Thursday, April 29, 2010

TSA response

So here's the response that I got from the TSA to my email - am I wrong in reading it to say that by having an ID that doesn't completely match your appearance you're going to get extra scrutiny? i sent them another email asking if there is any documentation that could be provided to ease the process:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) policy for screening transgender travelers.

TSA develops requirements and policies for the security of the Nation’s transportation systems. The primary purpose of passenger screening is to prevent or deter the introduction of deadly or dangerous items into an airport secured area or onboard an aircraft. TSA policies and procedures focus on ensuring that all passengers are treated with respect and courtesy and every Federal screener receives training on professional conduct. In addition, TSA’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties ensures that TSA screens all traveling persons equally, without regard to a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender.

Passengers may be directed for additional screening if the information on their identification (ID) does not match their appearance; if the name on their boarding pass does not match a valid, Government-issued ID; if their clothing is loose fitting or large enough to hide prohibited items; or if the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) cannot reasonably determine that clothing is free of any detectable threats. Passenger may also be chosen for additional screening on a random basis.

Passengers may wear whatever clothing they choose when approaching the screening checkpoint, but enhanced security measures require that all passengers remove outer coats and jackets for x-ray before proceeding through metal detectors. Passengers that alarm the metal detector will be required to undergo additional screening. Passengers directed for additional screening may undergo hand-wand screening and/or pat-down inspections. Passengers may request the screening be performed in a private screening area at anytime. TSOs are instructed to honor a passenger’s request.

If additional screening is merited, the transgender passenger will receive screening by a TSO of the same gender as what the passenger presents himself or herself to be. If a passenger chooses to have additional screening done in a private screening area, a traveling companion is permitted to accompany the passenger during the private screening. If the passenger refuses additional screening, they will be denied access to the secured area.

For more information on the screening process, we recommend that you visit our “For Travelers” section located on our website at This information is updated periodically.

Thank you for contacting us.

TSA Contact Center

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Best moment at the store ever.

On Thursday afternoon, three women walked into the store.

Two of them had been here before, one of them was new to Sugar I remembered the two who had been here before. Both smart, articulate, funny women. I was happy to see them. They were looking around, talking about the toys. One picked up "The Multi-Orgasmic Man", sat down on the couch and started flipping thru the book. Piper Sue did her best to make the new woman feel comfortable. Primarily by following her around, asking for attention and licking any exposed skin.

I was working on a purchase order at the Cunt Wrap (sometimes called a cash wrap or a front desk), when I hear the strains of "I Sing the Body Electric" coming from the couch. Woman #3 joins in. So does Woman #2. And then me.

Next thing I know, there are four of standing around the ass table belting out the FAME classic.

In harmony. Good harmony.

It was like an episode of Glee. But in a sex toy store. Musical theatre and sex education. We may be on to something.

When we were done, I put on the Fame soundtrack and we sang a little bit more.

Now that. Is a good day.

The Body Electric, in addition to being a poem by Walt Whitman and a song from FAME is a school, founded by Joseph Kramer, that teaches erotic massage and encourages deeper mind, body, spirit connections thru sexual energy and touch.
It's referenced in The Multi Orgasmic Man.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

IMsL 2010 part which i find boxes and have an In and Out Burger

Friday morning, I woke up early, hung out for a minute with Marcia and her roommates, loaded up my rollie bag with stuff for the evening and the next day and set off for the hotel.

After caffinating and nicotine-ing, I was ready to start setting up the booth. A bunch of visits to the front desk and several phone calls to vendors later the hotel located all of my stuff and the table was set up. It looked pretty good. And on my trips back and forth from the front desk I heard some lovely cries coming from the dungeon. Nice. By 2 pm, vending was open. Things were pretty slow. Which left plenty of time for hopping up and down and hugging folks I hadn't seen in a while.

On my right was SORODZ a vendor with lots of hand made sensation play devices, especially lots of canes. Which meant that I got to watch folks testing canes and paddles all weekend! On my other side were Vanilla Cuffs and Collars, exquisite hand made chain mail jewelry and staffed by two lovely people that I knew from last year. Across the way was the Inverted Eye, subtly kinky items and discreet fetish antiques staffed by Alix, except he got sick, so staffed by friends of Alix, many of whom had been in the show on Thursday night. Down the way was Ms Martha's Corsets, where I proceeded to drool over the corset that I didn't buy last year.

