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The Dilemna of Whole Body Scanners

07 Mar Posted by in • Genderqueer | Comments Off on The Dilemna of Whole Body Scanners
The Dilemna of Whole Body Scanners

People are concerned not only for their privacy but for a variety of other reasons when faced with the possibility of being subject to a full body scan at airport security check points. Privacy and what some deem illegal search and seizure seemed to be the main topics in the news and opinions articles put out there over the past six months. For those that may not have heard, TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has instituted full body scanners which essentially are pictures of everything under your clothing.

For those with gender identity issues, whether that be reassignment surgery, passing, genderqueer, etc, the new procedure adds an element to the anxiety travelers are feeling going through these check points. For many genderqueer and transgendered folks, prosthetics are a part of daily life. Breast and penile prosthetics are often used in this community. Wearing a prosthetic through a scanner will undoubtedly raise a question with the reviewer, and rightfully so. One can opt out of the scan and be physically pat down in a semi private area. However this too will usually end in the same result, having to expose the prosthetic to officials for examination. The most common suggested solution to this occurring would be to pack your prosthetics in your checked baggage. In theory that sounds like a great answer, unless you are the person who relies on those prosthetics to feel whole.

Traveling as a genderqueer or transgendered individual already presents anxious moments. Many people have documentation with genders different than those they present as. This in itself can lead to invasive searching, demands for physicians’ records and letters, etc. Having to carry a file to prove you are a person is pretty disturbing but one the gay community in general has become all too familiar with. If one is able to get through the check point on their current ID and only an odd stare and whisper to other TSA officials, they still must face the possibility of the scanner and/or pat down.  The decision at this point must be made. Does one remove their prosthetics to lessen the chances of questioning and invasive pat downs yet risk the emotional trauma having to be someone you are not? Or do they go through the procedure and ultimately risk the humiliation and intolerance having to expose and/or remove the prosthetics in public will cause?

Many transgendered and genderqueer people have simply given up air travel. Those who cannot, have encountered everything from no scans and no problems to having to have their devices exposed, detached, handled and run through tests to ensure their safety. And while most of us can agree, the intent behind the policies are warranted, TSA’s inability to provide a tolerant, knowledgeable staff and way to conduct these security checks is causing irreparable emotional damage. No one should feel less a person for needing a prosthetic to be whole, no one.

Echo resides in northern New Jersey with her wife and the two youngest of their five children. You can visit her blog at

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