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TSA Spends $18.6 Million, Deploys ‘Non-Binary’ Imaging System

TSA Spends $18.6 Million, Deploys ‘Non-Binary’ Imaging System

The TSA is spending $18.6 million in funding to develop, test and deploy “non-binary screening systems,” according to a new report. Funding was approved on March 9 as part of the FY2022 Omnibus Appropriations fund, which has been spent on upgrading the automated screening systems at airports.

The multi-million dollar system promises a ‘sharper imaging technology’ and aims to reduce the number of trans travelers having ‘sensitive areas’ flagged as suspicious. The TSA reports that it is more challenging to screen transgender and nonbinary people than other travelers. 

This new imaging technology is expected to reduce the number of pat-downs and complaints from minority communities, according to experts.

Six percent of the annual 26,000 complaints come from members of the LGBTQ+ community. Seven percent of the U.S. population identifies as LGBTQ+.

The TSA says such measures are part of the work of the Inclusion Action Committee, launched by Trump’s administration in August 2020.

TSA’s Focus on Gender

Currently, if airport scanners flag a person as ‘suspicious,’ that person requires a pat-down by a TSA employee.

Under the new updated system, a person’s gender identity will be considered. An automated secondary screening will be allowed to help reduce the need for TSA pat-downs and hopefully reduce lines.

Data from the TSA shows of the 26,542 screening complaints they receive annually, just over 6% are from members of the LGBTQ+ community. In an effort to lower that number, the agency is spending $18.6 million on nonbinary screening systems.

“This technology should really be gender neutral, you know it really should be, and we’re there,” Jose Bonilla, TSA’s Traveler Engagement Division and Inclusion Action Committee chair, said.

After roughly one year of testing, Bonilla is confident the sharper image technology will reduce the number of physical pat-downs happening at TSA checkpoints.

“I went through the scanner, and the alert went off that the TSA agents needed to check my groin area,” said Rep. Taylor Small, P/D-Winooski, the first transgender legislator in Vermont.

TSA currently has transgender and non-binary passenger policies called Transgender/ Non Binary / Gender Nonconforming Passengers.

“The TSA PreCheck program application has been updated to include an additional gender marker option to better serve non-binary and gender non-conforming Americans.  This action will ensure the TSA PreCheck system accurately reflects the traveler’s gender. With this update, TSA allows TSA PreCheck applicants to select their gender based on self-attestation, regardless of the sex assigned at birth.”

Expect More Changes at the Airport in 2023

According to the NY Post, the TSA will run a new pilot program soon. “The Transportation Security Administration is running a pilot program in which travelers stand in photo kiosks that compare their faces with a federal database of photos from passport applications, driver’s licenses, and other sources. TSA promises its new airport regime, which could vastly expand next year, will respect Americans’ privacy.”

Stripes reports, “the controversial facial recognition technology for passenger screening will be at 16 major domestic airports, from Washington to Los Angeles, and hopes to expand it across the United States as soon as next year.”

TSA’s expensive new gender screening technology will start being rolled out to airports in January.

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1 Comment

  1. Andrew Robinson

    Help me out here? Am I supposed to be upset by the gender neutral piece of this? The expense? Or the fact that it’s an accommodation that will specifically benefit those who are trans?