By around 7:30 we wrapped up and I was on my way out the door for a decididly un-IMsL evening. One of my closest friends, M, lives in Marin County with her two teenagers. She was on her way to fetch me to spend the night at her house. So I changed out of my leather corset and leather skirt into a teen appropriate t-shirt and jeans and met M at the front of the hotel and we set off over the Bay Bridge, stopped at In and Out Burger for us and the kids (I picked up a cheeseburger, fries, chocolate shake and, for good measure, a diet coke) ending up at her new apartment, an adorable wood filled hideaway with a view of the mountain. We hung out, ate burgers, chatted, reviewed outfits with her daughter, said hi to her son (who was getting ready to attend a college open house the next day), watched San Francisco cable access (hysterical) and fell asleep. It was lovely. And a rare treat. I usually only get to see M once a year. We talk several times a week (daily if one of us is stressing), but an official siteing is something I really treasure. Early in the morning, she dropped me at the bus station for my trip back to the city, while she and her son headed off to college land.

The trip back into the city was beautiful. Spring in California is like spring no where else. It's green, lush, the sky is bluer, the sun is sunnier. It feels as if you opened your mouth wide enough you could take a bite. And it would taste like candy.

So I walked thru the sparkling spring back to the hotel for a day of classes, boot blacking and sex toy selling.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

IMsL 2010 or in which i dither my way to San Francisco

After much dithering, processing and number crunching it was decided that I would go vend at IMsL again this year. What's IMsL you say? Well, it stands for International Ms Leather. It also happens to be the International Ms Boot Black competition. What the hell is that you say? Is this a pageant for leather women? Yep. That's exactly what it is. And also not at all what it is. It's an event that starts off with a show featuring burlesque, drag and lap dancing from folks of various gender presentations, then a weekend of workshops, hot play in the dungeons, parties, seeing old friends, making new friends and the selection of the new IMsL and new IMsBB. The competitors have to go through and interview, the Boot Blacks boot black and are judged while doing so, and then there is a performance of a fantasy and onstage questions. Once the two title holders are selected, they will spend the next year representing part of the BDSM community at events across the country, even around the world. They will speak to the media, teach classes and techniques in the BDSM community, march in GLBT Pride Parades and in general, put a face on an under represented population.

Oh, and it's fun.

So, after getting three hours of sleep, I took my three full size bags, my back pack and my carry on in the jeep, kissed the dogs goodbye and headed for the airport. It was 4 am.

I got to the airport parking lot and realized that I hadn't thought this through. I had three full size bags. Which was fine, because I'd burned through some points and was flying first class. Which meant my bags could be plentiful and over weight. But, I couldn't pull three full size bags at once. So I tried. Although I'm six feet tall and rather strong, what I really needed was an extra arm. Suddenly, out of no where, a strange man and his wife appeared. And he helped me get in the elevator and out to the bus. Another stranger helped me get on the bus. I felt very Blanche DuBois. And grateful.

Once I got to the terminal I figured everything would be ok. I'd get one of those carts and carry everything to check in. After I dragged everything off the bus I looked around. Yep. The bus had left us off at the only point in the terminal that was not near any carts. And I'm one of those people that prefers to avoid being yelled at by the TSA, so I wasn't going to leave my bags to go get a cart. Because if I did, I was sure to come back and find them surrounded by cops and bomb sniffing dogs, with sex toys littered all around the sidewalk traumatizing young children and nuns, which would no doubt result in missing my flight. I was going to have to do this on my own.

Which I did. It wasn't pretty. It involved me lurching thru the terminal. Sweating. Swearing. And looking much like a slightly sleepy Quasimodo. But I made it. And gleefully went to the First Class line. You know that line of folks that you usually want to shoot because they whisk to the front? Uh huh. That was me. Bags checked in. Then I was told that I had to pay $100 for the third bag. Nice. The lady who helped my buy the ticket (or pay for the tickets with points) told me that it was free. But, arguing got me no where. Going through the First Class line in security did make me feel slightly better. My favorite part about flying First Class isn't the bigger seats or the free drinks. It's feeling like I'm getting away with something. Like I'm not supposed to be there. But they can't kick me out.

One latte later, I was on the plane. Where I found myself seated next to a super interesting economist who is a regular commentator on my local NPR station. We argued over who had the cooler job. It's him. For sure. HE'S ON NPR!!!! How cool is that?!

