No, TSA, we do not all have the same parts

by Sommer Gentry on February 27, 2013

Charles Fettinger
Tristan Higgins details in the Huffington Post how she was made to suffer for failing to conform to a TSA screener’s gender stereotypes. Tristan says, “I stepped out and waited in that spot where we all wait while some anonymous stranger decides whether we are a threat, whether our body scan matches up with expectations. Well, it turned out that mine did not.”

The TSA’s machine told Tristan Higgins that her body was unacceptable, therefore she was unacceptable.

The TSA’s pointless obsession with figuring out what our bodies look like under our clothes is unconscionable. Millions of people have bodies that don’t conform to the TSA’s regulations in all sorts of ways. It’s disgusting that the TSA has decided to pass judgment on whether or not our bodies are acceptable.

This really has nothing to do with gender presentation. The problem is that the TSA forces innocent travelers into machines that scrutinize and classify our bodies as okay or not okay. Human bodies come in many shapes, sizes, and variations, and people with non-normative bodies often don’t display their differences openly. The TSA’s pathetic charade of security focuses on non-normative bodies and “outs” people whose body differences can be otherwise shielded by clothing.  Humiliating passengers because they have mastectomies, ambiguous genitalia, non-normative gender presentation, tumors, or implanted medical devices does not prevent terrorism!

TSA apologists have repeatedly claimed that having screeners examine nude images of passengers was kosher because, “We all have the same parts.” No, we do not. We do NOT all have the same parts. 

The TSA intentionally exposes and shames people who, for a multitude of reasons, have bodies that do not conform to the TSA’s standards. I know a wonderful woman with a prosthetic leg who abandoned her lucrative consulting career because she could not tolerate letting strangers physically assault her over and over.

I recently tore my ACL and have had to wear a knee brace for the past six months. I’ve been intensely stung by myriad thoughtless and cruel remarks about my injury. If I could have waved a magic wand and made that brace invisible I would have jumped at the chance. All difference and disability is socially stigmatized. People with non-normative bodies are marginalized, pitied, and even blamed for their conditions.

The TSA mistreats disabled travelers in defiance of the Americans with Disabilities Act; the TSA has shirked its responsibilities under ADA as under so many other laws. The TSA’s inappropriate focus on uncovering each traveler’s body morphology violates our human dignity, and has serious repercussions for anyone whose body is labeled unsatisfactory by the TSA’s judging machines.

Any one of us, even if our bodies now pass TSA inspection, might be one injury or illness away from finding ourselves in Tristan Higgins’ shoes.

(Photo: Charles Fettinger/Flickr Creative Commons)

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