“We who think we are about to die will laugh at anything.”
I’m at the world’s tiniest airport today, traveling home from running the gauntlet of family visits for the winter holidays. All flights leave through the same gate. There are two computerized check-in kiosks to print your boarding pass, but neither works. After a two-minute wait in line to check your bags, you walk 15 feet over to the security line and hand your ID and boarding pass to the TSA agent while you’re going through the metal detector. She actually set my boarding pass on top of the x-ray machine that straddles the conveyor belt in order to mark it up with her little scribbles. There is no TSA pre-check line here, as there is really no difference in screening procedures. As I walked through the metal detector and the agent handed back my boarding pass and ID, a red light flashed.
“I’m sorry sir,” she said, “You’ve been selected for additional screening.”
At a large airport, this sometimes means that your hands are swabbed to check for chemicals. But at such a rural airport in farming country, there are no new-fangled electronic hand-swabbers. Even if the airport could afford them, half the waiting room has most likely been in contact with industrial fertilizer in the last 48 hours judging by the number of Carhartts and Stetsons I count.
I was directed three feet to the left to stand on a rug with footprints printed on it. A bearded man stepped up to me and asked me to place my feet on the footprints. He said he needed to do a pat down from my waist to my knees.
As a trans person, who often travelled in a breast binder prior to chest surgery, I loathe pat downs. At this point in my life, I have have no reason to have any concerns, which is an incredible privilege, but memories of consistently being harassed and molested by TSA officers when my chest tripped the alert on the body scanners don’t fade so easily. Today’s officer said we could complete the pat down in a private room if I preferred. I wondered 1) who would possibly see us in the deserted airport other than my husband, Sam, who had gone through the metal detector just ahead of me, and the TSA screener who had checked my ID as she waved me through the metal detector, and 2) how being in private where there were no witnesses could possibly make me more comfortable.
I told him, “Here is fine,” and he proceeded to run the backs of his hands over the outsides of my thighs, my butt, and then up the inside of one leg from my knee to my crotch–then the other.
I resisted the urge to tell him that I generally expect a fellow to take me to dinner before I let him get to third base because, 1) I’m sure he hears that one all the time, 2) it’s not true: I’ll put out for anyone, and 3) with this asinine government shut-down he is working on Christmas Day without any guarantee that he’ll be back-paid for these hours. In the benevolence that I’m told the holiday requires (I’m an atheist), I managed to bite my tongue.
A slight furrow passed over his brow as he ran his hand up my second leg, but he straightened up and waved me onward. I grabbed my coat from the conveyer belt and rounded the corner into the single tiny waiting area of the only gate. Sam’s eyebrows were raised, silently asking me how it went. As a fellow trans man, he knows all-too-well how uncomfortable TSA pat downs can be.
“He didn’t find anything,” I smirked, “including a few things he was expecting.”
Sam sniggered, “It’s a fun life, isn’t it?”
Malo is a queer artist who oscillates between the fear of being discovered and being forgotten.