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“Disappearing” Intersex, Trans, and Genderqueer Persons

May 29, 2010

Though it has been in the works for a while, in recent months the TSA has implemented its “Secure Flight” program, where it assumes responsibility for those on “Don’t Fly” and “Extra Search” lists. The catch? It does so by asking passengers for extra information when they book their tickets.

You might have noticed this on airplane ticket purchases in recent months – you are asked for three pieces of information: your name, your birthday, and your “gender” (by which the TSA actually means sex). You can enter your name and your birthday, but then you have to select your “gender” from a pull-down menu. There are two options: male and female. Apparently, persons who are (or consider themselves) neither or both need not bother to buy plane tickets in the United States, or are a threat to national security on the basis of their refusal to buy into a (false) dichotomous notion of sex?

This problem isn’t unique to flying: its on our census forms, on our tax forms, on our loan application forms, etc. But when I was buying a plane ticket this morning for a conference in DC in the fall, I felt particularly outraged by it. After all, why should I have to identify a “gender” to go give a talk about the falseness of gender? And why do I have that privilege, where someone unwilling to do so does not?

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Laura Sjoberg is British Academy Global Professor of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway University of London and Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Her research addresses issues of gender and security, with foci on politically violent women, feminist war theorizing, sexuality in global politics, and political methodology. She teaches, consults, and lectures on gender in global politics, and on international security. Her work has been published in more than 50 books and journals in political science, law, gender studies, international relations, and geography.