Legislation Introduced to Reform TSA’s Screening Procedures for Transgender Travelers

Legislation has been introduced in the House that would require the TSA to reform its security screening procedures to be more accommodating to transgender travelers.

Legislation has been introduced in the House to improve the Transportation Security Administration’s screening procedures for transgender airline passengers.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and is known as the Screening With Dignity Act of 2016 (H. R. 6420).

The language in the legislation is vague as to how it would improve security screening procedures, stating only:

The [TSA] Administrator shall develop procedures to appropriately screen self-identified transgender passengers. In developing such procedures, the Administrator shall take into consideration the particular needs of persons whose gender identity is different or is perceived to be different from their assigned sex at birth and the disparate impact of screening on transgender passengers as opposed to the general population of passengers.

The bill’s language says that training will be given to TSA officers on the aforementioned new procedures.

It also instructs the TSA to “conduct a study that evaluates the disparate impact that advanced imaging technology has on self-identified transgender passengers as opposed to the general population of passengers.” It adds, “Such [a] study shall include an examination of instances since 2010 in which a self-identified transgender passenger was required to undergo a secondary screening procedure after alarming the advanced imaging technology involved.”

In October 2015, a group of lawmakers sent a letter to TSA Administration Peter Neffenger urging changes in the way that the agency screens transgender passengers. The letter was sent in response to reports of a transgender traveler, Shadi Petosky, being detained and put through what the letter’s authors said were inappropriate airport security screening procedures by TSA officers at the Orlando International Airport reportedly due to a misunderstanding about her gender identity.

The letter noted that TSA procedures require agents to select a passenger’s gender when passing through imaging machines, which the lawmakers said is unfair to transgender passengers. “This protocol may be well-suited to screen some cisgender passengers, but they do so at the expense of singling out transgender or gender nonconforming individuals whose physical appearances may not necessarily match their biological sex,” wrote the lawmakers. The term “cisgender” refers to individuals whose self-identity conforms to that of their biological sex.

Rice’s bill is presumably being introduced as part of the same effort to push the TSA to change its screening procedures for transgender air travelers. Rice was also one of the authors of the letter sent last year.

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.