TSA And Gender Profiling

From Counter Currents:  http://www.countercurrents.org/mcelroy171012.htm

By Erin McElroy
17 October, 2012
As I stood in the slowly moving line toward the full-body scanner at San Francisco International Airport this past July, the last thing on my mind was my relationship to gender. Probably like most people in line, an array of thoughts were swimming through my head, some more banal than others. I was about to present at a conference on racism sanctioned upon Roma communities through transnational praxes of securitization, and perhaps my paper abstract was most poignant in my head as I approached the TSA. Mindlessly I took off my jacket and sneakers, and upon instruction, entered the claustrophobic space of the full-body scanner. Following orders, I lifted my hands as if being interrogated by an armed officer, and then walked out, ready to retrieve my bags from the conveyor belt.

But before I was able to make my way to my bag, a TSA officer approached and obstructed my way. “Excuse me,” he queried, his face less than a foot from mine, “Are you female, or a guy?”


True, my gender confuses people often. I was born female, and then began transitioning to male several years ago. After a year of transitioning, I decided that rather than fully pass as male, I wanted to remain more ambiguous. Not only did I feel most myself enacting androgyny, but politically I also preferred subverting the gender binary over performing one side of it or the other. Sure, this choice has come with risk and compromise, and I find myself having to practice strategic essentialism throughout various contexts, often to avoid harassment. It hadn’t occurred to me up until this airport moment, that TSA checkpoints were one of these contexts.

“Are you female, or a guy?” He was attempting to conceal a smirk below his professional stoicism.

“Why does it matter?” I cautiously inquired.

“We didn’t recognize your body in the body scan,” he explained, matter-of-factly. “And so we need to pat you down. We need to know which gender TSA officer should perform the pat-down.”

Ah ha! So because my body was not recognizable on the scan, I needed to be further examined. Not because I contained any suspicious objects, but because my gender was deviant. Frustrated and dejected, I pointed to a female TSA officer nearby, and said that she could pat me down. The whole thing took less than a minute, and soon enough I was on my way to the terminal, growing more confused and angry with each step.

Continue reading at:  http://www.countercurrents.org/mcelroy171012.htm

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