TSA Detains Transwoman Over Body “Anomaly”

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

A transgender woman live-tweeted what she described as a “denigrating” experience that caused her to miss a Monday evening flight out of Orlando International Airport because she was detained by federal security officials. Shadi Petosky, a writer and producer at a small Los Angeles entertainment company, tweeted that she was pulled out of line at the checkpoint by the Transportation Security Administration because of an “‘anomaly’ (my penis).” She said she was placed in a small room with frosted glass walls and told to wait, causing her to miss her flight, she said, while posting a picture of her tear-stained face. Petosky eventually was released and caught a later flight to Miami, where she tweeted she intended to spend the day relaxing. She could not be reached for comment. The TSA released a statement this morning saying that after watching closed circuit television video of the incident and considering “other available information,” agency officials concluded that the Orlando officers did nothing wrong.

Vox has compiled Petosky’s live-tweets during the incident.

  • bkmn

    A penis is not going to bring down a plane. That is a very lame excuse.

    • Snownova

      Neither is a bottle of water or an active mp3 player, but TSA and airlines are not exactly known for being rational and reasonable entities.

      • I have two bento boxes that come with me every time I travel. One is plastic the other is metal. The first time thru I was sure that they were going to pull me over, so far, it hasn’t happened. Surely the xray machine cant see thru the aluminum box?

        • Sporkfighter

          It surely can.

          • Thanks Sporkie! I’ve been curious but afraid to ask the TSA cause one never knows what will cause them to rear up.

        • Snownova

          I’m pretty sure it can. Aluminium isn’t that dense, unlike say lead, which is kind of the whole reason it’s such a popular metal.

    • Todd20036

      Well, maybe yours won’t….

      • rusty57

        You have my attention.

      • CottonBlimp

        Sir, we’ve detected on your person a weapon of ass destruction.

        Please come with me for a private, uh, screening.

    • RealityBites

      But a penis sized block of C4 might, there’s a lot to consider here, We live in a world where pregnant women are used to hide bombs. These people are trained to look for anything out of the ordinary, and let’s be honest. Regardless of visibility, a woman with a penis will always be out of the ordinary. While I feel for this woman, at some point we’ve got to realize that civil rights for trans community, may never include ‘no one noticing the penis on that woman”.

      • StraightGrandmother

        But wouldn’t their sniff test sniff out the C4?
        And what happened to your avatar?
        Your comment is showing without your Avatar.

        • Bad Tom

          I blame Disqus.
          For the avatar, not the C4. πŸ™‚

          • 2karmanot

            Disqus is an evil that must not be named.

        • Kate

          They don’t sniff test everyone.

      • Silver_Witch

        you have captured the real issue of this incident.

        In America we are considered innocent until Provence otherwise. Scanning every person getting on a plane and looking at their naked body is presuming each of us is guilty. You. Me. All of us. How many people have hijacked a plane seriously and yet we search every single person flying. Are we that afraid OR are we just happy to give up our freedom to our person so some minimium wage goon in a booth can search you. We are on a very bad trajectory.

        • Kate

          “Scanning every person getting on a plane and looking at their naked body is presuming each of us is guilty.”

          They don’t do that anymore. They have a computer, the agent pushes “male” or “female”, it scans and beeps. It’s no different than the metal detector, where a machine sends waves through you, and if it finds an anomaly it beeps.

          • Silver_Witch

            Hi Kate…do you work for the TSA? If not how do you know the “computer beeps, scans, etc???? And explain to me the premise of my post which is that……

            WE THE PEOPLE are presumed guilty, we are presumed to be armed and dangerous and scanned, shoes removed, creams confiscated, no carry on drinks, breast milk poured out.. BECAUSE WHY????

            America has a no unwarranted search and seizure unless one is guilty of a crime. What crime have I committed when boarding a plane? Just the act of wanting to fly?

            Save your downplaying of the point and focusing on the unimportant bits.

          • Kate

            “Hi Kate…do you work for the TSA? If not how do you know the “computer beeps, scans, etc???? And explain to me the premise of my post which is that……”

            No. I work in security, and used to work in aviation. I travel frequently for business, and I fly personally.

            “WE THE PEOPLE are presumed guilty, we are presumed to be armed and dangerous and scanned, shoes removed, creams confiscated, no carry on drinks, breast milk poured out.. BECAUSE WHY????”

            No, you’re not presumed guilty. You enter an area in which weapons are prohibited, so you are scanned to look for weapons. Saying “weapons are illegal” doesn’t really accomplish anything without a scan to back it up.

            The why is that people kept hijacking planes. Finally, they flew a couple into buildings, so security was ramped up.

            Shoes being removed is in response to a shoe bomber. Creams (and other liquids) are a stupid overraction to the use of liquid explosives by actual terrorists. It requires a strong oxidizer and a reasonable amount, so they limit it to 3 ounces. Europe being on metric, they upped it to 100ml for consistency sake. The limit should be higher, but if someone brought 3-4 large bottles of liquid, they could potentially make enough explosive to do bad things to a plane.

            “America has a no unwarranted search and seizure unless one is guilty of a crime. What crime have I committed when boarding a plane? Just the act of wanting to fly?”

            You have committed no offence, nor are you being suspected of anything. Should you wish to board a plane, you need to consent to having your belongings examined. You are free to refuse. It’s very similar to entering an amusement park, some bars, and some entertainment venues – if you want to enter, you have to let them search. You’re free to refuse, and they are free to refuse you entry.

            The NSA is warrantless searching. You have not consented, the search is invasive. You have no choice in this search – they track phones, internet, vehicular records, credit cards, and so on. They provide you no service, and you have no way to opt out.

            With airplane security, you choose to accept a search as a condition of flying. You can take a greyhound bus (though the private company may search). You can walk, you can bike. You can drive a car, should you own one. You can be a passenger. None of these will get you searched by government agents.

            Look at it this way – many liberals want to ban dangerous weapons, as they feel that people can’t be trusted with them. How else can a property owner (such as the government, or an airline) uphold their rights to prohibit weapons on their property, without the ability to search?

            Airplane terminals are connected (with good reason) – it would be absurd to have people leave security and re-check in at each airport. As such, security is only as good as the least secure airport. They cross state lines, which makes it a federal matter.

