Guest Editorial: The impossible missions of the TSA

Posted: April 28th, 2017 | Guest Editorial, Opinion & News | No Comments

By Kristin Beck

I spent 20 years in the Navy SEALs and we carried out a lot of missions. Some of the missions were seemingly impossible, but we did those missions and we succeeded.

Other impossible missions are: Making everyone happy; maximizing both freedom and public safety; rhyming something with orange.

So, where is this going? The impossible missions of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

First thing you should know is that I am a minority citizen whose civil rights and dignity are challenged every single day.

The world defines me as transgender and I describe myself as two-spirit. Both descriptions describe me as different than many people. I look different than “normal” and sometimes I am treated badly because of it. Basically I am a human who wishes to be treated with dignity and respect as any other person would.

My personal dignity came under fire by the TSA last year. I challenged them to do better, which was followed by the Deputy Administrator of the TSA calling me in for a talk. The Office of Civil Rights and Liberties got heavily involved and has dedicated themselves to training all TSA officers to ensure better treatment of passengers.

The results have been videos, education and training for TSA employees and other educational materials for passengers who encounter those TSA officers while they travel.

Again, the results are education for both the TSA and travelers, which I see as great progress for all of us.

So how is this an “impossible” mission and why the worries?

I see TSA’s mission as:
• Ensuring everyone’s safety.
• Search every traveler thoroughly.
• Never make a mistake.
• Never allow dangerous items onboard an aircraft.
• Understand and respect travelers’ limited time and schedule.
• Never infringe on a travelers dignity while doing all of the above.

I see each passenger’s mission as:
• Follow procedures and be patient.
• Pack your own bags and don’t carry unauthorized items.
• Move quickly and efficiently as possible.
• Understand the TSA has a job and limited time to search you.

Even if you do all of these things with 100 percent effort and perfectly every time, there are going to be issues and compromises at times.

Trying to manage these compromises and ensure every traveler is treated fairly and with dignity is where leadership, education and training come in.

TSA employees are given various cultural awareness and sensitivity trainings covering nearly every passenger need, but there is still work to do and not every single issue can be covered.

I have personally witnessed the TSA Office of Civil Rights and Liberties supplementing standard procedures with training to improve passenger interaction. I was also invited to the TSA headquarters to host a webinar highlighting transgender passengers needs and expectations. This webinar was given as extra training to many front-line TSA officers.

I also heard about the many other webinars and guest speakers they have had over the years, including the National Center for Transgender Equality, Gender Justice Nevada, Equality Florida and former Federal Air Marshal, Veronica Pickell.

The TSA is developing online training for all TSA employees and recently, training focused on screening passengers who may wear chest binders and prosthetics. TSA is respectful and committed to clearing the traveler and not their sex/gender.
A new training module entitled Transgender 101 has been developed for TSO New Hire Training and it will also be incorporated into the FY2017 National Training Program.

When I first saw this video my only thought was of the 1950s government video about “duck and cover.” I watched it again and saw that quite a bit of material is covered and government policy was covered quite well.

So the impossible mission continues thousands of times a day. The TSA is training and educating their employees and the process of evolving and improving continues. We can help them improve by offering suggestions and constructive criticism where required.

I truly believe the mission can be accomplished and we can help. Here’s how:

Watch the video found here

Then comment productively and share it on social media platforms. Maybe the right people will see it and we can improve everyone’s travel.

—Kristin Beck is a retired U.S. Navy Seal Senior Chief Petty Officer. Beck is also a former San Diego resident and was inducted onto the San Diego LGBT Community Center’s Ben F. Dillingham, III & Bridget Wilson LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor in 2013. She was the subject of the feature length CNN documentary, “Lady Valor.” To see the film’s trailer and learn more, visit

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