We went to St. Louis again for Thanksgiving. Not our best trip I have to admit. Not that it was bad, necessarily, just not as smooth and easy. It all began with arriving at T.F. Green airport in Rhode Island and realizing that I’d left my wallet (containing every shred of identification I have) locked in my car glove compartment – back in Boston. Sure our vacation was already a disaster, I approached a customer service representative. I didn’t need to feign pathetic. Joita was already crying and Emily was gritting her teeth in frustration. The customer service rep told me it was entirely up to the TSA personnel whether they would let me get on a plane. She looked at me with real pity and encouragingly said, “hey, it’s worth a try.” At first glance the TSA agent at the front of the closest line looked like a young man. Then I got closer and she spoke. She looked directly and openly at me, and her eyes gave a distinct message of understanding and welcome. As I told her my story, she kept telling me not to worry and that things would turn out fine. She said she needed to call in a supervisory agent to help me out. A silver-haired butch dyke sauntered over toward us.
This officer also exuded warmth and recognition and radiated good will. She took me to a private corner and asked me to fill out a form. She remained completely professional at all times. With the tiny, barely noticeable giggle in her eyes. She had to call Washington and Washington had to ask me several quirky and unrelated questions through her – last 4 digits of home phone number, previous address, mother’s first name. I was surprised they didn’t ask my shoe size. I could see Emily and the girls across the security barrier and I was anxious. Washington was satisfied with my answers and gave me approval to board the plane. But, I needed to have my carry-on bag emptied and searched and I had to have a light pat down (performed by my silver-haired friend). The bag, she gave to another officer. This one a young, softer lesbian who grabbed up my bag with unabashed enthusiasm and an openly amused knowing smile that left nothing unsaid, who unceremoniously dumped the contents of my bag on a table. While she was sorting my stuff, I studiously avoided making eye contact with the one giving me a pat down.
I have to be honest, I was terrified I was going to have to deal with discrimination and harassment, or snide and derogatory treatment. I don’t even want to think about what could have been. And I know I’m very lucky. And I am grateful. Very grateful. Seriously, I couldn’t have had a more welcoming, gentle, respectful and even humorous experience.
And with that sigh of relief, I know I’ve said this before, but I have to say it again. You can’t make this shit up! How many queer TSA agents do you think there are?! And do they all work at T.F. Green? What was up with that?!
Our trip ended much the way it started. Our flight got canceled due to mechanical issues and we were resigned to having to spend an extra night away from home, on the road, probably in North Carolina. On top of having to go through the whole no i.d. thing again (assuming it was not going to be nearly as easy). No matter what I’d tried during the week at my in-laws, I couldn’t find a way to get my license out of my car and to me in Missouri. The matronly woman at the baggage check told us it looked like she might be able to book us on a flight from Charlotte to home that night. I spontaneously said, “despite causing some kind of security breach, I may have to jump over this counter and hug you!” She looked at me and literally blushed. She said some slightly flirtatious thing that I didn’t quite hear, but that left a pink stain on her cheeks and then quickly called to the next customer in line. I smiled to myself, “got to put a leash on that boyish charm.” And the TSA agents who dealt with me were both lovely, middle-aged, mid-western women. And while they were not as giddy about me as the folks in Rhode Island (or the woman at the bag check), they were kind and helpful and considerate and polite. AND, they let me get on the plane.