TSA stops transgender delegate from SF for ‘groin anomaly’ on way to DNC


For Mia “Tu Mutch” Satya, even the stature of national politics was not enough to shield her from everyday gender discrimination.

On her way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Satya, a San Francisco advocate who is transgender, was stopped by the Transportation Security Administration at Reagan International Airport in Washington D.C.

Satya told On Guard security agents scanned her in an airport imaging chamber and stopped her because she had a “groin anomaly.”

Of course, Satya was not smuggling anything in her undergarments; the “anomaly” (in the odd wording of the TSA) was simply the biological anatomy she was born with.

Satya’s targeted pat down comes as the Democratic National Convention is celebrating inroads in diversity. In an op-ed at the Huffington Post, Barbra Casbar Siperstein, a DNC executive and transgender woman, listed Satya among 28 transgender delegates nationwide who were attending the convention — many for the first time.

Siperstein’s blog post, “DNC Transgender Delegates Double Participation In 2016,” read gleefully, “The actual platform when approved at the Convention will be the Strongest ever for LGBT non discrimination and full inclusion!”

But before Satya could join Hillary Clinton and a bevy of Democrats to celebrate “full inclusion,” she was told she would receive a pat down. She asked for it to be done publicly to ensure her rights weren’t violated.

The TSA agent, “touched my thighs [on] both sides” and “the entirety of my panties from my balls and the front to the bottom of my dick,” Satya said.

Apparently that didn’t satisfy the TSA agents. Satya was then escorted elsewhere for a private screening, where she was asked to pull down her underwear in front of a “screen” of “tiny fabric.” TSA then inspected her genitalia for several seconds, Satya said.

When contacted, a TSA spokesperson was unable to respond immediately for comment. The agency did forward its policy on screening transgender people, which explains “when you enter the imaging portal, the TSA officer presses a button designating a gender (male/female) based on how you present yourself.”

If an alarm is sounded, “additional screening” is conducted. A 2014 story from Al Jazeera revealed this binary method of screening airline passengers led to many “groin anomaly” alarms, and many subsequent pat downs.

Perhaps more relevant to Satya’s situation is the section of the policy that states, “You will not be asked to remove or lift any article of clothing to reveal sensitive body areas.”

Satya intends to lodge a complaint, including the need to strip to avoid groping.

Trans bodies are “never safe,” Satya said. Still, she wanted to be clear, “I don’t wanna be a victim. This isn’t some cry me a river story.”

Instead of sympathy, Satya wants the TSA to reform its policies.

“Stop treating trans people like terrorists,” she said, “just for defying your limited understanding of gender.”

It’s all well and good for national Democrats and Clinton to wear diversity as a badge at the DNC, but perhaps they can take a break from patting themselves on the back to call for change within the TSA, which is, after all, a federal agency.

* * *

As this column reported two weeks ago, state Senate candidate (and city Supervisor) Jane Kim challenged rival Scott Wiener to a Pokemon Go contest. Wiener, surprisingly, accepted. (The Associated Press caught wind of the story, and a quick Google search shows it reaching MSNBC and ABC News. Yikes!)

Wiener’s campaign produced a wacky video of Wiener training for the contest. I’m not sure Scott’s push-ups with Charmander on his back will help with catching Pokemon, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t snort while I watched.

Now we’ve finally got details on their — admittedly silly — Pokemon Go challenge.

The supervisors’ Pokemon-catching contest takes place Saturday, July 30, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Each supervisor will be accompanied by three teammates and launch from the 24th Street BART station. The goal is to catch as many Poke-critters as possible in a two-hour window. The loser will donate $500 to the charity of the winner’s choice.

And one of San Francisco news media’s nerdiest, Nintendo-loving dweebs will judge the contest: me.

As the candidates catch Pokemon, I’ll probably be fiddling with the original Pokemon game on my ancient, graying Game Boy.

For those who think this is all too silly, fear not: The candidates will undoubtedly resume their clashing and battling on hot-button political issues within an hour after the contest.

Enjoy the levity while it lasts.

* * *

San Francisco’s housing wars are as hot as the fog is cold. It’s a far different world than when Tim Colen first stepped up to lead the Housing Action Coalition 11 years ago.

Now, Colen is bowing out.

Colen’s importance as executive director of HAC can’t be overstated. Land-use battles before the Planning Commission and new housing laws at the Board of Supervisors are often brokered out of sight by a small number of nonprofits and stakeholders.

How much affordable housing will a developer build? How many units? What will the community get in return? These are the questions waged by organizations like Todco and the Coalition of Community Housing Organizations on the “progressive” side, and on the “moderate” side by SPUR and Colen’s organization, HAC.

HAC is part of the “build, build, build” side of the housing debate. Still, no matter how you feel about that stance, Colen has influenced housing development across San Francisco.

“There’s a ton to do. We’re still in a housing crisis,” Colen told me, but, “it’s time for new energy and new leadership.” He’s turning 65, after all.

Tim Colen, courtesy photo
Tim Colen, courtesy photo

Colen, who lives in West Portal, first got involved with HAC as a volunteer. “I was a recovering geologist,” who had just decided to become a stay-at-home dad, he said. Colen’s first campaign pushed for a housing development near Stonestown Galleria.

“It failed, of course,” he said. But he found the process “very compelling.”

Colen’s battles are now done. He wants time to see his son, a college freshman, play baseball and try out for the big leagues. He’d like to spend time with his daughter and grandson in Texas. And, especially, travel with his wife while he’s “still vigorous enough to do it.”

He’s still going to be HAC’s executive director through this November election. And he won’t entirely vanish, he said, as “I’m one of those pathetic individuals whose sole source of entertainment is the Planning Commission.”

Though this column and Colen don’t always see eye to eye, everyone should respect his knack for listening and his passion for vigorous debate.

Given his time negotiating housing policy across The City, Colen reflected on the change in tenor of city politics, where moderates and progressives engage in debate as “bloodsport.”

“I don’t know if it’s me, or if they’re just getting more and more contentious,” he said. “It’s so weird … The City is so bitterly polarized.”

And — agree with him or not — without the Colens of the world, that divide may only deepen.

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email him at joe@sfexaminer.com.

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