Follow Us

TSA spends $18.6 million on security screening for gender-neutral passengers

Agency indicates new screening will “advance civil rights” of airline passengers.

Published: January 1, 2023 6:53am

Updated: January 1, 2023 7:05am

The Transportation Security Administration is spending $18.6 million to deploy “non-binary screening systems” for gender-neutral passengers traveling through U.S. airports.

The federal spending watchdog group reported on the new security screening that will be rolled out starting this month.

TSA is spending tens of millions of U.S. taxpayer funds to “advance civil rights” of these passengers, indicating it will improve the customer experience of nonbinary passengers by implementing the new technology.

The funding for the non-gender imaging technology will be appropriated from funds inside the omnibus spending legislation that President Joe Biden just signed.

“This technology should really be gender neutral, you know, it really should be and we’re there,” TSA Executive Director for Travel Engagement Jose Bonilla told in Vermont. 

“The way that we’ve operated the system is specifically based on [the] blue button if the individual is perceived by the officer to be male, pink button if the individual is perceived by our officer to be female,” Bonilla said, adding that transgender or nonbinary passengers are more likely to get flagged. 

When travelers’ assumed genders would not match the imaging technology they were identified as, they would be subjected to more screenings and sometimes pat downs, OpenTheBooks reported.

The TSA receives 26,542 screening complaints annually, with slightly over 6% from members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

The agency is confident the $18.6 million in advanced screening will reduce the number of complaints and pat-downs.

“TSA is routinely updating its technologies and procedures in an effort to enhance security and improvements in checkpoint efficiency and passenger experience,” the agency told Just the News. “TSA’s announcement back in March acknowledges the input received from coalition partners and recognizes the transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming community.”

The TSA has implemented several policies to assist transgender and binary passengers. The agency previously updated its operating procedures to reduce the number of pat-downs by allowing security to permit less invasive screening procedures for passengers who triggered the Advanced Imaging Technology scanner in “sensitive” areas. 

The agency also streamlined identity validation by removing gender considerations at security checkpoints. In addition, it made TSA PreCheck “more inclusive” by including an “X” gender option on the program application.

The TSA also has a webpage dedicated to transgender/nonbinary and gender nonconforming passengers traveling through the nation’s airports that details all the steps the agency is taking to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect.

The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook

Just the News Spotlight

Support Just the News