A transgender airline passenger was left feeling "humiliated and degraded" after a security officer made them remove their genital prosthetic, referred to it as "that thing", and watched as they put it back in place, a senate inquiry has learned.
In a submission to an Australian senate inquiry into airport and aviation security, the National LGBTI Health Alliance reported a "climate of pervasive discrimination" for LGBTI people.
The submission includes a lengthy complaint from an anonymous transgender person sent to one of Australia's major domestic airlines about an incident early last year.
The person was passing through airport security and was selected to go through a body scanner, which picked up a prosthetic worn in their underwear.
"I explained to the officer at the scanner that I am trans and that I was wearing a prosthetic, to which he responded that he would need to get his supervisor," the complaint reads.
"In full view of other travellers, the supervisor approached me putting rubber gloves on," the passenger wrote. "When I asked him what the gloves were for, he told me that he was going to do a 'private search'."
After entering a small room with the two men, the passenger pulled out the prosthetic for the men to see, and the supervisor put on a second glove.
When again asked what the gloves were for, the supervisor responded, "You want me to touch that thing with my bare hands?"
After placing the prosthetic in a tray and undergoing a pat-down, the supervisor opened the door for the passenger to leave.
"My prosthetic [was] still sitting in the tray. I asked him to close the door so that I could have some privacy," the complaint reads.
"He closed the door and both men stood watching me as I put it back in place."
The passenger wrote that the experience left them feeling degraded and anxious about travelling.
"I felt that the supervisor had no regard for me as a human being and treated me as though I was a criminal."
The airline in question is yet to respond to the complaint letter.
Reports of negative airport experiences received by Australia's peak body for intersex people, Organisation Intersex International Australia (OII), were also included in the submission.
"A close friend whose appearance is somewhat ambiguous was subjected to unnecessary treatment by staff unsure of her gender, including inappropriate remarks and questioning her gender," said one OII member.
People also face problems if they have an X (unspecified) sex marker on their passports – a third option along with M (male) and F (female).
Various LGBTI groups reported that holders of X passports experienced logistical difficulties with booking flights, not being able to use the "smart gate" at immigration, and encountering staff unfamiliar with the marker.
The LGBTI Health Alliance called for all companies working in airport security to adopt provisions to avoid further discrimination and mistreatment of LGBTI people.
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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