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.

Okay, they have now gone through all of your questions and they think that you answered them truthfully/correctly, and that you may indeed be the person that you’re claiming to be. Still, you may not be done yet.

They will most likely want to do a more intensive security sweep of you and your belongings. In my case this started with me getting a pat down by a male TSA agent.
No one probably looks forward to this kind of physically intrusive probing, but they can be particularly disconcerting for trans folks. That’s because our bodies don’t always feel the same as other people’s, and we may be wearing various kinds of prosthetics or binders, so we may be in a position of either outing ourselves or risking that something unusual will be found.

While a prosthetic can be explained, there comes a point at which having too many explainable items may get you sidelined as a security threat. If you’ve lost your identification you are already under heightened scrutiny. If you walk with a cane or use some other mobility device like me, that will also draw attention. So if you add that you are transgender or are wearing some kind of prosthesis, it could tip the scales against you. As security personnel they would rather risk inconveniencing an innocent traveler then allowing a terrorist to board a plane.

Invasive and embarrassing circumstances continue to happen, but the truth is, TSA actually has rules and regulations for treating transgender passengers respectfully. You can find this information (and how to file a complaint if you experience unprofessional or discriminatory conduct) on their webpage for trans travelers ( If you are trans, it is worth reviewing before you travel (or printing a copy to carry with you). Two of the most important items on the fact sheet involve prosthetics and screening/pat-downs.
• Prosthetics: Although they warn that any prosthetics with metal may initiate further scrutiny, TSA insists: “Travelers should neither be asked to nor agree to lift, remove, or raise any article of clothing to reveal a prosthetic and should not be asked to remove it.”
• Private Screening: You can request that a screening or pat-down be conducted in a private screening area; and you have the right to have “a witness or companion of the traveler’s choosing” accompany you.

Another word of advice for travelers who are transgender. It can help you to carry a letter from your doctor or psychologist, just stating that you are transgender. Again, it’s just one more thing to help you prove your story of who you are and why you present the way you do.

After my pat-down, the TSA agents submitted my electronic equipment to a heightened level of scrutiny and then I was passed! I avoided screaming out in my exuberance, because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself at that point, but I was ecstatic. I immediately went to my gate. Then, having several hours to kill I stopped into an Irish pub. Just before I ordered, I realized another problem. Without identification, I couldn’t order anything alcoholic. I made do with a Kaliber nonalcoholic beer, which wasn’t half bad. Or maybe it was the sweet taste of success and the knowledge that I was actually getting home without an ID.

On another happy note, after I returned home, I received my wallet in the mail; which is one reason to make sure your driver’s license reflects your current mailing address. Thank you, good Samaritan.

Or maybe it was just karma. When I was running around looking for my wallet, I actually stumbled upon someone else’s driver’s license. Once I returned home, I was walking the dogs around the block and found another one. Naturally, I made every effort to get both of those licenses returned soon as possible.


JACOB ANDERSON-MINSHALL is an author, artist, and journalist. Read more about him here.

Tags: Travel Tips