community stakeholders” in order to work out issues with the new technology, the TSA has said.

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