New Lawsuit Alleges Transgender Teen's Rights Were Violated By TSA During Strip-Search
Photo Credit: Joe Raedle

Photo Credit: Joe Raedle

New Lawsuit Alleges Transgender Teen's Rights Were Violated By TSA During Strip-Search

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Bernadette Giacomazzo
Bernadette Giacomazzo Aug 28, 2021

A transgender teen alleges that the TSA violated her civil rights.

According to The Herald Sun, Jamii Erway was traveling through the Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in 2019 when she triggered a “false positive” with the TSA. At that time, the TSA agent told her that her genitals would have to be investigated in a “private area.”

A false positive is triggered when the TSA scanner software detects “different anatomy.” Put simply, the scanner “knows” what to look for in men and women. But a transgender teen like Jamii would trigger a “false positive” because they have different anatomy than their declared sex.

The lawsuit reads that “the TSA advised Jamii that she was not free to leave until she submitted to such a search, in violation of TSA policy, the Fourth Amendment, and state law rights of Jamii, and the boundaries of civil and decent society.”

Additionally, when Jamii was pulled aside by the TSA agent, she experienced “panic, anxiety, fear, racing heart, shortness of breath.” But Jamii didn’t submit to the search — instead, she and her mother rented a car and drove to their final destination, which was more than 600 miles.

This transgender teen’s experience is not uncommon.

In 2015, the US Transgender Society reported that 43 percent of all transgender people reported having a problem in airports similar to what Jamii Erway experienced. And in 2019, ProPublica reported that almost 300 complaints filed against the TSA that year were filed by transgender people, who claimed that the federal agency violated their rights.

Kimberly Erway, the mother of the transgender teen, is filing the lawsuit on her daughter’s behalf. The Erways aren’t specifying the amount they’re seeking in damages, but they would like to seek an injunction from the courts against the TSA so this doesn’t happen again.

“Jamii would like to be able to fly again,” her attorneys argue, “and an order from the Court that would ensure that Jamii would never encounter the situation described would assist in reducing the recurring emotional distress that currently prevents her from doing so.”