          • Silver_Witch

            It makes me weep that you accept all of this without question, that you think it is good and just to search Americans. I am beyond sad…I grieve for the America I knew where we were innocent until proven guilty, could not searched unless we were suspected of a crime.

            Many Liberals – gives you away my friend.

          • Kate

            “It makes me weep that you accept all of this without question, that you think it is good and just to search Americans.”

            It’s highly likely that I question it more than you do. I also happen to understand the technology better.

            “I grieve for the America I knew where we were innocent until proven guilty, could not searched unless we were suspected of a crime.”

            I’ve had the police literally threaten to kill me if I didn’t “consent” to an illegal search. That was unquestionably a violation of my fourth amendment rights. In case you can’t tell, I’m anti-NSA and anti-spying. I also am an outspoken critic of the exceptions they have done to the constitution, including things like the “inevitable discovery” doctrine, the “plain view” rule, and the ever shifting definition of “unreasonable”.

            Airport security is in some ways still a joke. It’s easy enough for a determined, intelligent adversary to sneak all kinds of bad things onto a plane. It’s gotten harder the past few years (and I’m not talking about 2001-2010), but it’s still doable. For that reason, I do in fact oppose the way airport security is handled in the United States.

            That being said, I consider it important to be intellectually honest in criticisms. More life is wasted each year waiting in security lines than was lost in September 11. The TSA is ineffective – in audits, the Government Accountability Office would throw a water bottle in with their bomb parts – the TSA agents would remove the water bottle and give them back the bomb parts. I rather dislike the TSA, mainly because the agents are ineffective and wasteful.

            Now, with that out of the way, there’s the separate matter of a) whether it violates the constitution, b) whether the scanners show nude bodies, and c) whether the scanners are ineffective.

            The scanners do not violate the constitution, as you are secure against unreasonable search and seizure. You are free to decline any search the TSA does. You may not fly, but you are free to decline. Most of the so-called patriot act violated the constitution, but this particular aspect does not.

            The scanners do not show nude bodies. They used to.

            The scanners are effective. They may be unnecessary, or unjustified, but they are effective in the same sense that a metal detector is.

            “Many Liberals – gives you away my friend.”

            Am I incorrect in the assertion that many people who consider themselves liberal would prefer to prohibit people from possessing firearms? JMG tends to have a liberal slant – I’m pointing out that to prohibit weapons somewhere, it’s often necessary to provide security to that end.

            The conservatives have plenty of their own problems, but telling women and gay people that they can’t defend themselves from stronger individuals or mobs is generally not one of them.

          • Kate

            The old systems were pulled out of the airports because they couldn’t operate without using nude images. It cost a company a lot of money, as another company got the contract. If these new machines did the same thing, the government would have been sued.

            Furthermore, TSA agents aren’t exactly good at keeping secrets. The old machines (which used nude images) had pictures get out:


            If they were still doing that, given how many thousands of employees there are at all the different airports, it would be in the news. You can see the new machines yourself – you push the button for “male”, or “female”, and it shows spots where anomalies were detected.


      • lymis

        Even granting your premise, it takes just a moment or two to verify whether it’s a penis or a block of C4, not extended detention, insults, and a missed flight.

        If the only concern was verifying the “anomaly,” then there would not have been any of this “You have to get back in the machine as a man” but rather, “we need you to step aside for a moment for a private screening with an agent.” Two minutes, later, she’s on her way.

        • BobSF_94117

          IIRC, there was a tweet of hers yesterday in which she appeared to complain that they took her as a woman on the first pass through the machine. Then she objected when they wanted to have her pass through against “as a man”.

          Maybe they should change the machine to “with penis” / “without penis” to accommodate her…

    • StraightGrandmother

      I hadn’t thought about it that way but you are right.
      What really is the difference if a woman has a penis or not, it really isn’t going to take down the airplane.
      If they are doing their job x-raying your carry on bags & the body scanning, why would a penis get you extra scrutiny?

      • canoebum

        Because the power hungry control freaks can fuck with anyone they want, for any reason, so they do.

      • BobSF_94117

        Something of the physical consistency of tissue unexpectedly hanging between your legs is an anomaly worthy of interest in these times of “heightened security”.

    • Silver_Witch

      You don’t know that for sure -do you. Penises are very very dangerous and should be handled only by trained professionals.

    • Matt in PDX

      The ‘rationale’ (if you could call it that) is that because she didn’t ‘look right’ in their eyes, she must have something to hide. And if you have something to hide, you must be a terrorist. It’s not about keeping passengers safe, but about determining who are the Good Guys and who are the Bad Guys. In this case it’s just another manifestation of the same disgusting myth that trans people are deceiving people about their gender — the same motivation for all those bathroom bills against trans women.

      • Anjrue

        U mad bro? Y u so mad?

      • Kate

        No. The rationale is that in the interest of privacy, they replaced the nude body scanners with an idiot box. Push button, it looks for unusual things.

        People like to hide things in their crotch (as the TSA is less likely to grope extensively there), are a mass in the crotch area. The TSA person hit the “female” button, so it was not expecting something there.

        The real news is that a terrorist female could shove an explosive in her crotch, and then put on a beard so the computer excluded that area.

    • Christopher

      Sounds like a challenge to me!

    • Arkansan

      I’ve seen a couple that should have their own boarding pass.

      • Rich Farias

        Pics or GTFO…

    • vorpal

      I am reminded of South Park.

  • JT

    So what exactly are they contending was the reason for the alleged “anomaly”? Was it because having a penis while wearing women’s clothes or having a penis while presenting as a woman? And what does going back through “as a man” mean?

    • BobSF_94117

      The software is designed to look for anomalies. Meat hanging between the legs of a man is not an anomaly. Between the legs of a woman, it’s an anomaly. Large breasts on women are not an anomaly. On a man they are.

      The TSA agent pushes a button to tell the software what gender of passenger it’s about to screen.

  • Lakeviewbob

    This is outrageous. This is bound to become a big issue. I thought body scanners were not suppose to see things like breast and penises? TSA is out of control.

    • BobSF_94117

      Of course the scanner “sees” them, the software just “blurs” them so the agent can’t see the detail.

