Transgender individuals sometimes experience invasive searches after going through full-body scans during airport security screenings, according to an investigation by ProPublica and the Miami Herald. Part of the problem is that the full-body scanners often used at TSA checkpoints look for breasts if passengers are identified by TSA officers as female and for penises if officers identify passengers as male. Because of that, transgender people often set off the scanner’s alarms. A trans woman, named “Olivia” in the article, said she triggered a scanner’s alarm and ended up having to show her genitals to three female TSA officers when she refused to be patted down by a man. A trans man, Allister McGuire, also told ProPublica that two male TSA officers made him take off his binder and lifted his breasts with their hands. A TSA officer told ProPublica that the officers in Olivia’s case should not have permitted her to expose herself, as that is against the agency’s standard operating procedure.
Nearly 300 complaints have been submitted to the agency related to the screening of transgender travelers between January 2016 through April 2019. TSA spokesperson Jenny Burke said the agency conducts security screenings “without regard to a person’s race, color, sex, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability.” Burke also said the agency recently rolled out transgender awareness training and is studying better technology options.