Traveling Trans Folks Face Turbulent Times
For two years, 27-year-old Reilley Clemens hadn't gone home. Not because she didn't have the money or the will to travel, but because she feared what she might experience at the airport.
Clemens, a women's studies graduate student of the University of Florida, is transgender. And for trans people, airline travel - which is already a hassle for any gender - can become a complicated, frightening proposition, especially when it comes to security checks.
"Who's going to perform the search? Where's it going to be performed? I feel like someone would mistreat me or something would happen," Clemens said. "There'd be an awkward pause where I'd have to explain that I'm trans."
In the trans community, it's understood procedures at airports are overly invasive and, at times, uncomfortable. Transgender people can experience problems if their appearance does not match the picture or gender identified on their identification.
Ryan Nowak-Crawford, an 18-year-old undergraduate at the University of Southern California, said it's not systematic discrimination, but it could potentially lead to discrimination.
"Having the security person check you can make a trans person very uncomfortable," Crawford said. "If that particular security official had something against trans people, it could make your life difficult."
Transgender people face other problems as well. Those wearing prosthetics are often patted down and screened again after an initial screening, according to the TSA.
Clemens said that while it makes sense to check for banned items, when compared with other means of travel, it seems excessive and unnecessary.
"I feel the same way about that as I feel about someone who has to take a sip of breast milk that they are bringing onto the plane," Clemens said.
Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality (TrasnEquality), said that although she has heard many people say they've experienced problems when trying to fly, the amount of stories is decreasing.