Calls have been made for airport security staff to undergo sensitivity training after a transgender man was asked to remove a prosthetic penis from his pants.
Security has increased in airports since the 9/11 attack in 2001 but surely asking a man to remove his prosthetic appendage is going too far?
Not only is it demeaning, it’s dangerous and could potentially lead to the person being outed when they’re not prepared to be, especially so publicly.
A Senate inquiry is underway to examine whether aviation safety and security measures are effective, and this incident, which occurred in 2015, is under scrutiny.
The passenger wrote a formal complaint, saying the incident was demeaning and that security officers and airport staff should undergo sensitivity training to be more mindful of people of varying backgrounds, namely the transgender community.
The situated escalated when the man was taken aside after the prosthetic was detected in his underwear.
“In full view of other travellers, the supervisor approached me putting rubber gloves on,” he wrote. “When I asked him what the gloves were for, he told me that he was going to do a ‘private search’.”
He was then taken to a small room where the supervisor “pulled out my prosthetic enough for them to see”.
The National LGBTI Health Alliance has told the inquiry about the “pervasive discrimination” in airport security, calling for more understanding of the community and their personal rights.
The staff member then opened the door for the man to leave while the prosthetic was still sitting in the tray. Asking for some privacy to put his prosthetic back into place, the staff closed the door but was left there with two men watching him.
“I suggest you look into sensitivity training and put some guidelines in place for your employees,” the man complained.
The National Centre for Transgender Equality says security checkpoints can be particularly intrusive for transgender people, especially because of the potential to reveal a person’s private life and personal situation without their consent.
“These procedures can be invasive of everyone’s privacy and are of particular concern to transgender people because of their potential to ‘out’ people in unsafe ways, potentially leading to harassment and discrimination,” the centre says.
The centre also claims that prosthetics are allowed through checkpoints after going through screening, adding that people might prefer to put these things in checked baggage to avoid attention.
They also explain that people should never be expected to remove their prosthetic, adding that if they are asked to remove clothing to reveal a prosthetic or are asked to remove it entirely, they should make a formal complaint.
“This applies to binding items, breast forms, and other prosthetics. If an officer asks you to reveal a prosthetic item, ask to speak to a supervisor and calmly explain the situation.”
Late last year a transgender woman, Shadi Petosky, was also held at an airport in Orlando when an anomaly appeared during her security screening and her physical gender didn’t appear to match the name and gender on her identification card.
“I don’t know if I want my No 1 Google searches to be a crying photo of me and a story about my genitals, but what’s happened is a lot of other transgender people are saying that they have a similar story,” Petosky said. “I think it kind of highlights an ongoing problem.”