Up until this month, the TSA used the word “anomaly” to refer to apparent physical inconsistencies that appeared in passenger body scans, which are programmed to distinguish between male and female bodies. Detecting an “anomaly” on a male or female passenger is grounds for further inspection. Now, the TSA said “anomaly” will be replaced by “alarm.” Changing the word doesn’t change one important fact.
A little while back, the Transportation Security Administration announced that it would no longer refer to transgender passengers’ bodies as “anomalies” when a body scan revealed anatomy that didn’t fit into binary gender expectations.
Now, when a scan finds something a TSA official didn’t expect, that is referred to as an “alarm.” Not really any better. This is the process:
When you enter the imaging portal, the TSA officer presses a button designating a gender (male/female) based on how you present yourself. The machine has software that looks at the anatomy of men and women differently. The equipment conducts a scan and indicates areas on the body warranting further inspection if necessary. If there is an alarm, TSA officers are trained to clear the alarm, not the individual. Additional screening is conducted to determine whether a prohibited item is present.
If you cannot or choose not to be screened by advanced imaging technology or a walk-through metal detector, you will undergo a pat-down procedure instead. You may also undergo a pat-down procedure if you alarm the screening equipment and/or at random. If a pat-down is performed, it will be conducted by an officer of the same gender as you present yourself. Screening can be conducted in a private screening area with a witness or companion of the traveler’s choosing.
If you’re trans and traveling soon, it might be helpful to review TSA guidelines for transgender passengers. It’s an unfortunately complicated process, and knowing how it works already could save you time and explanation.
A 16-year-old boy has caused a stir after releasing a video showing himself being denied the right to film a checkpoint pat-down — something the TSA officially allows.
YouTube user Apple Lucas claims that he was denied the right to film while being patted down by a TSA supervisor at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He then tried to film his father getting patted down, only to have the TSA agent call a police officer to the scene.
“I explained to him that it clearly states on the TSA website that you are allowed to film the TSA agents as long as you don’t film their monitors and are not interfering with their process,” Apple Lucas writes.