Touched by a Stranger
So, I’m going to be flying several times over the next couple of months. And, as I’m sure you’ve heard, the TSA has now implemented a variety of different new screening techniques. From that article:
“If a full-body scanning machine shows something strange or a passenger declines to go through the machine… an officer will perform a more personal search.Â The examinations routinely involve the touching of breasts and genitals, invasive searches designed to find weapons and suspicious items.”
Folks are freaked about imaging technologies which seem to produce detailed NEKKID images of your body. (A company called Flying Pasties sells an amusing line of…well, shields for your naughty bits. Kudos to their marketing savvy.) There also is the issue that while the Feds claim they will delete all those images of you in the buff, apparently by “delete” they actually mean “stored centrally for an extended period of time.”
The full-body scanners also involve unspecified amounts of radiation, which several scientific and medical groups, not just the tin-foil hat types, have expressed concerns about. So, opting out of the full body scan seems like it might be a good idea. I’ve had a LOT of x-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs. I’m not Evil Knievel, but I have managed to break a lot of bones, particularly in my head. (Hey! Let’s not extrapolate!)
Anyway, on the advice of my doctor, I’m supposed to limit my exposure to radiation and microwave sources. Ok, simple enough. I opt out of the scan.
Except. When you give the technology a pass, you are now subject to a fairly intimate groin grope and feeling up. A lot of folks have said that if you don’t want to have the scan and fly safely, or accept that some strangers will have to touch you, then you should just not fly. The reality is, though, that for many of us we must fly semi-regularly as part of our jobs. It’s not entirely my choice to fly; I can’t take a week of work off to drive to California and back for a business trip. So, bring on the grope.
Except. I am a rape survivor. And I know that if I am forced to have the kind of circle jerk that I’ve seen on video–where a bunch of TSA screeners surround me and one of them touches me in very private places–there is a real chance I’m going to freak out. Traveling is always very stressful, in part because I have visual processing issues and epilepsy (see above; i.e, fractured head). Add onto that reliving a painful part of my past–someone touching me and I have no ability to say “I don’t consent“–I am not a happy traveler.
I’m getting ready for a business trip right now. I’m on the job hunt too, since I’ll be laid off next May. I’m hoping to make some important connections with these meetings.
Am I worried that I won’t make a good impression on the bigwigs that I’m going to meet? Am I spending time crunching data to make a good impression when I present my TPS reports?
I’m freaking out about just getting on the fucking plane. That’s what I’m spending all my energy on. And that’s not right.
For my friend with a colostomy bag. For my sister with a partial breast reconstruction. For the oh-so-many other women who have been raped or molested.
There has to be a better way.
Edited 11/23/10 to add a footnote: