I’d just landed at Heathrow after two, back-to-back 12-hour flights from New Zealand. I hadn’t slept in around 30 hours and was not in the best mood imaginable.
I made my way to the security gate to catch my final, one-hour flight back home and, after passing through the metal detector without alarm, was randomly selected to go in the body scanner. I clearly look shifty as a guy because I’d been questioned or searched more on this trip than in all my others combined.
I stepped in to the pod and the machine started. When it was over, I stepped out and waited for the image to show if I had any metal anywhere about my body – the only other time I’d been in one of these it had picked up a five-pence piece wedged so tightly in the corner of my jeans pocket that neither me nor the security guard searching me could find it.
It didn’t pick up any metal this time because, wary of that previous experience, I made sure there was nothing that would set off a flag on the system. I didn’t expect it to pick up items of clothing but it clearly had a problem with the seam of the chest-binder I was wearing. The previous one had not so I didn’t even know it could pick something like that up.
The male officer stepped forward to pat me down so he could find out what this ‘thing’ was beneath my clothes and I was left with two choices; out myself as transgender and explain the chest binder or not fly home.
I explained the situation to him.
I was furious and feeling humilated, no doubt exacerbated by how tired I was. While he attempted to be understanding, before I knew what was happening he had scurried off and whispered in the ear of a female officer. She then came over and I explained it to her. She started to pat me down and I could feel people looking at me, wondering why this guy was now being searched by a woman.
I tried to explain to her what a chest binder was but she looked at me like I was speaking martian. My anger was rising as I felt more and more humiliated and, in the end, I ended up having to lift up my tshirt so I could show her the binder, right in the middle of the security hall.
The two officers didn’t have a clue what to do and mumbled some apologies at me before waiving me on in to the departures lounge where my friend was standing waiting for me.
To date, it is the only time I’ve felt humiliated simply for being trans.
All I wanted to do was fly back home.