Gender-Free Passports Will Keep TSA From Feeling People Up

passportI'm in complete support of Britain's upcoming switch to "gender-free" passports, for more than one reason. Lawmakers have stated that the change is intended to spare "transgender people and those who have both male and female sex organs" from having to make the choice between "male" and "female" on their travel documents. Which, as a surprisingly sensitive-to-the-individual move for any mass-governing force to make, I applaud. 

But there's more to it than that. In addressing this issue, Britain is, perhaps accidentally, exposing something kind of really disturbing that I hadn't thought about before.


You know how sometimes you go to fix one thing and, in the process, you end up bringing an even bigger problem to light? It's kind of like when the paint gets chipped on a windowsill and you go to fix that one little spot, and suddenly you realize that the fresh paint is about 20 shades whiter than the old paint and the entire window needs repainting.

In this case, what's been brought to our attention is the uncomfortable fact that we've been forced to divulge our gender on travel documents all this time. Isn't it obvious anyway? you're probably wondering, or, So what?

Well, this is what: Imagine a transgendered person going through customs and having the gender that's stamped on his/her passport questioned. How is he supposed to prove or disprove what the passport says? Is some TSA agent going to physically check to see if he's lying? How utterly humiliating and degrading.

I'm not trying to open the whole gender definition can of worms here -- really I'm not. But I do think the question of individual privacy and gender disclosure is one worth re-examining.

Do you think gender-free passports are a good idea?


Image via Chris Fleming/Flickr

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