tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
The scene: Midway Airport, about 1:20 PM on Independence Day 2009.

I walk up to the TSA worker in the "Expert Traveler" line and show my driver's license and boarding pass. She shines the little purple light on it that presumably lights up with the letters "tErRoRiSt" at appropriate times. She hesitates.

She calls one of her colleagues over and they turn away from me, holding my ID and boarding pass and whispering.

I know what it's about. It's never happened to me before, but for a year and a half, my license has said "Chevalier, Timothy Jan" underneath the picture and "F" underneath where it says "sex". It was just a matter of time. I hear one of them whispering to the other "it's one of the things they tell us to look for..." and the other says "...but we're not allowed to ask them..."

She asks me to step over to the desk on the side. A third guy comes up and asks me whether I prefer "Mr." or "Mrs." Choosing for now not to point out the incompleteness of his list, I said "Mr." He looks almost as if he's expecting me to explain, but I don't think I need to explain anything. "But it says here..." I may have cocked an eyebrow at this point. "Is it an error?" "No." [pause] "It's my legal sex." (In retrospect, I shouldn't even have volunteered that.)

"Do you have a previous name you used?" he asks me. I was on the verge of answering, and then the voice in my head said, "Fuck, you don't have to answer that question." I asked "Are you allowed to ask that question?" He said they had to verify my ID. I asked if there was a supervisor I could talk to. He said he was the supervisor -- wrong answer.

After asking me how I say my middle name, he asked me to sit on the window ledge while they waited for a fourth person to come. He asked me if I had another ID. I gave him my Portland State ID.

Fourth person came. "Is it an error?" "It's not an error." "Well, because it says 'F' but you said you prefer 'Mister'..." (Well, what? I think.) I didn't say anything. She and the "supervisor" looked at each other. She said "I think it's okay" and shrugged. She walked away.

The "supervisor" gave me back my IDs. He asked me whether I'd ever had a problem before. I said "no", truthfully. He said "well, you should have that error corrected." (I'd said it wasn't an error, twice.) I said that legally, it was impossible for me to change it. I'm not sure what he thought. He let me go through security.

I was lying when I said it was impossible -- in Oregon, your driver's license can have whatever gender marker you like (as long as it's "M" or "F") as long as you get a letter from a DMV-approved therapist affirming that your gender is really what you think it is.

Read that again: "DMV-approved therapist".

I don't want to give my tacit approval to a system that says it's the state (and its approved therapists), not me, that knows what sex my brain expects my body to be. If I don't change my mind about that, I'd better start budgeting an extra half an hour when I go to the airport.

I think it's important to stand up for your rights. I like an opportunity to kick ass and take names as much as any other guy does. That doesn't mean I relish the threat of public humiliation. I was shaking when I got to the place for taking my boots off and my laptop out.

I have multiple friends (some who are trans, some who are cis) who've been strip-searched for less.

I'm going to Europe in two months. Getting the gender marker on your passport changed is more difficult than getting an Oregon driver's license changed. To change it, I would have to submit a letter that says that I have "completed sex reassignment surgery". Many cissexual women have breast reduction surgery; the surgery that I just had is substantially similar to breast reduction. It's unclear whether the US Passport administration would consider my surgery "sex reassignment surgery", and there are no clear published guidelines that suggest either that they would, or that they wouldn't. Passport change evaluation is opaque.

This is what my boarding pass looked like after the four TSA workers got done with it. I guess the initials "AS" mean "we checked this person's gender and determined they weren't a terrorist based on that."

