Regulation of the Day 210: Transgendered Air Travelers
Canada is cracking down on the latest terrorist threat to innocent people everywhere: transgendered people. A July 2011 provision added to the Canadian Aeronautics Act’s Identity Screening Regulations says, “An air carrier shall not transport a passenger… who does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.”
Suppose someone was born female but lives life as a male. If his valid government-issued photo ID still identifies him as female, he may not board an airplane. It can take years of filling out forms and enduring hearings to convince courts to legally recognize that someone has crossed genders, as the economist Deirdre McCloskey (formerly Donald) movingly writes in her autobiography, Crossing. The result is a de facto ban on flying for most transgendered Canadians.
Dennis Lebel is Canada’s Transportation Minister. He supports the ban. He believes it increases passenger safety.
It doesn’t, actually. Here’s why. A passenger is a threat if he carries weapons or explosives on board. If he doesn’t, he’s not. This is true whether or not his appearance matches his ID, or whether it says “M” or “F.” This is true even if the passenger uses a fake ID, or none at all. Can this person bring down a plane? That is the question.
In other words, showing ID has precisely nothing to do with passenger safety. It’s all for show. The point is if you have weapons and explosives or not.
Lebel and the Canadian security screeners who work for him should keep this in mind. The nasty little provision may or may not be specifically targeted at gender crossers. But in practice it is discrimination, and it does not make air travelers any safer. If anything, by distracting screeners from searching for weapons and explosives, it makes passengers a little less safe. This is bad policy all around. It should be repealed immediately.