  • chris10858

    I just returned from flying to several cities across the country and at each TSA security screening, I was told to go through the special body scanning machine. I don’t mind doing so but at several places, I saw others holding foreign passports being allowed to bypass the machine. I’m an American who served in the military during the first Iraqi war in the 90s. #IRONIC

    Again, I don’t mind going through the machine but I think every person should have to go through it, especially someone who is visiting from another country.

    • caphillprof

      There is neither rhyme nor reason to TSA “security”.

      • fuow

        Nor, apparently, effectiveness.

    • fuow

      I let a group of Desert Storm soldiers home on a short leave through ahead of me in the line in Atlanta many years ago. I was pulled aside and threatened with violation of federal laws for having done so.
      I told the TSA idiot that my lawyer’s first call would be to Fox News to let them know how TSA was arresting American citizens for recognizing the sacrifices of the country’s bravest men.
      They dropped the bullshit right quick.
      Totally Sucky Assholes.

    • Stev84

      Oath Keepers and other militia groups heavily recruit from the military. So it’s not really proof of not being a threat.

      If they are serious about security they need to screen everyone of course.

    • StraightGrandmother

      Maybe you are on some kind of a special list or something?

      • John30013

        That’t entirely possible and he’d never know it.

    • HandyAndy

      I had a 7:00 am flight from Columbus, Ohio to Miami a few months ago. Since I knew it was going to be much warmer at my destination, I wore a pair of light linen pants that look great on me, but make my bulge rather, um, “noticeable.” When going through TSA at 5:30 in the morning, they were sending everyone else through without much fuss, but they pulled me out for the body scanning machine. After getting scanned, the female TSA agent said, “Sorry honey, go on through. We didn’t think that thing could possibly be real. Good for you.”

      It was a little embarrassing, but I decided to take it as a compliment and move on.

      My husband thought it was hilarious, and said that he knew those pants were going to get me in trouble someday.

  • The Milkman

    Ridiculous. She should sue. It’s the only language that big organizations understand.

  • Rex

    TSA: Those Stupid Assholes

  • Adam King

    We need to get rid of the TSA entirely.

  • BeaverTales

    I’ve managed to sneak my penis past security hundreds of times. Now ping-pong balls filled with coke stuffed in various body cavities on the other hand? not so much….that’s an anomaly worth checking out.


  • The TSA agents involved here don’t need better training – they MUST be FIRED. They are not qualified for any kind of job that involves dealing with the public or insuring public safety.

    I have not been on an airplane since 1994 (pre-transition) and while this kind of thing does not happen all the time, when it does happen it is pretty ugly.

    The airline here was not very helpful, either.

    • StraightGrandmother

      Ya know Joann, I read all the tweets on the Vox article, tragic I agree, but I do have one difference. The person from American Airlines who suggested she ask for a private screening, I think the most likely scenario is that they were trying to be helpful and instead Shadi was offended with the what I thought was a helpful suggestion.

      It is a separate discussion point if transgender ppl should have to ask for a private screening, but if I was working for AA and was dealing with a crying upset woman and I knew about this other process I would probably suggest it also, just so that they know.

      • I know where you are coming from on this. Let me analogize with something that I, the non-flyer, can provide from a different context.


        For some time, trans people were only able to get proper passports that were valid for one year, and those came only from one office in Louisiana.

        In 2010, the rules changed – but there were still special hoops to go through – doctor forms, and other things like that.

        In the past year, in New York (both City and State), trans people who are pre-op or non-op can now get our birth certificates corrected – yes there are hoops to go through for that – BUT, once we have that document, getting a passport is exactly the same as it is for anyone else. I can go to the county clerk or post office like anyone else, and not have to send my application to a special office.

        Being able to be treated “just like everyone else” is something that many trans folks feel is the way things should be. Being singled out for bad treatment by ignorant TSA agents is just unacceptable.

        • StraightGrandmother

          I agree with everything you wrote. But I wish you would go back and read my comment. Shadi dumped on the American Airlines person who was giving her more or less an insiders tip and that is where I thought Shadi was unthoughtful.

          It was only dumping on the American Airlines person that I thought was unkind, the rest I agree with, because I think that AA person was only trying to be kind and share some information Shadi might not know about. Shadi was in a bad way before the agent, I would think the agent was only trying to help in what little way s/he could. Would it have been better to simply not mention about private screening to Shadi even though you know about it? This is the point of my comment and you kinda went off on your own rant not addressing my point.

          • I understand! I even understand why you thought it might be unthoughtful of Shadi to be annoyed by a well-meant bit of advice from the AA person. Well-intended, yes, but to someone who “just wants to be treated like everyone else” (like Shadi in this case, or myself, for that matter), even well-intended advice might feel hurtful.

            And yes, I get your point from the AA person’s POV.

            (And I am not going to quote the adage about the pavement on a certain road. I personally don’t blame the AA person (who is not headed toward the place those TSA agents belong), but I can also understand and sympathize with Shadi’s feelings on the subject.)

        • Kate

          Being able to be treated “just like everyone else” is something that many trans folks feel is the way things should be. Being singled out for bad treatment by ignorant TSA agents is just unacceptable.

          In many ways, she was. A woman with something in the crotch area gets some extra security. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tumour, a catheter bag, a packer – the device looks for unusual silhouettes.

          The reason they do this is simple. Metal detectors don’t do the job of keeping bombs off airplanes. Prior to the body scanners, someone could walk onto a plane with a stick of dynamite on their person, and a match.

          The old system (where a human looked at all the pictures) didn’t have this problem. The operator would quickly see that it was a penis, and clear the person through. Due to the privacy considerations, this process was replaced with a machine. It’s based on patterns.

          Men tend to have penises. Having a mass in the crotch region is normal. FTMs generally don’t get flagged for it because having nothing there is not a security threat. Women tend to not have things in the crotch region. Women who do tend to be trans, or have a foreign body down there. This gets extra security.

          As far as the machines are concerned, trans people are treated equally. They may get some heightened scrutiny overall, in much the same way that someone in a wheelchair or with metal implants would. It’s not punitive, rather, it’s about keeping dangerous things off planes.

