As many flight passengers can attest to, dealing with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can be an exasperating experience. So what happened to Amanda Sapir at Bradley International Airport was unexpected, to say the least.
Sapir, who identifies as gender non-conforming and trans masculine, and uses she/her pronouns, shared on Facebook about "the most socially conscious TSA pat down ever" in a post that has since gone viral.
While at the TSA line, the body scanner registered Sapir's boxer briefs as male, but when the TSA agent on duty, Darlena Thi Lac, set the scanner to male, it lit up elsewhere:
She sends me through the scanner one more time. The yellow square disappears. Though a yellow rectangle has now appeared across my chest. We both start laughing! "Now the machine is wondering about..." "Boobs," we say in unison, laughing some more.
Thi Lac then asked how Sapir identified so they could pat Sapir down accordingly. "You get to decide how you are identified," she told Sapir.
After the screening and pat down, which confirmed I pose no harm and I am not hiding anything anywhere, I let her know, "Thank you. That was the kindest and most socially aware TSA experience I have ever had. Your thoughtfulness really means the world."
Thi Lac responded, "I love people. We should be kind to everyone."
The two then took a selfie to complete the exchange, which Sapir posted to Facebook alongside a description of their encounter.
Over the next few days, Sapir's post was shared more than 7,000 times. Many posted supportive comments and lauded Thi Lac's actions.
"It is a given there is much in our world that needs to change...Constructive feedback is also really really important," Sapir told A Plus in an email. "Most major changes come from people having the courage to speak up about what is wrong or unjust. In fact, the trans and gender non-conforming community continues to bravely do so despite tremendous risks. What I think is great, is when there can be a balance of being able to speak up about what needs to change and also express gratitude when something goes right."
Hopefully, through the positive feedback TSA had a better idea of how to most respectfully partner with all passengers for a safe and respectful interaction.
If nothing else, Sapir's experience indicates a shift in the way people are familiarizing themselves in respectfully dealing with the trans community. The TSA has caused controversy over its treatment of transgender people in the past, but its transgender passenger guidance has undergone updates to the language used to better serve its trans passengers.
"I am certainly aware of my own very awkward experiences with TSA, and the horror stories that have been very painful for other trans and non-conforming people," Sapir said. "Darlena's professionalism inspired deep gratitude for the way she expressed her goodness, and yes, surprise because of the ease with... which she handled the situation. At the same time, I think anyone with a willingness to be considerate and aware (even though we may not and probably cannot understand everything about another person) is capable of such goodness."
Thi Lac posted the same photo on her wall and wrote, "One heart, one love."
She also responded to several people who commented on Sapir's post. In one of her own comments, she wrote, "What you put out, you get in return. Isn't that the chain reaction effect? Much Love to you Amanda! Thank you for this post, means a lot to me that I impacted you in a matter of 30 seconds. :) #oneLove."