Pip Baitinger

A Trans Woman’s Airport Experience and a Future

The New Delhi Airport

My nipples ached at the New Delhi airport. The dusty air was loud with smog and construction. I gathered with my research group as my professor sorted out an issue with another student’s baggage. Anxiety was bubbling within my stomach. Airport security and trans women do not mix well, especially when the security lines are gendered… like they are in India. Fuck. I step forward to wait in the men’s line, unsure…

Two days before I traveled to India, my ex-turned-friend Isaac visited me in DC (I know, it’s complicated). We went to a nearby bar on New Year’s Eve for one beer after downing half a bottle of wine in my studio apartment. Anxiety for my upcoming trip, alcohol, estradiol, and a weird friendship thing with my ex, what a fantastic combination. The streets of DC were quiet; most people were most likely cramped into bars with pricey cover fees or apartment parties for the holiday. We walked home, the air cool and still, trying to keep my eyes steady, they became wet.

We arrived back at my apartment. Through tears, I reached to turn on the string lights strewn across the wall, dimly lighting the space. I admitted my anxiety to Isaac about the trip and the worry of traveling to another country after only seven months on hormones. I didn’t mention the complexities of my feelings toward him. He hugged me as I sheepishly wept into his shoulder. Our touch felt foreign from when we dated just a few years ago, new. He reassured and comforted me, and I flew to India two days later.

… “You’re in the wrong line,” a man behind me motioned to the women’s metal detector beside me. Saying nothing, I pivoted to the other line. Well, I’ve been passing this whole trip. I’m getting ma’amed consistently and was told to get out of the men’s security line at that museum we went to yesterday so… The security officer signaled me to go through the metal detector and into the woman’s security shack. Ok, I’m passing. Phew. She closed the privacy curtains and waved the metal detector over my body. She examined my face, eyes peering. Shit. She circled her finger, motioning me to turn around. I obeyed. “Are you female?” she asked pointedly. “erm, yes…” I responded quietly, hoping she overlooked the deepness of my voice. She pointed me to the exit and said nothing else. I relaxed. It was a close call, but I made it through security. We boarded our flight to Bangalore.

The Bangalore Airport

So we meet again. The bane of my existence. Gendered airport security. Grrr.

You’d think there would be some technological breakthrough in airport security that factored trans people into the calculus of the nation state’s security apparatus, but here we are. Here I am, at the airport in Bangalore, India, standing in front of the men’s security line. I glance up, Ok, I’ll go through the men’s line this time. I was totally clocked by the security woman at the

Delhi airport, so best to play it safe this time. My passport has an “M” on it, and I have no idea what they’ll do if they clock me in the women’s line without a female passport. As I waited to step through, the security officer saw me. “Go to the other line over there,” he said, motioning to the women’s line. UGH, NO, I DON’T WANT TO BE PASSING RIGHT NOW. NOT HERE. “I’m a dude,” I croaked, hoping my deep voice would convince him. Internally, I felt defeated. I hated having to misgender myself, but it was too late now. He was flustered, “You are a woman. The female line is over there.” “I’m a dude, trust me!” ugh. He told me to step through the metal detector.

He called over to his coworkers, said something to them in Hindi, and laughed. Then they all started laughing at me. “Show me your passport!” he spat. “Erm…ok, it’s in my bag, let me just….”

“Show me your passport!” He loudly repeated. I scurried over to my backpack that just went through the metal detector.

“Show me your passport show me your passport show me your passport” he continued. I reached into my bag, grabbed my dumb “M” passport, and handed it to him. He examined it, then me. He again said something to his coworkers and laughed. They laughed. He shoved my passport back into my hands and told me to go.

I made it through security….

A Utopic Airport Far in the Future

Pip briskly strutted through the airport with a shitty 10-dollar coffee in tow. (what? not everything can be utopic, ok.) She walked up to the airport security line and remembered. She remembered all the terrible experiences she had as a trans woman in security lines countless times before. In New Delhi. In Bangalore. In Germany. In the United States. It was universal… those gendered security technologies and methodologies, “innovated” in a way that both erased trans people and categorized gender into a digital binary.

However, this is the future. Our efforts were enough. All trans people and people of diverse genders have been liberated and thrive. We pushed back on anti-trans legislation that was rampant across states. We pushed back on pinkwashing that oppressed queer people and was used to justify occupation. We did away with algorithms and artificial intelligence containing bias encoded within them. We created a healthier planet that everyone was able to enjoy.

And so, Pip stepped up to airport security in this imagined, hopeful future. She swiftly went through and found the gate for her flight. She sipped her 10-dollar coffee and reflected on her existence. On her gender. On Isaac and the night, she cried in her old DC apartment. On airports and India and the utopic future she once imagined. She looked out at the clear blue sky shimmering above her plane, thankful to those who made the path toward liberation and her complex existence possible.