          • Being singled out for additional screening is okay – that isn’t the issue. and as you correctly pointed out, this is something that could be a trigger for additional screening. However, the entire process from that point was flawed. There is no reason to tell someone to go through the screening “as a man” or the rest of the horrific treatment that was meted out to Shadi.

            My oldest son gets singled out for extraordinary measures a lot of the time when he flies. Why? Having a Sicilian background with a certain degree of Moorish/Berber ancestry left him looking like he is related to Osama bin Laden. The system is flawed.

          • Kate

            What happened after should have been handled differently. There are a bunch of people who are calling out the system for flagging in the first place.

            For the longest time, I got singled out a lot of the time when I flew. Why? They wanted to ask if I play basketball, due to my height. I got in the habit of answering it preemptively and letting them know they didn’t need to flag me to ask.

            Moving the selection more to risk-based screenings (where the system flags the boarding pass) helps avoid inappropriate profiling. It was possible to edit that out of the boarding pass, but the new-ish digitally signed barcodes (that are checked with a scanner) prevents changing the name or removing the secondary flag.

      • CottonBlimp

        Um, what? It sounded to me like she was cooperative and agreed to a private screening and they still spent the next 40 minutes harassing and gawking at her. They tried to get the police to kick her out of the airport, and it’s only because the police were actually sensible (when do you EVER hear that phrase?) that she was finally able to board the plane.

        • StraightGrandmother

          Do you think the American Airlines Counter person knew all that?

          • CottonBlimp

            Sorry, in my prev response I thought you were talking about TSA.

            But, genuine question, why *shouldn’t* an airline worker know the kinds of things TSA is putting their customers through? That seems much more reasonable than expecting Ms. Petosky to know the motives of a complete stranger.

    • Herald

      The fact that the TSA “investigation” found nothing wrong is just one piece of evidence that the whole agency needs to be fired! Their actions here were despicable, abusive, and worse.

  • QJ201

    TSA are just mall cops with more attitude

    • Lakeviewbob

      Love it!

    • fuow

      I’d say they generally weren’t qualified to be mall cops.

    • Hryflex

      And they are very thin-skinned. In our production of THE MIKADO this past summer our Ko-Ko included “that TSA employee” in his Little List. From what I heard, there actually was a TSA employee in the audience who didn’t think the reference was funny.

  • JustDucky

    The use of body scanners alone is a gross violation of privacy but using them to shame and abuse one of the most vulnerable groups of people in our society is unconscionable.

    • Jeffrey

      That is the real story here. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a man or woman, the porno scanners are ridiculous.

      • MickinDetroit

        until the next guy stuffs his underwear full of explosives…..

        Not that I’m a supporter of the vast idiocy of security theater, but if the TSA et al are prohibited from using profiling (racial and behavioral) that actually works…. but might offend someone, well then lets not be all surprised when you get idiocy like treating every citizen as a criminal and violations of the 4th amend as the price of travel.

        • Harlan92

          You’ll probably find if you ask your Muslim friends how often they are taken aside for extra screenings or a bag check it will be much more than for your white friends.

      • Kate

        The porno scanners are gone. If they were still being used, this would have not been an issue. The agent looking at the screen would have figured out what was going on very quickly.

        • Jeffrey

          Those scanners are not gone everywhere.

          • Kate

            They are in US airports.

            “In the United States, pursuant to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, all full-body scanners operated in airports by the Transportation Security Administration must use “Automated Target Recognition” software, which replaces the picture of a nude body with the cartoon-like representation.[4] As a result of this rule, all backscatter X-ray machines formerly in use by the Transportation Security Administration were removed from airports, since the agency said the vendor (Rapiscan) did not meet their contractual deadline to implement the software.[5]”

            (From wikipedia)

    • Timmy

      lol! Standards pulled directly out of your butt.

    • Harlan92

      Most airports around the world don’t use the scanners, so they can’t be more useful than standard x-rays. No doubt someone made a heap of cash installing these in American airports.

      • Kate

        A metal detector won’t catch an explosive that does not use wires. Someone could strap dynamite to themselves and bring a match.

        • CottonBlimp

          Someone could do that literally anywhere. They could do it on the train, on the subway, on a boat, in a building, or even just on a crowded street. But we’re not setting up TSA checkpoints just to go OUTSIDE.

          Why is it so especially bad for someone to do it on a plane that it justifies an extra-legal police force conducting un-Constitutional searches on every passenger?

          • Kate

            They could do it literally anywhere. The fact that they don’t indicates that the terrorists don’t want to. That’s a separate question from whether or not the system is effective.

            “Why is it so especially bad for someone to do it on a plane that it justifies an extra-legal police force conducting un-Constitutional searches on every passenger?”

            That’s the thing with boiling the frog. What constitutes an “unreasonable” search changes with the times.

            The ones that showed people nude was an unreasonable search. Passing through a passive device designed to look only for weapons is a different matter.

            The TSA is a waste, but that does not mean that the scanners are effective.

            As for why planes are especially bad, a bus doesn’t carry up to 48,000 gallons of fuel at altitude. If a terrorist blows up a ship, there is much less damage. If a terrorist blows up a bus, there is much less damage. There’s a reason planes were chosen in the first place.

            There are security checkpoints at sensitive buildings. The reason we don’t have them to go outside is that it’s not feasible to do so. So, they spy on the cellular phones of people instead to achieve as much of an effect as they can.

          • CottonBlimp

            Planes were chosen in the first place to be *hijacked*, not bombed.

            Beyond the hijackings, I don’t really know that planes *are* being singled out by terrorists – for every attempted plane bombing, I can think of a car bombing. Not that there’s really even been a significant number of either in America.

          • Kate

            You can hijack a plane with a bomb. You can also use a ceramic knife, which won’t show up on a metal detector either.

          • CottonBlimp

            Well, no, you can’t, because the cockpit is locked up like Fort Knox now.

            It’s the only security measure they really needed to take. Everything else is just theater for gullible rubes.

  • fuow

    Did nothing wrong?
    This is precisely the fight we do need to be having.

    • Paladin SF

      So are you going to wait for the TSA explanation or do we just trust one side?

      • MickinDetroit

        she tweeted a picture of herself crying….so what more proof do you need? /sarc

      • Mark_in_MN

        If, for some reason, she didn’t “pass” the needless body scanner, she could easily have been checked with the same procedure that any other passenger would be in a similar situation and have been on her way in a minute or two.

