Rice Introduces Bill to Improve Airport Security Screening of Transgender Passengers

The Screening with Dignity Act requires TSA to develop new procedures and training to respectfully screen transgender passengers

Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY) announced she will re-introduce legislation that would improve the screening of transgender persons at airport security checkpoints. The Screening with Dignity Act of 2018 would require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to develop new procedures and officer training protocols on how to appropriately and respectfully screen self-identified transgender passengers. While often unintentional, in recent years several shortcomings within TSA’s screening procedures have subjected transgender passengers to inequitable and improper treatment by security personnel.

TSA’s advanced imaging technology currently requires officers to identify each passenger as either “male” or “female” before one enters the screening unit. As a result, transgender passengers are often flagged as “anomalies” if they trigger an alarm, and could potentially be “outed” as transgender before being required to undergo additional screening. This has led to several reported incidents of public humiliation, discrimination and harassment.

“The transgender community deserves to be treated with fairness and respect in all aspects of life, including travel,” Rice said.Maintaining high safety standards and screening all passengers with dignity should not be mutually exclusive. It is clear that TSA needs to reassess its technological capabilities and improve its screening procedures to be more inclusive and ensure that no American is ever humiliated or discriminated against while going through security.”

The Screening with Dignity Act also requires TSA to conduct two critical studies: the first would assess the cost and feasibility of retrofitting advanced imaging technology screening equipment, or of developing new equipment, to operate in a manner that is effectively gender neutral. The second study would evaluate the particular impact that TSA’s screening has on self-identified transgender and gender nonconforming passengers as opposed to the general population.

Additionally, this bill codifies vital protections to affirm all passengers’ rights to privacy and anti-discrimination, including prohibiting the retention of individual passenger imaging data and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Last month, Rep. Rice joined 31 of her Democratic colleagues in a letter to TSA requesting information on its most recent efforts to reform the screening process for transgender passengers.

The Screen with Dignity Act of 2018 has 15 original cosponsors and has been endorsed by the National Center for Transgender Equality, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign, Transgender Law Center and National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund.

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