I am sitting in Ronald Reagan National Airport an hour and a half before my flight back to KCI. It is 6:30pm on Valentine’s Day and I am contemplating my next column, which is due in three days.
I flew out of Kansas City yesterday afternoon. It was my very first plane trip as Stephanie. I wasn’t sure what to expect because the last time I flew was before 9-11.
I did my homework. I had my make-up packed into a quart-sized, re-sealable bag. No liquid containers were over 3.4 fluid ounces. I didn’t want to check a bag, so I had to pack everything I wanted to take into a carry-on.
I have heard horror stories about cosmetics and post 9-11 air travel. My decision to follow the guidelines provided by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) turned out to be a good one. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) also provides information regarding what to do, and what not to do when traveling by air.
The first thing I learned while going through security is that because I have metal hips, I am destined to be subjected to closer scrutiny than the many people who do not possess the skill of setting off buzzers while passing through checkpoints.
They had me step off to the side. I had previously removed my shoes, and taken my neatly packed make-up baggie from my carry-on bag, and placed them into the tray. Then (don’t do this) I failed to zip up the suitcase. I thought that they would have to put my cosmetic collection back in, and then I would zip it up.
The woman who was charged with clearing me for flight grabbed the bag from the conveyor and the next thing I know, there were my clothes, scattered across the airport floor. I don’t think this made her very happy. I started to help her pick things up, but she told me that I could not touch my belongings because I hadn’t been cleared yet.
Two minutes earlier, no one besides me could touch my belongings. Now, I had to watch her stuff my stuff back into the suitcase. For anyone who has seen the movie, As Good as it Gets, I pack a lot like Melvin Udall and Simon. Every item neatly placed into its properly fitted spot. It was excruciating.
The next step in my security shakedown was to be wanded. The various stances I was required to assume brought back memories of playing the game “Twister.” Then came the pat down.
This is the part that got interesting, at least to me. When she patted me down, she got very close to . . . uh . . . well, she got very close. A half-inch closer and it might have gotten a lot more interesting.
I didn’t have to leave the concourse in Atlanta, so I didn’t need to reenter security for my flight to West Palm Beach. On the return trip, I knew what to expect, and the lady who wanded me didn’t feel the need to pat me down. Then again, she hadn’t been embarrassed by dumping my belongings all over the airport floor.
Here is the serious part. If I am going to fly, eventually the woman who pats me down will discover . . . uh . . . well, she will discover. I guess I will have to write that article when the time comes.
When I flew into Washington, D.C., I didn’t have to leave the concourse. This brings us back to where the column started.
A word of advice. Get the facts about what you can, and can’t carry on. Be prepared to deal with the idea of a pat down. The wands are very sensitive. They picked up the metal in my bra clasp. And never, never, never leave your carry-on bag on the conveyor without zipping it up.
Here is a great website - http://transequality.org/Issues/travel.html
© 02/14/2010, Stephanie Mott
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