        • JulieBL

          I always pass on the scanner, because I enjoy making a stink. When they offer to pat me down in private I refuse, because I’ve done nothing wrong, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let them feel me up in private.

  • So can we now just admit that the terrorists won? We’re scared of everything.

    • Bj Lincoln

      Our fearless leader at the time made sure we stayed scared thus helping the terrorists too.

    • Gerry Fisher

      No one in a leadership role at the time of 9/11–NO ONE–offered anything like “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” Yet another legacy of W’s administration. Fearful people are easier to manipulate.

      • canoebum

        They offered duct tape. And shopping.

      • zhera

        Fearful people are easier to manipulate: See the post about Tony Perkins’ latest money beg.

      • Octavio

        Don’t get me started on my internal rant about everything Bush. Arrrrrhhh!

        • 2karmanot

          Come and sit by me.

    • Kate

      It took them nearly 13 years to close the loophole where people can photoshop a boarding pass to avoid the background checks. They are getting around to replacing security theatre with actual security, but it takes a while.

  • Jake

    I’m skeptical. Who takes a picture of herself crying? And “get back in the machine as a man”? That’s not how the machines work.

    • lymis

      Please. Someone whose basic civil rights have just been intolerably violated for no comprehensible reason has every right to fully document the fact.

      You know damn well that people who didn’t see such a picture would declare that “obviously” this was no big deal, and how emotionally damaging could it have been?

      At MOST (if that), it MIGHT have been valid to have “what was between her legs” verified as a penis and not some sort of weapon or something being smuggled – something that would take minutes at most – followed by working to make sure she made her flight on time when it was determined that she wasn’t trying to take something unauthorized onto the plane.

      There is no excuse for the abusive treatment, nor for her missing her flight because of it. There are NO TSA restrictions for taking a penis on a plane.

      This “they did nothing wrong” crap is inexcusable.

      • MickinDetroit

        there is an issue of a potential bad actor stuffing their crotch full of something… so seeing penis looking anomaly…and yes, it is an ANOMALY on a person presenting as a woman…IS an issue for scrutiny. the machine gets set as “man” or “woman” so it knows what appendages to look for. Did they handle it appropriately? sounds like there not very polite about it… but her own tweets show she was not being at all cooperative….several times refusing to acknowledge her biological sex…refusing to stop tweeting and snapping pics, etc. Her seeming intransigence and indignation was just adding more conflict to the situation. it compounded the stupid and caused an “incident”.

        • Octavio

          We need to interview Vanessa Del Rio, a most enthusiastic porn actress from the 1970s. She was famous for having and displaying the largest clitoris on record, certainly larger than many penises. Wonder if she’s ever been detained by TSA for having a stuffed crotch.

        • Priya Lynn

          As others have said it would have taken no more than a couple of minutes to verify that her penis presented no threat. They went far beyond that and so were clearly in the wrong.

          • MickinDetroit

            it went beyond because she became belligerent and uncooperative and judging from her tweets, practically hysterical, when they told her to go back through the scanner on the “man” setting.

            I get why she’s upset, it’s insulting…. but I fail to see how TSA is guilty of anything but being insensitive to a special needs case.

          • Priya Lynn

            Yes, they were insensitve to a “special needs” case if you want to phrase it that way. There was no need to detain her for hours and make her miss her flight when only a couple of minutes was necessary to verify that she wasn’t a threat.

          • MickinDetroit

            how should it be phrased? she is a special case as she is not normal, I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner but the TSA (love them or hate them) are there to spot “not normal” and investigate “not normal”. I will accept they most likely acted in the typical pompous, officious way any bureaucrat with any sort of power over a simple citizen’s life acts, but her hysterical reactions ….twitter blasts, refusing to stop taking photos and filming, hysterical sobbing…etc made her more than just a couple of minute problem.

            Ever been on a plane with a hysterical passenger? one who is screaming and ranting nonsensical tirades and has to be restrained? not fun.

            Perhaps by her behavior they though she was off her meds and was going to be more of a problem if they let her go immediately?

            I don’t know… …neither does anyone. all we have is one side of the story.

          • Priya Lynn

            “how should it be phrased? “. They should have said “I need to reset the machine, you’ll have to go through again”. I can see the TSA agent didn’t mean any disrespect but to a transwoman “You need to go through as a man” is pretty humiliating. I can certainly see why she objected.

          • Priya Lynn

            “[Edit, added] She had and has no problem telling the world she’s a pre-op or non-op transsexual, but she wouldn’t tell that to the TSA. If only they had been reading her tweets…”.
            As a non-transexual I can see how you’d find that incongruous or hypocritical. For a transexual it may be easier to understand. For me on the few occaisions someone perceives me as a male it comes as a shock and makes me retreat into myself, I don’t want to talk about it, challenge it, I just want to curl up in a little ball and hide. I have no doubt that was her reaction as well and that’s why she clammed up about the whole situation.

          • BobSF_94117

            And what would those “couple of minutes” entailed? A look down her skirt?

            They offered the first reasonable solution, which was to go through the machine a second time and see if the machine registered an anomaly when it processed the image as “male”. She refused. She refused to answer questions. And the real clincher was that her hands apparently triggered a warning for explosive residue. Penis or no penis, that gets you detained.

            [Edit, added] She had and has no problem telling the world she’s a pre-op or non-op transsexual, but she wouldn’t tell that to the TSA. If only they had been reading her tweets…

          • Priya Lynn

            “And what would those “couple of minutes” entailed? A look down her skirt?”.
            Yes by a female attendent, if that’s what they felt was necessary

          • BobSF_94117

            Why a female? She wouldn’t answer the questions as to whether she was female or not and this whole thing started with the (quite reasonable) assumption that she was a woman.

            I suspect she’d have found a way to be outraged by your solution, as well.

          • Priya Lynn

            A female because she identified as female. Or a male if she’d have preferred (but I doubt that).

          • BobSF_94117

            A second answer. She was patted down twice — I assume by a female TSA officer. She didn’t like that either and, when the female officer presumably confirmed the presence of an “anomaly”, the traveller didn’t want to explain it.

