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This Trans Woman Shared Her Humiliating Experience Going Through Airport TSA, And It's Starting A Bigger Conversation About The Struggles Trans People Face

"Going through the scanner, I always have an 'anomaly' between my legs that sets off the alarm."

Rosalynne Montoya — who goes by Rose — is an Arizona-based, Hispanic, bisexual, non-binary transgender woman who uses the pronouns she/her or they/them. "I’m a public speaker, model, actor, makeup artist, and content creator. My goal is to spread love and education about my community as I share my story," she told BuzzFeed.

Rosalynne Montoya

And Rose recently got the attention of over 18.5 million people after sharing her experience going through TSA in the airport:

@rosalynnemontoya

We need to change how the scanners function and educate TSA about trans people. #tsa #trans #transgender #transphobia #transphobic #travel

♬ original sound - Rose Montoya

In her video, Rose — who tested negative for COVID, socially distanced, and wore a mask (except to eat a snack and film this video) — explains what happened while she was traveling from Phoenix to Los Angeles to visit her boyfriend. "Can we talk about how horrible it is to travel while being transgender sometimes? I always have immense anxiety leading up to going through security. And this means that I totally recognize the privilege of having all of my documents correct. So, the gender marker on my license, for example, says female," she began.

@rosalynnemontoya

"But, going through the scanner, there's a male scanner and a female scanner in the TSA checkpoint. And, looking at me, you know, I look like a woman and I am a woman. So, that's great. I love having systemic privilege when I feel unsafe, which is in an airport. But, going through the scanner, I always have an 'anomaly' between my legs that sets off the alarm. And so she (the TSA attendant) asked me if I had anything in my pants and I told her 'no' and she's like, 'Well, maybe it's just like the metal on your shorts, so let's scan you again.'"

After going through the scanner again, Rose set off the alarm — again. "So, I was like look, I'm trans. Just pat me down. And her solution was, 'Do you want to be scanned as a man instead?' I didn't. But, I ended up doing it and then my boobs set off the scanner because, of course. So, I tried to make a joke out of it. I was like, 'Oh yeah, there's a lot of plastic in there! It's fine.' So then she was like, 'OK, well we have to pat you down. Do you want a man to do it?' I said, 'NO! Absolutely not.'"

Rose explained some of the challenges trans people face when traveling. "Many states require trans people to have bottom surgery before allowing us to change our gender marker. I changed my documents in Washington state — which is luckily more trans-friendly than most states. I feel incredibly thankful and fully recognize this is a privilege many trans people do not have."

Even though Rose understands the privilege she has traveling as an individual with identification documents that reflect her real name and gender, she said she is still always incredibly anxious to travel as a transgender femme. "The scanners at TSA checkpoints are made with only two settings, forcing the TSA agents to make a split-second decision on whether to scan travelers as male or female," she explained. Rose said she was uncomfortable by being misgendered and ignored during her recent experience. She had so much anxiety that, after setting off the TSA alarm three times, she tried to make a joke to ease the discomfort — but no one laughed.

Sadly, this experience wasn't the only one Rose has faced while traveling. "Earlier in my transition, I had to experience much worse treatment in airports, from being asked invasive questions about my body, to being inappropriately touched, and sexually assaulted. There needs to be training in all businesses about transgender people. We are real and we have always existed. I am not a second-class citizen. I’m deserving of the same rights and the same respect as cisgender people. The TSA security machines should account for trans and non-binary people. And the agents should understand that misgendering me and outing me as a trans person in public could be potentially dangerous. Trans people are attacked at alarming rates when we are outed — especially Black trans women," she said.

"According to a recent Pew Poll, only 20% of Americans personally know a transgender person. Most people don’t know the challenges we face. Many people commented how they take their cis privilege for granted and have never even considered that traveling while trans could be challenging. The world is beginning to listen to our stories. We’re often tokenized or objectified and reduced down to our bodies. I chose to be visible and share my story because visibility is the solution to ignorance and saves lives. I didn’t have trans people to look up to when I was younger. I didn’t know we existed. I chose to be the person I needed when I was younger. Trans people don’t owe anyone education or our stories," Rose said.

@rosalynnemontoya / tiktok.com

"For the longest time, I tried to fit into the box of what it means to be a woman. I chased after this unachievable idolization of femininity until I realized that only taught me to be over critical of myself. I wasn’t born in the wrong body. I am a woman; my body is a woman’s body — regardless of chromosomes, hormones, or surgeries. I don’t care for many of the assumptions or labels placed upon my body, but I’m learning to love every part of myself. This year, I’ve fully leaned into my own gender euphoria. I view surgery not as necessary, nor a way to fix oneself, but as an empowering act of self-love. I had multiple gender-affirming procedures this year, including a breast augmentation and trachea shave, and I feel incredibly thankful I have fallen absolutely in love with my body all over again," she said.

Rose said representatives from TSA Headquarters have reached out to her and want to have a conversation with her on Friday. To see more updates, you can visit her website and follow her on TikTok and Instagram.

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