LIFE IN THE 21st CENTURY: Transgender Travelers Collide with TSA’s Security Theater:

Many travelers may not even realize it, but as they’re forced in to spread eagle for body scanners in security lines at the airport, a TSA agent is pressing a button telling the machine whether the person inside is a male or female. They don’t ask—they just look and decide. In Petosky’s case, the TSA employee saw a woman and pressed the appropriate button. And then the employee declared there was an “anomaly,” which Petosky bluntly explains to Reason, is her penis.

Petosky says she travels frequently and hadn’t had such a problem before. Obviously these body scanners must have picked up the truth about her body, but previous TSA agents must have understood her situation. Petosky says she’s ready to explain that she’s transgender to TSA personnel if necessary. In fact, when the machine in Orlando registered the “anomaly,” she says she immediately told the TSA employee that she was transgender. But rather than accepting the explanation, the TSA agent told her that he wanted her to go through the screening process again “as a man.” Apparently he wasn’t demanding that Petosky change her appearance. Rather, he wanted to switch the button he pressed to male instead of female. Then it became a big mess.

“He kept saying, ‘Are you a man or a woman?'” Petosky says. They said she needed to be pat down, which becomes its own issue for transgender traveler. Should the person patting her down be a man or a woman? She didn’t want to make a female TSA employee have to touch her genitals. The situation escalated; she was taken aside for further screening and ultimately missed her flight. Even worse, in order to reschedule her flight, she had to return to the gate area, meaning that she would have to go through the airport’s security yet again. In addition, Petosky says she was told her hands tested positive for “explosives” residue twice. It was never explained to her why this happened, and she wondered if this was some sort of retaliation or after-the-fact justification for advanced screening.

As USA Today noted earlier this year, “Shortly after TSA was created in late 2001, one of its early mottoes was ‘Dominate. Intimidate. Control.’ From the start, the TSA put more focus on browbeating hapless travelers than intelligently focusing on actual aviation hazards.”