            I was snarking when I said “look down her skirt”. You appear to have taken it literally and think TSA agents would do that. THAT would be a gross violation of privacy. They’re not allowed to see what the youngsters so charmingly call “your junk”, only pat it from outside the clothing.

          • Priya Lynn

            If she was patted down twice then I don’t see what the problem was, the should have let her board the plane at that time.

          • BobSF_94117

            I don’t think you’re thinking this through. They patted her down — as I said, probably female TSA agents. They, no doubt, happened upon the same “anomaly”. Are TSA agents supposed to ignore appendages when they encounter them in unusual places? Most certainly not! They’re supposed to investigate, which they did by asking questions. The flyer refused to answer the questions.

          • Ben Trigg

            Except that she did tell the TSA. She said, “Then I told the TSA agent that I was transgender and had a penis.”

          • BobSF_94117

            That phrase appears in only one article, written last night. I think it’s a bit

            dubious, given that it contradicts previous accounts, even ones by her. See her twitter feed for example: “Cop asked me what sex I was. I told him I wasn’t going to answer that question. I am complying but come on.”


            I’ll read the Salon article when I’ve got a few minutes.

      • BobSF_94117

        The simplest way to verify that there was a penis between her legs was for her to re-pass through the machine “as a man”. If that’s how they put it, they were careless and lacking in sensitivity, but that request was quite reasonable. She refused.

        She refused to say whether she was a man or a woman. She refused to say, “I’m a pre-op transwoman”, for example. Could the TSA have different questions? Sure. And I would wager that any questions they would come up with would offend someone.

        • Priya Lynn

          How do you pass through the machine “as a man”? How would there be any difference between a second time through the machine “as a man” and the first time as a woman? That was just harrassment.

          • BobSF_94117

            The TSA agent presses the “man” button on the machine and the software proceeds to analyze the image using the different physical criteria of the typical male. Because the flyer presented as female, a TSA agent told the machine “woman”.

            The appendage is “seen” in both cases, but in the “as a man” scenario, it’s not an anomaly.

          • Priya Lynn

            Yes, I missed that the first time through the thread. It was an unfortunate choice of words by the TSA agent, perhaps this could have all been avoided if he had said “I need to reset the machine and have you go through again. The transwoman understandibly took him to be insulting her. I would have felt the same way if I was in her position (although I don’t have a penis).

          • BobSF_94117

            The trans people I have known have not been as thin-skinned as this passenger appears to have been. If unfortunate word choices are enough to cause her to clam up and refuse to answer questions from TSA agents even though her obstinance will lose her a seat on the plane, I predict a tedious and problem-plagued life for her. One she’ll undoubtedly record on Twitter for all to follow…

          • Priya Lynn

            The trans people I know would have felt the same way, as I would have. I’m not an assertive person, I would have been extremely upset and humiliated but would have gone through again. I don’t hold it against her for reacting as she did however.

          • BobSF_94117

            I see your non-assertiveness and raise you painful reticence. I would have been utterly cowed by the whole thing.

            I also wouldn’t be tweeting my trans experience to the world while refusing to even whisper, “I’m a MTF transwoman” to the TSA agent.

            Something in this story just doesn’t add up.

    • Bad Tom

      “get back in the machine as a man”

      Actually, that IS how the terahertz backscatter radiation machines work.

      They must be set for the gender of the person being scanned, or they will flag the presence or absence of a penis as anomalous.

      • Then they should have just quietly asked her if she was trans and had her go back into the machine coded for male. There was no need to make her miss the flight. They were just being asses, because they are “gods” in the airport, completely untouchable.

        • Bad Tom

          Absolutely. They had no justification to be jerks.

          • Except that they can be.

          • Octavio

            Very seriously, I’ve yet to meet any TSA agents who were not jerks and did not revel in being able to boss everyone and everything around. Must be just a coincidence that I’ve been manhandled and treated rudely for just being compliant while shuffling through security. Yeah. That’s it. It’s me. I cosmically bring the assholism out in TSA agents just because of my aura. Yup. Bad aura. πŸ™

        • MickinDetroit

          doesn’t she say in her tweets she refused to answer what sex she was?

          “Cop asked me what sex I was. I told him I wasn’t going to answer that question. I am complying but come on.”

          • Yes, but I’m wondering if it was their attitude that caused her to be stubborn about it.

          • ca

            Yes, the TSA should have done exactly as you say. She also could and should have quietly informed them that she is trans and what that means. She tweeted early on “I would like any help I can get” but she doesn’t appear to have been doing much to help herself. Their attitude might have caused her to be stubborn about it, sure, but if her goal was to get through security and make her flight, being stubborn just wasn’t the right response in this situation.

          • I completely agree.

        • BobSF_94117

          My understanding based on something I read yesterday is that that is exactly what they asked her to do, go back through the machine “as a man”. And she refused. I can see that the phrasing (if she reported it accurately) is worse than unfortunate, but it’s hardly an unreasonable solution.

          • Their choice of words was beyond the pale terrible. However, she lost sight of the fact they are the TSA, and if she wants to fly anywhere she does have to lower her threshold as to what offends her. Is it right? Of course not! Should anyone have to go thru this nonsense? Fuck NO! But it is the way we fly now and we all have to make concessions.

      • lymis

        Serious question, though. If what you say is true, would a transwoman with breast implants show up as a similar anomaly if the machine was set up for male?

        • BobSF_94117

          Breast implants are hardly anomalous for women.

          The machine wouldn’t be set to “male” unless she was presented as male, which would be unlikely, post-op.

        • Bad Tom


          And if her penis had not been removed, it would really give the TSA something to think about.

      • Jake

        I know, but she doesn’t do anything differently

        • MickinDetroit

          They mean…she needed to go back through with it set for “male”.

        • Bad Tom

          The TSA agent was speaking imprecisely. The machine setting is changed to expect a different gender.

  • Bj Lincoln

    After several hops across this great country, I was on my last hop coming back when my backpack set off an alarm and I was quickly pulled out of line. They seemed confused about my gender so they patted me down. When I told them what they were looking for, a small tube of white watercolor paint, they looked at me like I was crazy. Lead is still used to make white artist paint. They found the paint after taking everything out of my bag. They shoved it all back and let me go. That was scary enough. I can’t imagine the hell this woman went through. Go to the link and read her tweets.

