Airport screening regulation comes under fire from trans-rights activists

  • Ro Mills, director of the UWSA’s LGBT centre, says he is baffled by airport screening regulations that discriminate against transgender people. – Dylan Hewlett

A months-old change to airport screening regulations discriminates against transgender persons, effectively banning them from boarding an airplane for travel, LGBT activists charge.

According to amendments made to Transport Canada’s Identity Screening Regulations, “an air carrier shall not transport a passenger if the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.”

The amendments were made last July.

Ontario-based trans-rights activist and blogger Christin Milloy has been following the controversy since her blog post on the issue made its way around the Internet at the end of January.

She believes the revision is a problem merely because it exists.

“I know that the response has been ‘There are no cases, that it’s not important, that it’s not being enforced,’” said Milloy, who identifies as transgender.

“And that’s supposed to make trans people feel better? The problem is that this (regulation) exists. Whether or not this has affected someone is irrelevant, the problem is that it could affect any trans person.”

Since the screening regulations are not a piece of legislation, they did not have to pass through the House of Commons, Milloy said. These are a part of the Passenger Protect program, a series of guidelines that is much like the “no-fly” list for American airlines.

On her blog, Milloy recently interviewed Jennifer McCreath, a female-identified transgender person. In the interview, McCreath details her experience, saying how she had to go through a second screening and was forced to supply fingerprints, and have her photo taken “like a common criminal.”

A spokesperson for Transport Canada said the regulations weren’t intended to be discriminatory.

The problem is that this (regulation) exists. Whether or not this has affected someone is irrelevant, the problem is that it could affect any trans person.

Christin Milloy, trans-rights activist and blogger

“As age, gender, or facial characteristics could vary from that on the passenger’s identification for a number of reasons, airlines have discretion to resolve any apparent discrepancies when comparing passengers with their identification,” said Pierre Florea, press secretary for Transport Canada.

“The intent is merely to prevent a person from getting on board an aircraft with identification that doesn’t belong to them.”

Ro Mills, director for the LGBT* Centre at the University of Winnipeg, discovered the issue through Milloy’s blog post that went viral across multiple social media sites.

Mills, a transgender student, wanted to travel over reading week, but was unsure he would be able to since his appearance no longer matches the gender on his passport.

“It just baffles me that the government would just do something like this without anybody knowing about it,” he said. “The screening regulation was revised in July, I only found out about it now.”

Mills said he brought it up to NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton, who dropped in at the centre during a recent visit to the university.

“It comes from good intentions. Everybody wants safety, I understand that in a post 9-11 world,” Mills said. “But the fact that you have to out yourself to some random person is crap. Not everyone can get the surgery needed, and I can’t see how it would matter.”

Transitioning from male to female is a time consuming process.

Patients in Manitoba have to travel to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto (CAMH) for assessment. The CAMH requires that the patient has cross-lived as the preferred gender for two years before a recommendation for sex-reassignment surgery.

After that, surgery can be anything from hair removal, hormone implants to gender reassignment surgery, and not all of these are available in Manitoba.

Published in Volume 66, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 22, 2012)

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