TSA Incident Reports

It hasn’t been a lot of fun to travel via air for some years now, but the new Transportation Security Administration policies around the use of backscatter imaging or the invasive pat down alternative, are making me think hard about such travel at all. Of course, my sweetie is among the many traveling for work.

There is reason for medical concern about the backscatter x-ray machines. There is a lot of reason to object to invasive pat downs, including the religious and civil rights to not have one’s personal space invaded. For trans people, both the machines, possibly showing genitalia, and the pat downs, where the agent might not find the expected anatomy,  are hugely negative and likely leading to outing in a very vulnerable, powerless situation (in line at the airport). A lot of good information is out there on the issue if you google for it.

The best thing to do if one must fly under these circumstances is to be polite and confident, whichever choice you make. If untoward behavior occurs, you do have recourse; report the incident to the TSA, the airport, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The details follow.

Good luck traveling this Thanksgiving weekend!

EPIC incident reporter for TSA screenings

Posted by: “John Otto”

Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:10 pm (PST)

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has set up a web-based, incident report form for experiences with TSA screenings. I think this is an excellent way to help improve the situation, and encourage anyone who has had an incident to report it. For those unfamiliar with EPIC, they are one of the leading players in advocating for privacy protections.


A heads up about the form, however. Unfortunately, for the gender reporting, the form requests selecting male, female, or transgender. I am opposed to forcing transgender people to choose between reporting their transgender status and their gender. However, in this case, since transgender people (whether FTM or MTF) face even more challenges from the TSA screenings than non-trans people, I think it is especially important to get beyond this and to report one’s transgender status on this form. For all transpeople, whether men or women, I encourage you to please select “Transgender” in this instance.

Please help spread the word about this TSA incident reporting form. Feel free to forward my email.

John Otto

PS – I encourage ANYONE and EVERYONE to use this reporting tool, transgender or not. Protecting privacy and our civil liberties helps everyone.

Siblings and Self-Awareness

The New York Times Magazine has a new article out, When Brother Becomes Sister. Though it is ‘positive,’ as far as its exploration of what it means to be in relationship with a person who comes out as trans, I find myself ambivalent about the piece. And perhaps that is fair, as the writer’s experience is (still) ambivalent, as many folks’ are, in a similar situation.

I am sorta amused by the use of reference to a travel guide book as the parallel ‘story’ in the narrative. It’s classic NYT style, and fine prose… but just so very odd. The book is Jan Morris’s “Venice,” who is transsexual, so that part as parallel makes sense. But the use of actual bits o the travel writing in the current story felt very off to me, like they were mostly about taking up space. A writer certainly has a number of words to fill in any particular assignment.

I also wish that the author had at some point, when seeing her own response to her sibling would be that s/he “be content to stay semi-in-the-closet so he could keep his job teaching music at a Catholic school”.  The lack of self-awareness in some of these statements honestly surprises me, as does the lack of questioning of the school or the mere fact that her sibling would have to be someone other than who she was in order to keep her job.

On the other hand, the ending of the piece is sweet in the author’s interest in “competing” with her sister in terms of makeup and such.

My sister doesn’t talk to me, so I think a little competition sounds nice.