TSA and Disabilities: You are Suspicious…

Here’s What Happened…

Photo by Soumya Ranjan: https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-airplane-1098745/

Things In My Control

  1. Make sure my name is labeled on anything and everything that must go out of my hands and view. I will now put my name on my pump and all associated medications and medical technology I travel with.
  2. Set a reminder on the phone. Before going through TSA, I will now set a reminder to check for my belongings. I will put a 20 min timer on before I go through TSA.
  3. My travel partners will also be asked to support me. I will ask them to double-check that I have everything I need before boarding the plane.
  4. I will have a “just in case” bag of insulin and gear that I will allow to go through the machines (even though they shouldn’t) should something happen.

Things That TSA Can Do Better

  1. If TSA sees necessary life medication left at their location, they should make a public announcement. Had I heard, “May the owner of insulin, a glucagon kit, and medical devices please return to TSA,” I would have done a double check and gotten myself back to the counter. This is enough information to alert my brain that it could be me and yet vague enough for anyone that might have wanted to collect my meds and medical gear to not have the proper descriptions of it.
  2. If people with disabilities are TSA pre-approved (or not!), we should not have to suffer gross molestation. My vulva has been touched countless times. Countless. Having to do a pat down every time I travel means random people touching me intimately. My nipples have been grazed, and my bra and underwear have been exposed. My hair has been felt-up. But it’s the vulva touching that feels incredibly invasive and leaves me wanting to shower. Instead, I have to remain calm and catch a plane. As a Black woman, yes, it feels like you’re on the auction block. Your feet and hands are spread apart as a TSA agent gropes around your body… usually, it’s a white woman. I hate it. And I have no choice.
  3. Provide better training for TSA officers. We all benefit from knowing more about people living with visible or invisible disabilities or chronic illness and how to support them-not make our lives even more difficult.
  4. There must be an alternative to a pat down. There must. What is it? I’m tired of people touching my body.

What I Am Grateful For…

  1. Voice your opinion. Say what matters to you and find others working on the issues you care about. Join. Show up. Activate.
  2. Vote.
  3. Compost. This is a non sequitur, obviously but it needs to be said more. Did you know that composting is one of the most direct actions we can take to mitigate the climate crisis as individuals? We are dependent on policy change but until world leaders align we can do our part! The largest component of landfilled municipal solid waste (MSW) is food scraps.”

Big Props



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Mariah Rankine-Landers

Mariah Rankine-Landers

Mariah Rankine-Landers, Ed.M co-leads Studio Pathways for transformative school and organizational change that centers the cultural and contemporary arts.