The TSA spent $18.6 million on security screening after its current system was found to be gender-biased. It might sound odd at first, but there is a good reason for the change. Gender-neutral passengers were getting consistently flagged and patted down more than straight and binary people. This is because TSA agents had two buttons to choose from as someone walked through security: blue and pink.
The TSA Screening Process Has Been Singling Out LGBTQIA+ People
Representative Taylor Small, a transgender legislator from Vermont, told WCAX News about their experience getting singled out in the airport.
“I went through the scanner, the alert went off that the TSA agents needed to check my groin area,” said Small. “Everyone knew, I knew exactly what was happening. The TSA agents knew what was happening at that moment and yet they felt the necessity to go through that protocol nonetheless.”
TSA’s executive director for traveler engagement, Jose Bonilla, explained why this happens a lot.
“The way that we’ve operated the system is specifically based on blue button if the individual is perceived by the officer to be male, pink button if the individual is perceived by our officer to be female,” he said. He added that being a person who is gender-neutral or transgender then makes you more likely to be flagged.
That also means LGBTQIA+ are more likely to be patted down.
Technology can be biased, but it’s a big deal in an era of equal rights and civil rights. For a transgender or gender-neutral person traveling on an airplane, knowing that you’re likely to be patted down in your genital area just because of your sexual and gender identity must certainly be uncomfortable.
The $18.6 million is being used to implement a “non-binary screening” process along with updated systems across airports nationwide. The TSA announced that the agency is also working with airlines to ensure that “X” and “U” (undisclosed) gender options are available on passenger paperwork.
The new gender-neutral security screening system is hailed as a boon to civil rights. It will begin to roll out this month.