The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at.
I was prepared. I swear I was. I checked the American Airlines website for what was allowed in carry-on luggage. I made sure of the restrictions for the size of the make-up I could bring in the same quart-size bag. I made sure of the dimensions of my single bag and personal bag. I even made sure of what make-up was allowed in the cabin and what my breastforms and hip pads would be considered as a class of products (they are considered prosthetics, btw). I had it all figured out… or, so I thought.
So, after much deliberation on various websites about parking, my girlfriend decided that she should drop me off instead of the uncertainty of whether I would be able to find long-term parking at the airport. The early morning hours at the Greenville/Spartanburg International airport in Greer, South Carolina brought with it a fairly empty atrium and ticket counters (compared to larger metropolitan terminals I have frequented). I loved the ability to simply wander over to the TSA screening lines without more than seven people in the roped-off serpentine queue in front of me.
With my electronic ticket and license in hand, I passed through the “you better be flying” counter without pause. Then, I was forced to face Savannah’s airport arch-nemesis… the TSA screening and x-ray machines. The joined counters leading up to the conveyor belt banged with every drop of a tray for jackets, shoes, belts, and laptop computers. I asked the agent if the liquids had to come out of the bag. He said, “no.” I asked about prosthetics. He wasn’t sure what I meant. Before I had a chance to explain about my breastforms and hip pads, he told me to keep everything in the bag. I said, “ok.”
Hey, dialogue can be a little monosyllabic in the early AM when one has not had her Starbucks… just sayin’.
So, I removed everything from my pockets. All the electronics were placed in its own tray. I watched as my belt, scarf, jacket, wallet and shoes slid across the table—poised to be digested by the gapping curtain-flapped mouth that was the screening machine. While I said my silent farewells to my luggage and its safe return, I went to the H.G. Wellian screening chamber where you stand with your feet shoulder width apart and put your hands over your head. So, to recap, my carry-on and personal item were being screened. I was being screened. We moved in tandem from one side of the barricades to the other, separated by TSA agent and their equipment.
I was asked to stand aside for a pat-down.
“Do you have anything in your pockets?” the agent asked. I reached in and pulled out a handful of cough drops. The agent instructed me to put the lozenges on the counter and proceeded to tell me in detail how he was going to be giving me a thorough groin area search as a result of my screen flags. He was very professional and communicative as he performed this routine—this choreographed safety dance. In a few moments, I was considered a non-threat and was able to retrieve my cough drops and the rest of my gear waiting at the end of the screening conveyor queue.
My backpack had been pulled off the line on the conveyor for additional review. Inside were my breastforms and hip pads. In the backpack were those prosthetics I has asked about when I had been on the other side of the security line. Now, it sat there at the end of the “to be reviewed” chute. I moved along to the additional screening are and waited. When my turn came and the backpack was brought over, I told the agent that she would be looking for two breastforms and two hip pads in the middle compartment under the collapsible down jacket stuffed in there.
NOTE: while you can point, do not touch any of your bags while in TSA possession
“Are you a doctor?” she asked.
I replied, “No, I am a crossdresser. I didn’t want to check my bags because I’m changing flights and don’t want to lose anything. I’m going to a transgender conference and want to look pretty.”
We discussed how I had asked if I should put the prosthetics in a tray to make life easier. She advised to separate them for the next time. She returned everything back into the pack and offered for me to have a good day. I told her in mock astonishment that I couldn’t believe that she touched my boobs. She retorted that she had to handle a man’s (bag of) nuts earlier. We both laughed heartily and wished each other a wonderful day.
So, who was the winner in this great battle between the cough drops and the breastforms? Well, both are discovered and were cause for additional security measure review, causing TSA resources to be tasked and pulled away from other duties. Others in line behind me may have been waylaid for a few moments, so, maybe, they were the losers in this conflict—hapless bystanders and collateral damage, as it were. In terms of the greater offense, both the cough drops and forms caused more work to be done. In my eyes, the TSA agents were professional, thorough, and exuded a positive attitude. They were the winners. I won, too, enjoying the process of going through a TSA checkpoint with two bags full of savannah clothes, makeup and heels. I realized again just how innocuous a bag of feminine clothes and accessories really were in the eyes of those scanning for things far more dangerous to those flying the friendly skies—regardless of the fact the person carrying those bags happens to be a male.
I carried myself with confidence. I was secure and ready to have my Savannah curves on display in a tray for anyone in line around me to see. What I learned today was that my breastforms, hip pads and makeup are no more unusual than that handful of cough drops I had forgotten in my front pocket. The next time you fly with your femme gear in your carry-on and know, of course, you will be under additional screening scrutiny, just look at your gear and padding as nothing more unusual than throat lozenges. Because, at the end of the day, both will get you additional attention. Use it as a moment to be proud and matter-of-fact about your gender duality.