Trans people face ‘dehumanising’ searches at US airports. That’s finally set to change in 2023

Photo of a woman wearing a turquoise-coloured top and jeans going through an airport full-body scanner with her arms raised

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will roll out a gender-neutral screening system for airports in the United States after previous systems were described as “invasive” and “dehumanising” for trans and non-binary people. 

The new measures to implement gender-neutral screenings were announced in March, however they will finally be put into place in January 2023, Fox News reported.

The more accurate technology will replace the gender-based system, which scans people differently based on physical anatomy and can lead to trans and non-binary people being misgendered, having to discuss their bodies with agents, or being patted down or searched by agents, due to scanners misreporting their bodies.

A 2015 survey of trans Americans found that of the respondents who had gone through airport security in the past year, 43 per cent had a problem at the checkpoint due to their gender identity.

The TSA said that the new standards for screening “transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming airline passengers” will “advance civil rights and improve customer experience” by reducing the number of pat-downs required with its more accurate technology.

The TSA, which received $18.6 million in funding to develop, test, and deploy the gender-neutral technology, also changed its guidelines to allow an “X” gender marker on its TSA PreCheck programme. 

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In April, US secretary of state Antony Blinken announced that X gender markers will be available on passport applications from 11 April. Medical documentation is no longer required to update the gender marker on US passports.

The TSA has faced criticism for its screening system for years.

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Notably, in 2019, then-Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren described the current systems as “dehumanising” for trans and non-binary people

Her comments related to a ProPublica investigation, which revealed that trans airline passengers were being made to endure “invasive searches” due to gender-based scanning technology.

ProPublica found in its report that, despite the TSA saying it is committed to treating all passengers equally and fairly, five per cent of civil rights complaints against the TSA related to the treatment of trans passengers.

Warren responded: “Trans and non-binary people shouldn’t have to face invasive and dehumanising screenings to travel.

“We must do better – and I’ll keep working to ensure that every trans and non-binary American is able to live without fear or discrimination.”

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