Caitlyn Jenner has offered her first comments on the disturbing treatment of transgender men and women at America’s airports — in which agents of the Transportation Security Administration have repeatedly detained, delayed and humiliated trans travelers because of their anatomy.
“It is a big issue,” Jenner told The Advocate.
During her 30-minute talk Thursday at the Television Critics Association tour presentation for her docu-series, I Am Cait, the former Olympian also addressed Ricky Gervais’s transphobic “jokes,” and defended her allegiance to the Republican party.
As she considered her answer to this question by The Advocate, she asked rhetorically, “Would I be pulled out (of the security screening process at the airport)? I’ve only flown, I think, twice.”
And so far, she hasn’t had trouble, Jenner said. In all the episodes of season one, she was shown flying in private jets exclusively, but the reason for that comes down to something with which every trans person can identify: identification.
“It took me a long time to get proper documentation, as you know, where I got my name and gender marker correct. In fact, it was just two weeks ago I finally got my passport. And so, at this point, my first trip, I didn't have any problem. I got right through. But I certainly have heard the horror stories.”
Those stories include that of a Hollywood TV producer, whose live tweeting of her experience being detained and delayed long enough to miss her flight, made international headlines. Since that incident in September, which the TSA claims it is still investigating, other trans and gender non-conforming travelers have reported similar complaints, sharing their stories on Twitter with the hashtag #travelingwhiletrans.
While the vast majority of transgender airline passengers report few if any difficulties, many of those who did complained that TSA agents referred to them unfairly, at one time using the word “anomaly,” a term that the TSA said has since been replaced with “alarm.” That decision was applauded by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in a tweet that once again raised the issue in the mainstream media.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 16, 2015
What sets off an “alarm” in the TSA’s screening process, is the perceived inconsistencies in a person's anatomy when analyzed by the agency’s body scanner. Agents determine a traveler’s gender based on sight and press a button to run a program that matches expectations of what a woman’s anatomy should be, and that of a man. When a trans passenger is scanned, there is a greater likelihood they will set off an “alarm” because of their anatomy, which the scanner determines as either male or female based on its programming. Opting out of this screening process was recently eliminated as an option except for the disabled or in other special circumstances.
And the problem is not limited to U.S. travelers, as BuzzFeed and The Independent reported. A trans man said he was made to feel publicly “humiliated and degraded” in Australia last year when a security officer insisted he remove his prosthetic penis. And when he handed it over as ordered, one member of the screening team reportedly put on gloves, saying, “you want me to touch that thing with my bare hands?” The trans man reported the incident, which Australia’s National LGBTI Health Alliance said was an example of a “climate of pervasive discrimination against LGBTI populations.”
Jenner’s costar Candis Cayne, one of our sibling magazine's Out100 for 2015, told The Advocate she has experienced that herself in the 20 years since she transitioned, and once again very recently.
“Just traveling through Paris, I hadn’t changed my passport yet, and my drivers license said one thing,” but her passport didn’t match, Cayne said.
“I was trying to go to Paris, to see the Louvre. And it was, like a whole big thing. They pulled me out of the line. They would stop me at every stop. It took me two hours to get through the airport, you know, and so I understand what that's like.”
Cayne said efforts by Jenner and other trans public figures are the solution to gender identity discrimination.
“I think, slowly, shows like I Am Cait are going to change this,” said Cayne. “And they are making trans people who speak a more valid voice just with the strength in media.”
“We have to continue to come together and stand up for these situations,” echoed costar Chandi Moore, “and that's where the allies come in.”
Moore answered The Advocate’s question with a call for support from the cisgender people in the audience that filled the Langham resort ballroom, and readers of their work.
“When they see things going on like this, they should stand up for us as well. It's a whole joint venture. It's a big old world, and it's all about love. So we need everyone to embrace and love one another and not just step back to the side and watch someone have that happen to them. So it's about everybody standing up and saying that this is wrong and doing something about it because, if nobody says anything, it's still going to be happening.”