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Flying En Femme — Know Your Rights

| Jan 10, 2011
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In these troubled times of mad bombers trying to light their shoe or underwear bombs on crowded aircraft the authorities have piled more screening and more intrusion into travelers’ lives into every flight. The Whole Body Imaging technology allows airport screening people to see everything under your clothes. That means your silicone breast forms, your corset and your tuck. And if you object to the scan you may be heading for a pat down. It just ain’t as simple as it used to be. If you’re longing for the freedom to fly en femme like we did a few decades ago you have to realize that that level of freedom just isn’t coming back. So, the best you can do is adjust. The National Center for Transgender Equality has put together some suggestions on how to cope with airport security. The first thing you need to know is — Your Rights.


You have the right to:
• Travel in any gender you wish, whether or not it matches the gender marker on your identification. However, at the airport, you must present an ID with the same gender marker as the one that you provided to your airline when you made the reservation.
• Refuse the Whole Body Imaging but then you will be required to undergo an enhanced pat-down (see below for more information);
• Be screened in private;
• Take a traveling companion with you if you are taken for private or additional screening;
• Be patted down by a TSA agent who is the same gender as the gender you are presenting (if you are presenting as female, you will be patted down by a woman; if you are presenting as male, you will be patted down by a man);
• Request a supervisor to assist with your situation;
• Bind or wear breast forms, packers, wigs or hair pieces, or other prosthetic items (although these may trigger additional screening);
• Travel without any documentation from your doctor; however, the TSA suggests that transgender travelers carry a letter from their doctor.


Here are some suggestions to help your travel go smoothly:
• Stay calm, and do what you feel is the best and safest option you are presented with.
• Be polite and clear with officers; never threaten them.
• If you have a choice (for example, if there are multiple lines open) select the metal detector instead of the whole body imaging machine.
• Think through what you will wear — baggy clothing, binders, breast forms, packers, and even underwire bras (all of which you are allowed to wear) can lead to additional screening (if you wear these items, consider requesting a pat-down from the beginning to save time).
• Be careful to follow the check point instructions so that you don’t accidentally trigger additional screening (for example, setting off the metal detector because you’ve left your keys in your pocket).

• Decide in advance if you’d prefer the Whole Body Imaging or enhanced pat-downs; you should choose what feels safest and most comfortable to you. More information is below.


If you encounter a problem, you have the right to file a complaint about any incident with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.  We encourage you to do this immediately after the incident, or as soon as you are able.

We are also asking you to let NCTE and other advocacy groups know of the problem. This helps both us and the TSA be aware of the problem and hopefully resolve and prevent future problems. There is a reporting form hosted by the National Center for Lesbian Rights that you can fill out.

For more information about The National Center for Transgender Equality visit their website.

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Category: Transgender How To


About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Assoc., Inc., former editor of its newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She was the Diva of Dish for TGF in the late 1990s and Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows.

Comments (1)

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  1. says:

    I haven’t flown yet en femme however its going to happen soon. I have not had SRS but other than that I consider myself
    a woman. Will I get in trouble if I use the women’s restroom?

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