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Trans Woman Profiled, Detained, Humiliated at Orlando Airport for #TravelingWhileTrans

Right off the bat: this entire debacle is horrifying.

Shadi Petosky just endured something that all trans people fear might happen to them when they travel: she was detained, humiliated, and treated as hostile simply because of an “anomaly” that showed up on a particle scanner at Orlando airport security. Since particle scanners can reveal a person’s genitals, trans people have feared profiling at the hands of TSA agents who are notoriously undertrained when it comes to handling trans travelers.

The story amounted to this: she was denied passage through security, she was profiled, detained in a room with an officer holding the door shut, completely humiliated by questions about her sex, and ended up missing her flight home.

Oh, and that was only the beginning.

She was told to go back into the scanner “as a man” (whatever that means) or “it was going to be a problem.” After confusion around pat down protocols, Petosky was ultimately redirected back out of security to purchase a new boarding pass… which meant she would have had to endure that horrifying security protocol againAt one point, she was being handled by four different TSA agents, two police officers, and one explosives agent.

Hell, the entire time, the American Airlines Twitter account kept tweeting placating remarks, saying they were glad that Petosky was able to rebook her flight–even though she was still stuck on the other side of security. What?

The ordeal continued. After being told that she’d be placed on a flight for free, her card was charged anyway. American Airlines employees told her she should “just ask for a private screening” next time. An Orlando police officer even began to lecture the American Airlines employees, telling them to just give her a ticket. She even would have had to go through security again if not for the actions of a manager who intervened and guided her past.

In a recent statement acquired by, the TSA maintains that the agents involved followed strict procedure and did everything correctly. They even stated that the TSA agents are all trained in how to screen transgender passengers appropriately, though they’ve historically rebuffed offers for assistance with training from the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Petosky tweeted that she didn’t want this to be what came up when her name was searched on the internet, that she didn’t want her “#1 Google results to be about genitals or a pic of me crying but that ship seems to have sailed.” Despite this, she’s aiming to take a more vocal stance in light of the TSA’s statement to and American Airlines’ continued silence.

Here’s the thing: this entire story is the confirmation of a very real fear that many trans people struggle with any time they have to pass through an airport.To think or even suggest that this was an isolated incident would be a massive understatement. In fact, trans people have begun to share stories of similar experiences they’ve had while traveling under a hashtag: #travelingwhiletrans.

For Petosky and for so many trans people, experiences like these are all too common. And that, simply put, is absolutely unacceptable. It’s hard to see whether the TSA actually changes any policies around the flagging of transgender travelers. But that doesn’t mean we should stop making our voices heard. It’s important for those of us who are comfortable enough with speaking about our experiences of #travelingwhiletrans to do so.

There is difficulty in sharing our stories and experiences. To say something out loud is to make it real. But that’s exactly what we need to do if we’re ever going to hope for a change in the way things are.

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (, and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters ( She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.