    • BobSF_94117

      Those aren’t all her tweets.

    • Ginger Snap

      I could go on and on about traveling with my carry on bag filled with corsets, silicone tits and pounds of jewelry. My favorite follows.

      Leaving NH just about a year after Sept 11th I was pulled aside because my carry on looked suspicious.
      Agent- I’m going to remove all items and ask you what they are.
      Agent- Pulls out bottle of assorted no prescription pills and I’m thinking shit I’m going to jail but nothing is asked and it’s set down. Other assorted items come out then he gets to the jackpot my silicone breasts.Out they come one in each hand and he says what are these?
      Me- In my most smart assed voice reply, you obviously have never had a nice set of tits in your hands before.
      Him – Watch your mouth sir, what are these?
      Me- They are silicone tits full FF cup for drag performance.
      Him- Sets them down then pulls out a giant zip-lock baggie full of rhinestone jewelry, Are these real?
      Me-Yes they are I’m a wealthy woman traveling as a man in coach with my diamonds in a zip-lock bag of course they aren’t real they are made of glass.
      Him- Sir please watch your mouth or you will miss your flight.
      Me- I kept my mouth shut and just answered his questions.
      Him-If you had checked this instead of carried it on you would not have been searched after the xray.
      Me-You just fondled approximately $5,000.00 worth of my belongings and I would not trust it with the airline to get it there with me.
      Him-Well expect this at every airport now then.
      Me- Thank you for that info have a nice day.

      On my return home from Fort Lauderdale they guy said nice tits did you have a good time while you were here.

      Moral of my story is, don’t forget you are carrying party drugs when flying now you may get caught.

      • DonnaLee

        Love this story.

  • Sean Williams

    There is a difference between sex and gender. People should stop confusing the two.

    • RobynWatts

      Try telling that to people that hate LGBT people and want to strip our rights and stuff us back into a closet. Or worse, want to see us all dead. They don’t care about differences between sexually and gender identity.

      BTW, You and others like yourself can feel free to keep your transphobic opinions to yourself! People like you have proven that you are no better than the bigots that are featured here!

      • Sean Williams

        Knowing the difference between sex and gender does NOT make me transphobic, it makes me informed. I will not keep my opinions to myself. As a professional who has worked int he field of gender for over two decades, I am very tired of people confusing the two without knowing the larger impacts.

        Calling someone a bigot because of your ignorance makes you look small. If you ever want real information on gender roles and gender norms, please let me know and I will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

        • RobynWatts

          Sean, I do apologize to you for being over-defensive in my comments earlier and wish you would reconsider your decision to leave. We had problems with trolls making hateful comments here in the past over our trans sisters and brothers, some extremely hurtful that, at times it makes me want to leave. But I remember that those people make up 0.01% of the commentators and that I would be missing out on news and happenings that are going on in the whole LGBT community. This is a safe place for ALL of us (Thanks Joe, for making it that way.).

          FWIW. As far as sexually and gender I actually live with it everyday by being a transwoman and in a relationship with a woman. So, for some people, myself included, both exist simultaneously.


    Security theater presents “Transphobia”.

  • Dreaming Vertebrate

    TSA: Transphobic Stupid Assholes

  • Octavio

    This is one of the most frightening accounts I’ve ever read, especially since the victim was able to send messages while it was happening. Tell me again how the TSA is doing such a bang up job keeping everyone safe? Yeah, right. πŸ™

  • rednekokie

    The TSA is the reason I have not flown in 4 years, and will not as long as they are the great gestapo at airports.

  • Mark_in_MN

    They did nothing wrong? What the heck? Clearly their work on “security” has addled their brains.

  • Jeffrey

    I fly a lot. I have a Global Access Pass and I still hate the TSA. They are lazy and incompetent and are as likely to be criminals as anyone else. However this doesn’t sound like such a dramatic story to me. I am immediately put off by someone posting a selfie of their crying. So she couldn’t be reached for comment because she was spending the day relaxing. The TSA gave a statement where they said after review they had acted within the law. I don’t see much of a story here. I know people here like to flame out over trans stories, and I’m with you on legitimate stories. this just isn’t one. Flame away.

    • Edmund Allin

      Though, to be fair, “acting within the law” can still cause tears. And the immediate tweet is only a sign of the times.

    • Priya Lynn

      The TSA exhonerating themselves of wrondoing is in no way proof of an absence of wrongdoing. As others have said there was no need to detain her for hours and make her miss her flight because she has a penis, there’s no reason they couldn’t have just spent a couple of minutes to verify she presented no threat and let her go on. If you don’t see much of a story here your mind is dysfunctional.

      • Jeffrey

        My mind is fully functional, it just isn’t interested in everyday trans hysteria.

        • Priya Lynn

          Fortunately there was no hysteria here as is evidenced by your own admission that you wouldn’t be here showing interest if it were “everyday trans hysteria”.
          If your mind was functional you wouldn’t be claiming its illegitimate to be upset about being detained for hours and made to miss your flight for no valid reason.
          Admit it, you’re just a bigot.

  • Anjrue

    First World Problems.

    • Veylon

      Getting arbitrarily held up for hours at a military checkpoint by unaccountable officials is something that many Third Worlders are intimately familiar with. It just doesn’t happen here often.

      • Edmund Allin

        I travel a fair bit, and most US airports have searches that are not really the norm elsewhere. As well as queues that are unseen in airports of comparable size. (Though that’s another issue.)

        Do I feel safer in the US as a result? No.

      • Sankofa

        But not even the “victim” claims that it was arbitrary. She admits that there was a criterion, just doesn’t agree with the criterion. Further, she was not held at a military checkpoint. She sat in a room at the airport. The horror! And TSA officials are held accountable all the time. Google “TSA” and “fired” or “disciplined.” By contrast, if this had happened in certain 3rd World countries, she could have been arrested, imprisoned, tortured and/or killed with impunity. Check your transprivilege and your transracism.

        • Priya Lynn

          That’s pretty twisted of you to say that its privilege to be mistreated as long as you aren’t arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or killed. Anti-gay people say the same thing about gays not being allowed to marry – “you should accept the disc rimination and be damn glad you aren’t tortured or killed like you’d be in an islamic country”.
          I guess all the time gays in the States were complaining about being barred from marriage they should have checked their gayprivilege and gayrascism.

