TSA

My mother, who is a wonderful, caring, sarcastic, snuggly, amazing woman, went through TSA security a few weeks ago from SeaTac airport. She refused the new scanners, and was “treated” to the new uber-invasive, horribly insulting public feeling up that is now common-place–and disgusting.

My mother is also a breast cancer survivor. Three years ago, she discovered a very small, very “well-behaved” tumor in her left breast (quote from the oncologist). Instead of chemo or any other type of treatment, she decided to get a bilateral mastectomy so that she would never, ever have to worry about breast cancer again. Don’t worry, this has a very happy ending; she’s still here, still kicking, walking, making amazing quilts, trading snarky comments with me, and being the fabulous person she’s always been. She didn’t get reconstructive surgery; she doesn’t wear a bra or undershirt with prosthetics inserted. She wears what she wears with dignity and grace, and other than the occasional scarf, she doesn’t hide the fact that she clearly doesn’t have breasts.

This is the part where I really get going, and you’ll see why I described my mom in detail. I read an account written by a woman who recently went through TSA security to get on a plane so she could go home. This woman, who is a rape survivor, describes how she was treated in this TSA “pat-down”, as they’re calling it. Here’s the link to that article:

http://www.adn.com/2011/04/16/1813827/i-was-gate-raped-by-my-government.html

My mother, who refused to go through the new TSA x-ray machines on the grounds that these machines are not as safe as TSA and the government say they are (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/03/tsa-radiation-test-bungling/), was also treated to one of these “pat-downs”. In full view of everyone else in the security line, the TSA screener did her job. She did ask my mom if she wanted to go into a screened area for some privacy, but my awesome mom said, clearly, “No. People need to see what you do here.”

Thankfully, my mom doesn’t have a horrifying sexual assault in her past whose memories were triggered by the TSA pat-down. She said she stood and let the TSA screener do her job, in full view of all of those people. She described the gloved hands that felt along the inside of the waistband of her pants, down around inside the edges of the collar of her shirt, down both legs and arms, and then down the center of her chest and under her breasts.

Wait… Remember how I said my mom had that bilateral mastectomy? The screener swept her hands down the center of my mom’s chest, as though my mom was wearing a bra, and then swept her fingers underneath…nothing. Apparently the screener was a little bit puzzled by this, but she was very professional and went about completing her job. My mom put her outer layer of clothes back on (the shoes, the belt, the jacket, etc.) and went about getting on her plane.

Wil Wheaton, star of TV and screen, also recently had an encounter with a TSA screening:

http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/wwdnbackup/2011/04/i-dont-feel-safe-i-feel-violated-humiliated-and-angry.html

And then there’s this poor little girl who was selected for further screening:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/tsa-congress-vow-to-review-pat-down-of-6-year-old-girl/2011/04/13/AFZD9LYD_story.html

I am going to be getting on a plane in June to fly across the country for a yearly convention I attend. I will most definitely be opting OUT of the x-ray machine. If that means I get the pat-down, then I’ll take it. But TSA should know: I’m not going to be quiet about it. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything to get myself arrested or kicked out of the airport. I will, instead, blog about my experience, tell everyone I know all about it, and add my voice to the thousands of people who are being singled out, humiliated, and even violated by the new TSA screening processes. Hopefully, my small voice will help this issue to be heard, and force TSA to make changes–to the x-ray machines and to the pat-down process.

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