When Londoner Jamie Liang reached the Eurostar security checkpoint at London St Pancras International he put his possessions on the conveyor belt and entered the body scanner. It beeped. Instead of searching him, he said officials summoned him to one side, demanded to see his passport and, when he repeatedly asked why, threatened to call the police. The reason was eventually explained loudly, he says, in front of other passengers: security staff were unclear whether he was male or female and wanted proof of his sex before deciding which official should search him.
“I identify as a gay male,” says Liang. “If you benchmark me against a cage fighter you might consider me to be a bit on the feminine side. ‘Gender-neutral’ is probably the best way to describe me. The protocols of Eurostar St Pancras seem to have an issue with processing passengers like myself. I was treated like a criminal by security pulling me aside and shouting rudely and I was publicly humiliated by being asked private information in front of a large audience.”
Liang, who is not transgender, fears that his treatment exposes wider discrimination faced by LGBT travellers . “I was told by the supervisor that he was ‘following company protocol’. If that is the case, Eurostar is doing something really wrong,” he says. “They could have respectfully asked me to verify my sex/gender in private and they didn’t need my passport to find out my preferred choice of male or female attendant for a full body pat down – I told them from the start I was happy to be searched by a male. If I were indeed transgender I would have been humiliatingly outed in public.”
Liang’s claims highlight potential difficulties across the international transport network, as bureaucracy and individual security staff attempt to keep pace with gender rights.
“We receive many complaints from people who have experienced harassment and discrimination because their presenting gender doesn’t correspond with their passport details,” says Zhan Chiam, gender identity and expression programme officer at ILGA, a federation of international organisations that campaign on LGBT rights. “Policing of gender needs to stop, and security staff sensitised to people’s needs.” Read more via the Guardian