How One Trans Man Got On a Plane With No ID


By Jacob Anderson-Minshall

Writer Jacob Anderson-Minshall recounts his harrowing experience boarding a plane after losing his wallet and provides tips for anyone in a similar situation.

It hadn’t occurred to me earlier that certain materials could be useful for identification purposes. So I had checked everything — books and paperwork included — that I thought I wouldn’t need on the flight. Let this be a lesson for you. Don’t check anything that might help you prove your identity! The TSA supervisor had to research what to do next. She left me sifting through my carry on, desperately looking for anything that might have my name and address printed on it. I couldn’t find any of my business cards. I had checked the business card holder I carry around. I had brought a magazine from home, but having read it, I’d checked it. I hadn’t brought any utility bills with me, but those would have also helped as they had my name and address printed on them.

When describing where I lost my wallet, I had told the TSA supervisor about the event I had attended. She asked me if I had anything to verify I had been to the awards ceremony. Rummaging through my carry-on, I located my printed name tag and the Lammys’ program, which listed my name as one of the Lambda Literary Foundation board members. The program also included photos and short bios of all the presenters. I had been a presenter, so this could have been my salvation. But, I was a last minute replacement for someone else, and it was their photo that had been printed, not mine. Still, the program showed my name in print, and was verification of a portion of my story. Any portion of your story that you can verify becomes one more point in your favor; one more bit of evidence that you are who you say you are. While a single piece of circumstantial evidence will not be enough; if you are able to compile enough, you may get through security without being subjected to more invasive measures.

The next step in the process is for the TSA agent to ask you a number of personal questions to confirm that you are the person you say you are. I’m not exactly sure where they get this information: it may be directly from your credit report, it may be some secret government database. While on the phone with someone, the TSA supervisor relayed a number of questions about where I was born, where I previously lived, the street address where I lived five years ago, places that I’d worked at in the past. The kind of questions that you should know the answer to, but you may not. For example, I could not for the life of me remember my street address from five years ago. I just started listing off cities that I had lived in and finally they decided that they gotten enough and moved on to another question.

My problem is that I normally refer to paper documentation that has this information on it. I’m not suggesting that you carry that stuff around or that you refer to a paper when they’re asking these questions because of course they don’t want you to have that paperwork. It would belie the whole process. Plus you don’t want to have that kind information on you because it will make it even easier for someone to steal your identity. But you may want to remind yourself before you go on a trip where you lived in the last few years if you moved around a lot like I have.

Tags: Travel Tips