Security Alert: "Males Dressed As Females" To Be Scrutinized When Traveling
Just in time for the upcoming Southern Comfort Conference and the fall convention season, the government issued new rules last week to airport security and law enforcement agencies, which will impact the transgender community. This most recent alert specifically mentions `males . dressed as females.'
According to the agency's Press Release #238, intelligence collected globally by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) apparently leads them to believe that soft targets, and more clever approaches including use of disguise are considered the next trend in terrorism.
Quoting the DHS alert to the pertinent agencies, "Previous attacks underscore Al-Qaeda's ability to employ suicide bombers a tactic which can be used against soft targets and VIP's. Terrorists will employ novel methods to artfully conceal suicide devices. Male bombers may dress as females in order to discourage scrutiny."
The agency also noted that "Recent mass-casualty attacks in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Iraq used car bombs against hotels and housing compounds, suggesting that "soft" targets with minimum physical security measures could be viewed as attractive options in the U.S." Soft targets include apartment complexes, hotels, gas stations, shopping malls and restaurants. (http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/interapp/press_release/press_release_023 8.xml)
For the transgender community, this means that airport screeners and other law enforcement agencies will be much more vigilant than usual. It also means they may be more likely to commit unwitting abuses. At the minimum, the transgender community should be mindful of the new alerts and prepare accordingly when traveling this fall, especially if flying.
Crossdressers should seriously consider doing any air travel in male garb until reaching their destination. With a focus on soft targets, even more casual pursuits such as shopping or going to restaurants could also potentially draw scrutiny.
Even for those who've transitioned, issues may arise if authorities suspect something. When traveling, it is advisable to consider bringing your court-ordered name (and gender) change papers. While terrorists may make fake identifications, they won't carry name change documents signed and notarized by a court.
In either case, be prepared to openly explain the truth about your transgender status if stopped and questioned by authorities. As frightening as this scenario may appear, hesitation or evasive answers will only draw more intense scrutiny and could possibly lead to police holding one temporarily for further interrogation. Lack of cooperation with authorities will likely be treated unfavorably and unapologetically.
"This isn't a request for everyone to be `out and proud' or scare tactics," said Vanessa Edwards Foster, chair of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC). "We're trying to avoid having innocent transgenders jailed because a hesitant answer was inaccurately deemed as hiding terrorist motivations," as a result of the DHS security alert.
NTAC also asks for reports of any incidents where a transgendered party is forthcoming with all requests, and consequently is verbally or physically abused, or arrested under questionable pretense. If something of this nature occurs, we encourage those parties to keep a detailed report of all actions taken. An increased need for security should not give law enforcement a right to make personal character judgments and to abuse cooperative innocents.
"While the worst-case scenarios appear rather alarming, we don't want to discourage the community from traveling or conducting themselves as before." NTAC's Foster said. "There's still a good chance this won't affect most travelers.
"Live your lives," Foster suggested. "Just be forthright when the situation calls for it and be prepared."
Travel smart travel safely.
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Founded in 1999, NTAC - the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition - is a 501(c)(4) civil rights organization working to establish and maintain the right of all transgendered, intersexed, and gender- variant people to live and work without fear of violence or discrimination.