Tobi Hill-Meyer

Upcoming Senate TSA Oversight Hearing

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | November 17, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: body scanners, Congressional hearings, travel, TSA

News about the TSA "grope" policy have been spreading like wildfire and many hope that they will be the subject of a Senate TSA Oversight Hearing today. In case you haven't heard, they've implemented bodyscanners that take naked pictures of airline passengers. Those who refuse the scanner, tsa_body_scan.jpgeither for privacy or for health concerns about the radiation, are subjected to an "enhanced pat down" which involves touching of breasts, inner thighs, and genitals. Apparently refusing both security measures -- even just by turning around and leaving the airport -- will leave you subject to a $10,000 fine.

The implications of requiring a TSA agent to either see or feel your genitals has left many in the trans community panicked. Online trans communities have lit up with concerns about holiday travel. I've heard from trans speakers and performers who are canceling gigs that would require them to fly. Personally, it's one of the few times I feel grateful to live by a small airport, which doesn't yet have body scanners.

Posted at is a listing of the senate committee members and their chairs. This is one of our few opportunities to influence this policy before it becomes cemented. Please read the information under the cut and call the committee chairs regardless of your home state.

Please forward this information as widely as possible.

Meeting info:
Jena Longo - Democratic Deputy Communications Director, (202) 224-8374
Nov 17 2010 10:00 AM
Russell Senate Office Building - 253

Contact the communications director to find out more information about the meeting.

The committee chair is Sen Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) phone (202) 224-6472. The ranking member is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison 202-224-5922.

The subcommittee chair is Sen Byron L. Dorgon (D-ND) phone (202) 224-2551. The ranking member is Sen Jim DeMint (R-SC) phone (202) 224-6121.

Regardless of your home state, call the chairpersons to ask whether recent TSA abuses are on the agenda for the oversight hearing. Ask to speak with the staffer responsible for dealing with issues related to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Here is a list of committee members, their homepage and phone number. If one of these people is your Senator, please also phone them, either at the number below or look online to find their nearest local office - you can even visit in person. A constituent who knows a senator's committee assignments and addresses issues for the agenda for a scheduled hearing gives him/herself an educated and powerful voice.

If none of these people is your senator, contact the committee chairs. Also contact your own senators and representative . They still need to hear your opinion, it's just that they won't be at this hearing.

D-AK Mark Begich (202) 224-3004
D-AR Mark Pryor (202) 224-2353
D-CA Barbara Boxer (202) 224-3553
D-FL Bill Nelson 202-224-5274
D-HI Daniel K. Inouye (202) 224.3934
D-MA John F. Kerry [(202) 224-2742
D-MN Amy Klobuchar 202-224-3244
D-MO Claire McCaskill 202-224-6154
D-ND Byron L. Dorgon phone (202) 224-2551
D-NJ Frank R. Lautenberg (973) 639-8700, (888) 398-1642
D-NM Tom Udall (202) 224-6621
D-VA Mark Warner 202-224-2023
D-WA Maria Cantwell 202-224-3441
D-WV Jay Rockefeller (202) 224-6472
R-FL George S. LeMieux (202) 224-3041
R-GA Johnny Isakson (202) 224-3643
R-KS Sam Brownback (202) 224-6521
R-LA David Vitter (202) 224-4623
R-ME Olympia J. Snowe (202) 224-5344, (800) 432-1599
R-MS Roger F. Wicker 202-224-6253
R-NE Mike Johanns (202) 224-4224
R-NV John Ensign (202) 224-6244
R-SC Jim DeMint phone (202) 224-6121
R-SD John Thune (202) 224-2321, 1-866-850-3855
R-TX Kay Bailey Hutchison 202-224-5922

This link has information on committee staff, as well.

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My Senator (GA) is on this committee and I just called (10:13 AM) and was told the hearing is on at this time. I didn't reveal I don't like it because I'm trans, but that is why I called. Thanks for the list.

Unless the Senators walk thru the scanner they should not be able to vote on it. Let's see if they like their short comings displayed.

Great list, Tobi. I called this morning right after I finished editing your post. :)

For many transpeople and cispeople, PornoScan and GenitalGrope airport screening represent a traumatic denial of human dignity. Many are effectively denied access to air transportation by these policies, especially survivors of sexual abuse or assault. Parents of young children, cis and trans, are facing the nightmare of detailed images of their kids' genitals displayed to strange men in hidden rooms with no accountability for their professionalism and no oversight by outside agencies. Speaking as a parent, this practice sounds criminal to me.

I am also concerned that Mr. Tyner was threatened with fines and civil lawsuits, not when he wished to board the plane, but when the TSA demanded he endure a PornoScan or GenitalGrope before being allowed to leave the airport afterward. Federal agents clearly had no safety interest in groping his member on his way out of the airport, after he gave up on his travel plans and tried to go home. That was punitive. That was bullying.

Unprofessional conduct by TSA employees with these imaging devices became public record last May, when a TSA worker testing a body image scanner was harassed by male coworkers about the size of his genitalia until he assaulted one of them in retaliation.

This agency has gone rogue and is in need of adult supervision and oversight.

