Legislation to Reform TSA’s Transgender Passenger Screening Reintroduced

(Photo: USA Today)

House bill would improve the Transportation Security Administration’s screening process for trans travelers at airports.

On Tuesday, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (D-NY) reintroduced the Screening with Dignity Act of 2018 (H.R. 6659). The goal of the legislation is to “improve the screening of transgender persons at airport security checkpoints, and for other purposes.” The bill was last introduced in 2016.

Although Rice says it is likely unintentional, there are gaps within the TSA’s current screening process that unfairly subjects transgender passengers to improper treatment by security officers.

“The transgender community deserves to be treated with fairness and respect in all aspects of life, including travel,” said Representative Kathleen Rice in a report by FedSmith. “Maintaining high safety standards and screening all passengers with dignity should not be mutually exclusive. It is clear that TSA needs to reassess its technological capabilities and improve its screening procedures to be more inclusive and ensure that no American is ever humiliated or discriminated against while going through security.”

Currently, the TSA’s advanced imaging technology requires officers to identify each passenger as either “male” or “female” before they enter the screening unit. Transgender travelers often find themselves triggering alarms in the system and are being flagged as “anomalies.” In many cases, it is forcing transgender people to be outed in public before they are required to undergo additional screening. Transgender passengers have reported incidents of public humiliation, discrimination, and harassment.

The proposed legislation would require the TSA administrator to ensure the following items with respect to passenger screening:

  • Viewing individual human scanner images would be prohibited
  • Retaining individual passenger image data would be prohibited
  • Passengers must be provided with an alternative to the advanced image screening process
  • Pat-downs must be conducted by an officer of the gender requested by the passenger
  • Passengers must be able be provided with the option of a private screening with a witness of the their choice
  • Passengers are only required to lift or remove clothing exposing sensitive areas of the body or to remove prostheses when no less intrusive screening method is available and the passenger would be provided with visual privacy via a drape or other means in a private screening area
  • Passenger profiling on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, parental status, or gender identity would be prohibited

The legislation also directs the TSA to study two areas, one to assess the costs and feasibility of modifying the current imaging machines so they are more gender neutral and the other directive is to assess the impact the current system has on the transgender community.

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