The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is dropping the use of the term “anomaly” to describe transgender passengers after a woman said she was mistreated last month at Orlando International Airport, The Advocate Magazine reports.
The TSA has been under fire for its treatment of transgender passengers since a woman, Shadi Petosky, complained on Twitter about being held at an airport security checkpoint for 40 minutes because of an "anomaly" that was cited when she passed through one of the TSA's full-body X-ray machines.
TSA Assistant Administrator for Civil Rights and Liberty Kimberly Walton said in interview with the magazine that it is adjusting its procedures for describing transgender passengers after the incident.
“We are changing that word,” Walton said.
The agency faced a backlash from lawmakers and civil rights groups for its treatment of Petosky, who live-tweeted as she was held at the Orlando airport security checkpoint, saying TSA officials targeted her because she was transgender.
"I am being held by the TSA in Orlando because of an 'anomaly' (my penis)," she tweeted in late September.
"The TSA at the Orlando Airport told me I couldn't take photos but this is denigrating," Petosky continued. "I have missed my flight."
A group of 32 House Democrats wrote to the TSA to push for it to change its procedures for screening transgender passengers after the incident.
"While we understand the importance of vigilant airport security, we cannot countenance a security protocol that subjects transgender travelers to this level of indignity," the lawmakers wrote. "To that end, we urge TSA to complete a thorough review of its current procedures and address any shortcomings that may, however unintentionally, subject transgender travelers to inequitable or improper treatment by security personnel."
TSA officials have said that the agents who processed Petosky at the Orlando airport followed the agency’s rules.
“Our officers are trained to properly screen members of the transgender community," the agency wrote in a statement after Petosky’s tweets went viral. "After examining closed circuit TV video and other available information, TSA has determined that the evidence shows our officers followed TSA’s strict guidelines."
TSA officials told The Advocate they are not sure what term it will use to replace "anomaly" when issues arise in transgender screening.
“The short answer is no, we don't know what we're changing it to yet,” TSA spokesman Mike England told the magazine. “But we're going to work with the transgender community and figure that out.”
Walton said in the interview that TSA’s “policies and procedures are designed to treat passengers with dignity and respect and to make sure that the screening is done appropriately, and that's without regard to whether or not the person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I hate to sound like a broken record, but what I want to say to the transgender community is first of all to express any regrets, and that they should bring that to our attention if they do not feel like they have been treated appropriately,” she said.
But Walton added that TSA officials have few ways to tell if a passenger is transgender before they are screened by airport security X-rays.
“We emphasize that screening is to be conducted without regard to a person's race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity,” she said.
“With that said, we screen travelers as they present,” she said. “So if a person presents as a female, they are screened as a female. If a person presents as a male, they are screened as a male. If our workforce is not sure, they are trained to discreetly and politely get clarification. But the general rule is that we screen people as they present at a checkpoint.”