Commentary

Trans activist Kristin Beck tells TSA: “We are real people with real feelings”

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Kristin Beck

#TSA …WTF.

Just when I thought TSA was doing well with gender and those of us that don’t quite conform to magazine model stereotypes…. They call me “him” and ask if TSA Dude can pat me down?

I say I’m “her” and I don’t want “dude” groping my boobs. Yes, They are “real” boobs and by the way the state of Maryland says I’m female. They call supervisor over and the supervisor says just pay “him” down.

Damn (I’m in tears, (my inside voice))

10 minutes later a female under duress(disgust) pats me down.

I’m sad, for TSA, our country, our future… Why is this so difficult?

I’m a tomboy,

I’m an American,

I’m a veteran,

I’m combat wounded warrior,

I’m a real human with real feelings…

Oh, the kicker. I’m flying to Kansas City to give a HUMAN RIGHTS speech at Department of Justice Bureau of Prisons on rights and treatment etc.

This post on Facebook was shared 296 times on my page. The post was seen by about 25,000 people in two days. So for a Navy SEAL and activist it made some waves. Many, many people commented and shared their own personal stories in that post. Most of those stories confirmed the abuse served by untrained TSA agents.

I now have a collection of stories from people who are Muslim, elderly, disabled, hearing impaired, recent surgery or a few metal rods in their backs. The stories all point to the same problem TSA agents can be insensitive to people who are different than themselves. This could all be resolved by those same TSA agents asking a few mindful questions of the person who set off the alarms.

On September 21st the next day I was giving my usual “Human Rights” and training speech in Kansas city and some TSA representatives were present. They apologized in person and at the same time a TSA employee at the headquarters in Washington DC sent me an email. I responded and the dialog started.

In the days following I was asked to come on HeadLine News which is a channel operated by CNN. The people at both networks, HLN and CNN, have my email and phone number and often ask me to be on to speak about Civil Rights or LGBT rights since the movie “Lady Valor.”

The news was totally focused on the shooting of a black man in North Carolina and this story was a footnote at best, but still has some validity even in the case of this man being shot in North Carolina. I spoke about the incident and the reporter kept referring to “transgender” and LGBT while I kept countering with “Human.” I also spoke about Positions of Authority being Police and TSA in the same vain. We have an issue in America right now with Authority and the lack of accountability and the lack of compassion on the part of those same authority figures. Law enforcement and anyone in that position have a responsibility much greater than the average person and with that responsibility comes added gravity to every decision you make. With that authority comes added measure to how you conduct yourself in regards to a person’s liberty and a person’s safety.

So how do we fix this issue with Law enforcement?

Training, education, personal interactions with people who you are not familiar?

Community policing? Added accountability and oversight?

Yes, Yes and Yes.

Now don’t get me wrong, TSA and Law Enforcement in general have a tough job and they do it right 99% of the time, but that 1% error could be traumatic or fatal at worst. My case was my hurt feelings at best, but another person it could have been the ignition to much worse consequences.

So I met with the TSA Deputy Administrator in the last few days and spoke about my encounter at length and some ideas that may remedy the TSA issues. Maybe someday hopefully I can tackle more of the greater Law Enforcement issues.

TSA has made the commitment to me in person to create a video highlighting the communities that are sometimes dealt with badly by new agents. Those communities are the elderly, disabled, Muslim and LGBT persons and others. The video is being filmed this week and will highlight those persons and attempt to bridge the apparent gap between those communities and TSA agents. I don’t think this will be greatly difficult as we are all humans and we have way more in common than not.

The second thing TSA is working on is a program in conjunction with some LGBT activists and other hand selected persons who are frequent travelers to become “TSA Ambassadors.” These Ambassadors will report back to TSA headquarters on their encounters good and bad with TSA checkpoints. These grades will have a direct impact on agents and training.

These are two of the outcomes of a social media post that started on September 20th and continue in this article.

Anyone can have impact when they stand up for what is right and speak out, but that impact is nothing if others don’t share that concern and stand with them in great numbers. I truly believe we can make things better; Think globally act locally and join with each other in those efforts.

It’s like the bully in the school yard; everyone STANDS UP together and one voice of the many is loud and clear.

That message today and the last few years is the same… Law Enforcement and people in those positions of authority are going to be held accountable for their actions.

Yes, we are diverse. We might be different than you.

But

We are real people with real feelings.

We are you.

We are one and the same, treat us that way.

Photographer iO Tillett Wright talks about the beauty of difference

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