The Biden administration has unveiled new travel standards designed to minimize the harassment to which transgender travelers have been routinely subjected, including new passport identification options.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced on Thursday that it would change its screening processes to be more gender-neutral. For example, it will update the imaging technology on body scanners at airport checkpoints, will no longer use gendered information for validation identity or for body scans, and will not subject travelers to pat downs in a “sensitive area.”
The changes were announced on March 31, which in the United States is commemorated as the Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to promote inclusivity and oppose discrimination against the trans community. The symbolism is not accidental: transgender travelers have complained for years that the TSA’s security practices unfairly subject them
to additional searches and pat-downs, which can be humiliating when the security staff are openly disdainful of their identity.
Also on Thursday, the US Department of State announced
it would begin allowing travelers to indicate their gender as X on US passports, in addition to the F for women and M for men. The plan was initially announced last summer, but the DoS said the option will become available beginning on April 11.
A survey by the National Center
for Transgender Equality nonprofit found that just 11% of trans Americans have an accurate name and gender marker on all their IDs and records, and that 68% have no IDs showing an accurate name or gender.
A February poll published by Gallup
found that about 0.8% of adult US women and 0.6% of adult US men are transgender; the poll did not ask about nonbinary people. Together, that adds up to about 2.3 million Americans. Trans identification is more common in younger generations than older ones, with 2% of Generation Z adults born between 1997 and 2003 identifying as trans, but just 0.6% of Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, doing so.