TSA’s Psychological Impact

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December 20, 2010
By: Echo Brooks*/TRT Columnist

There has been a lot of hype lately on the new TSA body scanners and pat downs happening at our airports. When I first heard of the scanners being put into place I was oddly unaffected. I am not an avid flier and figured my once every few years trip would be tolerable. Being cynical in nature I assumed people were over reacting and it was just another opportunity for them to complain, even if it was in the name of their own safety. As more information on the processes that were being put into place and people’s opinions began to surface, I allowed myself to take another look at the situation.

The first thing that caught my attention was the obvious naked look about the scans being taken. I understood people’s reactions to feeling “exposed”, but hardly thought my scan would be highly sought after on the internet if it were able to make it there by some perverted TSA employee. At this point I did wonder how they would choose the employees to view the images. Certainly you would want someone to actually look for oddities and not just examine the goodies. Although I started to feel slightly disturbed by this, I was still sticking to my over-reaction opinion, especially since you could always opt for the pat down instead. Again, I based my opinion completely on how it made me feel, and at this point, it didn’t bother me.

Several days later I started to hear the backlash. I read articles relating to body image, homosexual agenda, gender identity, and pedophillia all in relation to the new TSA standards being put into place. It was at this moment I realized, this was not just about me, and yet it was. Even though I do not travel a lot, I may want to get on an airplane at some point. I started to run the course of events through my head as it would be for me personally. I heard that women with underwire bras were having to remove them. I am gender queer, I have large breasts. It is huge deal for me to have to acknowledge them. Sitting in my chair reading about it made me panic as much as I would be with a room full of TSA agents watching me expose the very thing I hate most about myself. It was at this point I had my epiphany. This goes a lot deeper than x-rays and pat downs. This isn’t about violating search and seizure amendments or tying up lines. This is about people having the ability to literally take us to the most uncomfortable places psychologically. I thought of my community members with their enhancements and binders; all the things hidden beneath the clothes to help them look on the outside as they feel on the inside. I felt a great sadness at having them being taken to a place psychologically they have been working their entire lives to get past. Then I thought of my daughter. She flies several times a year as an unaccompanied minor. Most times I am unable to take her to the gate. I would not be taking her through the security checkpoint. I would have no control over what happened to her.

Suddenly I realized these new safety measures had the ability to completely ruin someone mentally. I am all for safety, and I think we need to continue to progress in that area. However it is so important that we remain human beings. It is important to recognize that our mental status is as important as our physical status. In the age of technology we are losing our humility and compassion. There are no electronic devices that provide emotionally safety. That can only come from each other. We need to not lose sight of that.

Echo resides in northern New Jersey with her wife and the two youngest of their five children. You can visit her blog at dysphoricallyspeaking.blogspot.com or send comments and questions to dysphoricallyspeaking@gmail.com