  • Ryan Conrad

    Funny looking at all the angry comments from gay people. The smartest thing you can do is get other people to fight your wars. Just as the big corporations get working class people to fight and die for their interests, trans activists have convinced a lot of gay people to fight their battles. Just like the guy who mops floors for a living who thinks his interests are the same as Exxon’s, you have a bunch of gays who think the most important issue in the world is whether a hetero transsexual was delayed at the airport.

    • Edmund Allin

      If being “hetero transsexual” were viewed by others with a shrug of the shoulders I’d agree. And we’re the LG+++++…. alliance, after all. πŸ™‚

    • stevenj

      We would not win our “wars” without the help of straight people.

      “a bunch of gays who think the most important issue in the world is whether a hetero transsexual was delayed at the airport.” That is quite an assumption.

      What exactly is your point?

      • KnownDonorDad

        Excellent point. And you you gave Ryan that little sliver of attention he was hoping for. Win-win. πŸ˜‰

  • Why is it legal for assholes in uniforms to molest and harass people still?


    agency officials concluded that the Orlando officers did nothing wrong.

    You mean, kinda like when the police investigate their own and find no wrongdoing?

  • CottonBlimp

    Depressing how every time there’s an article about trans people, in any capacity, a shitload of guest accounts come out of the woodwork to shit on trans people. The “TSA did nothing wrong” assholes in the comments here wouls be saying the same thing if TSA took her outside and shot her.

    • ca

      Your accusation that people “defending” the TSA would be “saying the same thing if TSA took her outside and shot her” is total BS.

      Were the TSA employees in this case insensitive? Sure but I’m not certain this was anything more than that. Does the TSA need to do more training on trans issues for all TSA employees? Perhaps they do or perhaps these individuals are an anomaly and need more training (Petoski herself tweeted “I fly all the time and this has never happened. I really thought the TSA was good about trans issues. I am so dumb.”)

      Petoski loses me when she tweeted “Cop asked me what sex I was. I told him I wasn’t going to answer that question. I am complying but come on.” 1. Refusing to answer means she wasn’t complying. 2. She missed her chance right then to at least try to clear up the situation.

      • CottonBlimp

        It’s not that what you said is wrong, it’s that it’s missing the point. It’s like going on about what a victim of police brutality should have done to avoid getting murdered.

        I *also* can’t stand the sort of people who tweet photos of themselves crying. On that basis alone I have the big hunch that she’s likely an obnoxious attention-seeking drama queen – but that’s irrelevant to the fact that she was treated unfairly. And it makes me worry on behalf of all the sweet people I know who might also be subjected to something like this, or worse, that no one would ever hear about because, unlike drama queens, they wouldn’t stick up for themselves.

        • ca

          Thanks for the thoughtful response. I get and agree with your main point that she was treated unfairly. I’m also certain that is not only true for her incident and it should be addressed in policy and training for TSA employees (and it might be already). As an individual incident, however, both sides could have been more understanding and accommodating. I don’t think she did herself any favors by refusing to answer questions and tweeting about it at the time. I hope you don’t equate that criticism with me disagreeing with her right to have “the same privileges as cis people.” because she is absolutely right to want that.

          • CottonBlimp

            Being completely honest, I checked your post history, and you’re clearly not one of the people I was talking about in my OP. There are some truly vile people who seem to only ever show up in response to stories about trans people, often with guest accounts, and they say some really disgusting stuff.

            I’m glad it seems we agree on the core issue here.

      • Priya Lynn

        As a non-transexual I can where she lost youl. For a transexual it may be easier to understand. For me on the few occaisions someone perceives me as a male it comes as a shock and makes me retreat into myself, I don’t want to talk about it, challenge it, I just want to curl up in a little ball and hide. I have no doubt that was her reaction as well and that’s why she clammed up about the whole situation. When you’re feeling humilated by someone you don’t really want to discuss the situation with them any further.

        • ca

          Thanks for sharing your perspective, Priya. As a non-transexual, I’ll keep that in mind. A reminder to focus on empathy is always good. πŸ™‚

          I have Tourette Syndrome and there have certainly been situations where someone insensitively draws attention to it (flying actually really sucks with TS) so I can relate to what you say about not wanting to talk about it and retreating into yourself. It’s usually easier to just be direct but depending on other circumstances, I may not feel up to that at the time. I get that it’s not the same thing but it’s not that totally different either.

  • KnownDonorDad

    You know what, after skimming through the (non-troll) comments, it would seem to me that if the TSA really wanted to do its job (for now let’s set aside the larger issue of whether or not scans are worthwhile and just assume every person needs to be scanned to comply with regulations), they could, very discreetly, take Ms. Petosky aside, ask if she’s a trans individual, and re-scan her. I realize this is far more personal than “do you have metal in your body” or the like, but compared to what they put her through for an “anomaly” it’s straightforward.

    • ca

      Yeah, they should have done that, for sure. Since they didn’t and she knew exactly what the issue was, she should have been direct and told them.

      • Ben Trigg

        She did. From an interview on Salon:

        So yesterday, when did you first realize there was going to be a problem as you were going through security?

        I went through the full body scanner and when I turned back to look at the image that was on the screen, I saw that it had a dot over my groin.

        And then what happened?

        Then I told the TSA agent that I was transgender and had a penis.

        • ca

          I stand corrected. Thanks, Ben.

  • Harlan92

    So what we’re also learnimg is a heap of underhung men could smuggle shit on board planes using prosthetic penises? Oh, America…. Never change – we need the laughs.

  • BobSF_94117

    They [TSA] have to work on that. There’s no reason that if I walk through and
    they guess and press the pink button, that makes me liable for not being
    the type of body they’re expecting.

    How dare they go along with the gender presentation I’ve chosen to project!!!

    Weird, weird thing to complain about.

  • Smores

    Nope – I have zero sympathy for her – she’s acting like a hyper sensitive special snowlflake.

    The TSA are known for their arbitrariness. She needs to grow a pair (although she already has a pair).

    Build a bridge dear and get over it.