If you travel by air, do you feel safer after reading this story?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-04 08:48 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] tgies
hahahaha wow. keeping the "skies" "safe" from "god knows what"

nice job keeping your wits about you

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-04 09:00 pm (UTC)
autumnus: A purple monochrome portrait of Zoe from Dreamfall, with drawn stars in background and "the Dreamer" written on bottom. (Default)
From: [personal profile] autumnus
Welcome to the airport discrimination club, which includes among others, middle eastern males (or those who have dark skin), crazy looking people, people that contain wires on their person, etc, etc

Sad part is probably more than discrimination against the queer folk, in your case, they are so single mindedly worrying about fake IDs and terrorists that I don't think they stopped to think what they were doing.

and about feeling safe, why do you think I show symptoms of stress overdose every time I need to go through a custom (or an airplane security)? I have been treated with dignity so far, and that is because I am conscious of my behavior down to the clothing I wear to look normal and harmless (which I happen to be, but I am fairly certain a terrorist could follow the exact same rules) to avoid confusion.

*hugs* good luck

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-04 10:22 pm (UTC)
ivy: Two strands of ivy against a red wall (Default)
From: [personal profile] ivy
Ugh; I am so sorry. I've gotten that treatment for different reasons, and it really sucks. Security theater and stupid procedures help no one.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-05 02:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rebbyribs.livejournal.com
If you travel by air, do you feel safer after reading this story?

No. I guess I think the first TSA screener was doing a good job in that she noticed it, knew it was something she was supposed to look for as part of her job, and also made the judgment that it was probably okay in this case.

Did you feel like it would have been a bad move to volunteer more information (because it might lead to something bad happening to you), or was it more that you didn't want to give more information because you should have the right not to? I guess I ask because my inclination would usually be just to be as friendly and cooperative as possible, with the hope that it would make things easier. I tend to choose perceived convenience over standing up for my rights fairly often though. :-/

Also, kind of off-topic, but I was under the impression that Quakers didn't use titles. If that applied to you, I guess it would've made things even more confusing for the TSA screeners.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-05 02:57 am (UTC)
miang: Miang Hawwa (with Opiomorph), Xenogears: May God's love be with you (and there's nothing I can do). (luca blight - trollin')
From: [personal profile] miang
I don't think anything the TSA does generally makes me feel safer, but regardless, I'm sorry you had to go through this. I wonder, sometimes, how one makes the decision about how much to say and how far to go in standing up for one's rights; if you have any reflections on how you decided what you would and would not disclose, I'm interested to hear them.

(While I'm probably much less likely to get pulled aside for discriminatory "reasons" than you are, I read stories like this that are similarly idiotic in different ways and I wonder what I'd do if it were me. I still don't really know.) :\

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-05 07:21 am (UTC)
elladisenchanted: (Default)
From: [personal profile] elladisenchanted
I love how they really didn't do anything involving actual verification (for example, run your license through a database the TSA subscribes to, that Oregon does release info to, to make sure it's kosher) and basically just kept asking more people to behave like morons in your presence.

Also, when a friend of mine was dealing with the DMV-approved therapist bullshit it dawned on me that they're all in western Oregon, and all save two are in Multnomah County. Apparently there are no trans people in Eastern Oregon. It's kind of like Pam's House Blend like that...

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-06 07:23 pm (UTC)
eriktrips: me in hat, pink light (Default)
From: [personal profile] eriktrips
what I don't understand is why "it" is "one of the things [they're] supposed to look for"? what does "it" refer to? ambiguous gender signifiers? when was the last time anyone did anything terrorist-y with ID that threw their "real" gender into doubt?

the nice thing about the DMV gender-marker change here is (was?) that any doctor could sign off on the form, not just "DMV approved" doctors. since when is the DMV an expert in the medical management of gender presentation? that just doesn't make any sense.

I don't know what I would have done in your position and this is one reason I keep putting off getting a passport--not that the passport people can strip-search me, but if I cannot get one that reflects my perceived gender I wouldn't really want to travel very far with it. and I suspect it would be more difficult coming back into the US than it would be going many places. it used to be difficult to get back into the US just driving from Vancouver BC back to Seattle. our ID's had Seattle addresses, our tags were from WA state, they asked why we were going to Seattle and I'd say "we live there" and all of that would elicit a narrow-eyed scowl and questions about what we bought in Vancouver. um, cereal and milk?
Edited Date: 2009-07-06 07:23 pm (UTC)


tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

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