As much as I love to travel, flying has always given me such anxiety; the crowds of tired and stressed people, constantly monitoring your luggage and hustling to find the right terminal. It’s hurry up and wait. Megan and I always arrive extra early so we can grab a drink or snack at a bar or restaurant inside the terminal to relax before boarding the plane. This transition has really helped me conquer my fears, but nothing has prepared me to deal with the TSA, the agency responsible for airport security in the U.S.
“Next” the agent yelled, trying to get the line through quickly. I handed him my boarding pass and my ID. It was right before my birthday, and I had just renewed my license and changed my gender marker, but it hadn’t arrived in time for me to use it. My legal name change had been filed in court, but it was not completed yet.
“Jason, huh?” The man looked me up and down and started laughing. He proceeded to loudly repeat my full legal name three times before handing my boarding pass back to me. I watched him with my spouse and other travellers and not once did he do that to anyone else. I felt humiliated, angry and bullied. I couldn’t stand there and argue, I had a plane to catch. Megan and I tracked down a supervisor who let us file a formal complaint. I wasn’t satisfied so I contacted the local congressman’s office to ask for assistance in getting the agent suspended or at least properly trained in how to handle passengers who identify as transgender. A couple of weeks later, I received a response from the TSA and the congressman about the incident. The agent denied my allegations, and that was that. I was just grateful to get a response. Megan has been to that airport a few times since the incident and hasn’t seen that agent again.
Now that my legal name and gender change was processed I thought I’d be in the clear. Not quite.
“Wait, what setting do you need…the blue one or the pink one?” The agent says with a smile, “so you don’t set off the machine.” I’m standing in front of her wearing a cute black skirt, red shirt and necklace, with my hair in a pony tail. I am also outgrowing my B cup bras right now. It shouldn’t take that much thought to figure out what “setting” I need. This just happened on Sunday.
I’ve flown in Canada and Europe and they are not as fascinated with what’s between my legs like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security seems to be. I realize the agent in my most recent incident was likely not being malicious, but it feels like a major setback. I’ve been taking hormones for 14 months, completely changed my wardrobe and changed my ID. None of that should matter, though. I’m just a person. I don’t need to be called out for my real or perceived gender.
These experiences have been frustrating but also have taught me valuable lessons. I can’t rush trans puberty. It will take as long as it will take, and I have several more years to go. Also, I am transgender and that’s okay. I’m so grateful to be able to freely express myself, and I just need to realize that I will run into road blocks, but it can’t stop me from living.