I am amused to see elsewhere online that the anti-gay crowd is outraged that some of the TSA personnel may be gay and they evidently fear those close encounters should they refuse the x-ray body scan.

Personally I am very leery of the safety of the machines and will opt for the touchy feely procedure. Don't really care if the agent is a man or woman. I've never been bashful.

I second that... I would rather be groped than have some potential creeper scan my body with their perv-o-scope and irradiating my person.

I have mixed feelings about those machines, but if you don't want to be scanned, take a bus.

As for that guy Tyner, who was thrown out of the airport after accusing them of sexual assault, that's laughable. Did you see his picture? This is comparable to a flea crawling up an elephant's ass with rape on his mind. This guy should never worry about anybody wanting to grope him. Nobody's THAT desperate! He LOOKS like a terrorist!

Kathy Padilla | November 17, 2010 2:51 PM

It's true - sexual assault isn't about power - it's about how attractive some outside observer finds the victim.

Can never have enough rape jokes. Got some more to share, Ron?


Sexual assault is not about finding someone attractive or not. We can have a whole conversation about what perpetrators' motivations are, how it's about power and control, but that's really beside the point.

The law doesn't make a distinction based on motivation. If you purposefully touch someone's genitals without their consent that is sexual assault. I assume that's why they have to get consent for the enhanced pat down first. It's well within his right not to consent to his genitals being touched and to set the boundary that he will seek criminal charges if that boundary is crossed. Unfortunately, that boundary makes it impossible to conduct the pat down and so he is considered to have refused it.

Boy, I pushed some buttons with that remark. It was a reference to how ridiculous it was for the guy to think that anybody wanted to look at his junk. It was not about rape.

Or stand up to your out-of-control, fear-mongering government over its blatant violations of the Fourth Amendment. There is a reason we have a Bill of Rights, Ron. It's to protect us from government tyranny. And it doesn't have an "except when you're at an airport" exception.

9/11 was tragic. Given the nature of the work I do in the industrial sector, the surprising thing to me is that something of that same magnitude, in general, has not happened since then. Seems inevitable to me that such an event is just a matter of time. And, sure enough, when it does, bet the farm there will be a huge outcry about lack of security.

I fly and, at times, I fly a lot. As far as I'm concerned, airport security can do whatever they want in order to assure some idiot doesn't bring down the plane I'm on.

I'm a gay male, and I don't want str8 people gawking at or feeling my privates. We've gone way too far in this country.

If we're serious about airplane security, we can follow the lead of Israel. Yes, they use psychological and other profiles. Why shouldn't we?

It's downright stupid to subject my 80-year-old mother to body scans or groping. We can and should do better.

Kathy Padilla | November 17, 2010 3:39 PM

From Raw Story:

New York Times reporter Joe Sharkey wrote that he was getting a lot of question from women who travel in a little noticed article Monday.

"Do the imagers, for example, detect sanitary napkins?" women wanted to know. "Yes," wrote Sharkey.

"Does that then necessitate a pat-down? The T.S.A. couldn’t say. Screeners, the T.S.A. has said, are expected to exercise some discretion."

"And what about tampons?" asked the blog Feminist Peace Network. "They look kind of like sticks of dynamite. Are they going to ask us to pull them out and show them just to be sure?"

I like trains. Trains are nice. If a train has a bad engine, it slows down and stops. If a train runs out of gas, it slows down and stops. No one bothers trains. No one gets groped to get on a train. I think I'll avoid planes from now on.

Yeah, right. Ask Autumn Sandeen about her recent trip on a train.

My employer is very interested in hearing from people who've suffered abuse at the hands of the TSA, be they transgender or cisgender. You can find a link to a complaint form on our main page on this issue:

I think my deepest fear is that if scanned, anything and everything can be considered an "anomaly" and that if they can observe my junk that this will be used as an excuse to let a man assault me for the sake of security.

Thus, the only option is to opt out, which apparently comes with getting felt up. This leads to the question that if the TSA agent feels too hard, she is likely to figure out certain things, which could easily lead to a law enforcement officer being called over and my potentially being in hot water.

I don't have a choice. My family lives in Halifax, and I live in Oregon. I go home every Christmas, since we're a tight-knit family like that. Taking the train just doesn't work. So, on December 20th, what the hell do I do?

I recently went through the security routine, including body scanner, at Albuquerque airport. Believe me, I have a few "anomalies", as it were. It took the TSA a very long time to examine my scan. Finally, they decided to ask me whether I preferred a male or a female officer for pat-down. This was repeated at the other airports I connected through.

Privacy intrusion issues aside, I have found that there is little to worry about with the TSA. I got more grief from the airline check-in staff when using my yet-unchanged id. "Your name isn't really *male name*, is it?"

What train do people in Hawaii take to travel to another state?

My Partner and I strongly support realist, common-sense, pro-active means to stop airline terrorism.
We sometime feel that TSA employees are simply going through the motions in an attempt to
make individuals feel that they are addressing airline security.

We have observed on a number of occasions, TSA employees who are not very patient with senior citizens
Individuals who are clearly not a security risk.

We are an openly Gay couple and whenever we have gone through Atlanta, we have been subjected to verbal abuse and harassment.