TSA agents search passenger: ‘We can’t tell if you’re male or female…ma’am.’

Feminist scholar bell hooks is all over the media for calling Beyonce a terrorist. But that’s not the shocking part of the New School hosted debate. Writer Marci Blackman was on the panel, and she spoke about being stopped by TSA agents while returning from Florida last week because they couldn’t tell if she was male or female. Gender ambiguity is clearly offensive and dangerous to America, right? The TSA’s discrimination and abuse of power ought to be making headlines today. Here’s Blackman’s story as told to bell hooks (transcribed by me because I couldn’t find it anywhere else.)


After I come out of the body scan, they ask me for my boarding pass again, which they’re not supposed to do. And I give the man my boarding pass, and he waves over a female TSA agent who comes over and pulls me aside for a pat down search, and I asked why. And they wouldn’t say anything to me, and I said, “Look, I need to know why.” And so the first response was: “Well, we always search everybody three times.” And I said, “Well that’s clearly not true, because the ten people before me just walked right on through and got their bags. So why me? What is it about me that made you stop? Did something go off in the scan?” And finally she said, “It’s because we can’t tell if you’re male or female…ma’am.” So now, not only am I not in this box that I can’t find and that I wouldn’t want to get in anyway, but now, I’m a criminal, because I’m not walking or sitting or fitting or squeezing myself into this box that’s defined for me by somebody else.

Watch the video here, Blackman’s story is 23 minutes in.

2 thoughts on “TSA agents search passenger: ‘We can’t tell if you’re male or female…ma’am.’

  1. This happened to me on my way home from leave two weeks after having a mastectomy. My gender is clearly ambiguous. I got searched three times and mis gendered more times than I can count. I was humiliated.

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