Transition and Transit : Passing Through Airport Security

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airport security
airport security

Most Indian airports have security checks at airport entrances and then security screening inside as well. With gender mentioned on documents and boarding passes, how difficult is it for trans people to pass in their “legal gender”, especially when on HRT? What do they do in order to make it through security checks ?

Shaman : I only use IDs which don’t have gender mentioned on them, like the PAN Card and driving license. On the ticket, I always use my chosen gender ie male, and not my legal gender. One reason is that it shouldn’t matter to them that my name is feminine. For example, if my legal name is Amita, I know I can pass as a guy. I could still use Mr Amita on my boarding pass. Usually its seen as an error in spelling. As long as its Mr. In fact, most boarding passes print the surname and only first name initials. So that’s even better. It will thus show as Mr A Gupta.

In fact, most of the time I would book my ticket in the name of Mr Amit Gupta (because there’s only one letter change in my ID and my ticket I usually tell them it’s a spelling error while booking ticket, if someone asks. But most of the time no one has asked. They assume a spelling error as well. This can be only done if your name has some close version of a another name of the opposite gender which most Indian names are. For eg. Preeti – Preet, Akshata- Akshat etc. But if your name is say Poonam, then you are stuck.

Aditya : It’s very difficult for me to pass as legal gender . I never took any steps to pass as legal gender.

Anu : It is pretty easy at the entrance screening, But at the next security check, it is pretty tough, After the discharge from the hospital, after my SRS, I was about to fly from Mumbai to Mangalore. The Ground Staff checked my medical documents and I was cleared as fit to fly. Later, at the security check, the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) male staff asked me that he want to check me thoroughly. I said I can’t allow you to see me and see my medical documents. After seeing that, they staff couldn’t understand and started saying “Your documents says male, so we need to check you”. They showed my documents to staff and their head there. I didn’t have choice to do anything else. All I did was weep.  I told them that I came from the hospital and that I didn’t have any chance to change my documents. They didn’t listen to me at all. They gave me a suggestion – to change my pronoun from Mr to Ms in the ticket, and then they could allow the female security staff to check me. I went back to Airline ground staff and she assisted me to the female security check. The female CISF staff shouted in front of everyone, ”Why are you coming here?” They made me stand there again, and I felt so embarrassed. But finally, she allowed me through. Later she told me not to show those documents to any male staff.
Later when I flew, sometimes the security staff thought I was female because of my attire but later I just went to the male CISF staff and he just checked casually at my boarding pass; and was asking me are you a male or a female.

Vidya :  Because my documents say male, I thought I should therefore stick to the male queue and restrooms etc even if dressed androgynously, I started facing issues like constant stares, comments, questions, being told “ma’am, please go there” and so on. This went on for a year, and finally, I decided I had had too much of it and started going on the women’s side, wearing the exact same clothes . In my case, all airports I have been to have just one security check, as far as I remember. Also, sometimes the boarding pass mentions gender and sometimes it doesn’t (it varies from airline to airline). And security does not check for other documents. They only check boarding passes. But still, because I had documents saying male, I would stick to the men’s side. Within 3-4 months of starting HRT, I started facing those comments and questions that I just mentioned. Since then, it has happened EVERY SINGLE TIME that I have gone through the men’s queue. But I used my voice, and the “Mr” on my documents etc, to “pass” as a guy….

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