A plane change later I landed in San Fran, collected a baggage cart (much easier), got my bags, located the Super Shuttle and was off to the hotel - along with someone who had recently interviewed for a job in Baltimore, a few tourists and one of the other IMsL attendees. Because this world is teeny.

After dropping off the stuff for vending, I took my one bag with my clothes, my carry on and my back pack and set off for Marcia's where I would be spending the night. Last year I stayed at the hotel, but this year, I was cheap. And was crashing with a friend.

About 45 minutes later I got off the bus just four blocks from her house. And promptly started walking in the wrong direction. Luckily, I checked in with my iPhone, realized that the little blue dot was proceeding away from the red dot and turned around. Three blocks later I was walking up a hill that I swear to god was at a right angle. Well almost. There was more sweating and swearing. I got to the house, greeted my friend, hung out for about an hour and set back off to the hotel. Which involved eating a burito and getting lost. But thanks to the GPS on my iPhone (what the hell did we do before GPS?), I ended up back at the hotel only about 20 minutes late for my sound check. Luckily, they were running on drag time, or gay time, or leather time. You know that time that most of us run on but apologize for? Yeah. That time.

After a bit we did a quick tech check of my number and I was free to hang out for the next three hours. I flitted about hugging and greeting folks. Learned about making hemp rope from Lamilani (IMsL 2009). Learned about thread balls from someone else. Walked around wearing my Dark Odyssey name badge (it was the first badge I'd pulled out of my purse) and no one noticed. Bought eyelash glue. Smoked some cigarettes (as a shy person, smoking when I'm at events is very useful - makes me actually talk to strangers when I'd rather be hiding in a corner. and yes, i'm shy when I don't have a purpose. I can talk to a total stranger about their g-spot or take my clothes off on stage, but actually meeting new people? Makes me nervous). Then went back stage. And started to get ready.

This involved the highly dramatic application of false eyelashes. Usually this includes me sticking myself in the eye a few times. It's fun. Respectfully oggling the other incredibly sexy performers getting ready wasn't bad either.

After feeling utterly nauseous, it was my turn to perform. And it was fun. Except for the part when the song that played wasn't the song I'd practiced to. I had made a mash up of Ertha Kitt and Joan Jett singing "Let's Do It". But apparently the song I turned in was just the Ertha Kitt version. So, I punted. And almost cried a little when I got off stage. Oddly, people seemed to like it and didn't notice that anything was off at all. Perhaps that was the alcohol they'd consumed. Or my rather fabulously bootlicious ass. Which is what I shook when I got stuck.

It must not have sucked too much, because total strangers went out of their way to say they liked it.

The rest of the show was delightful. An awesome number with a woman in a rabbit costume. A hot fat girl who sat on a cake to the tune of "Hopelessly Devoted". A number by some folks from the Gender Justice Collective that involved a dog cage, some chains and awesome costumes. A hot sassy butch (and IMsBB 2008) did a sexy strip tease (more please). The finale was choreographed by Indigo Blue. It involved feather fans. And intricate rope bondage. And a surprise appearance by Lamilani. Yum.

After I changed back into street clothes and took off my lashes, I wandered up to the hospitality suite to hang out at the afterparty for a bit. I was there for less than 20 minutes before my off switch flipped and I became pretty much non-verbal and trundled off to find a cab back to Marcia's house (S had made it rather clear that my taking a bus late at night made her squirmy and nervous). I found the futon on which I was sleeping, dropped a blanket over me and passed out fully clothed. I had been up for about 26 hours. And needed to be up by 8. I fell asleep with visions of feather fans, leather chaps and over flowing corsets dancing in my head.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I just sent an email to the TSA. I'm a bit concerned about how this whole body scan thing is going to play out for trans folks. And of course, I'm not the only person who's concerned (excellent list of travel tips). What really bothers me is that they don't have a specific policy. How hard would that be? Then everyone could know what to expect and abide by the policy. But now, airports can be scary places for trans folk. The last time my brother flew, even with a letter from his physician, a current driver's license and his passport (all with his birth name and gender), he got pulled out of line, patted down and his bags were searched. Presumably because of his gender(s). Of course, maybe he's on a watch list for something else, he is a bit of trouble maker....but we're presuming it's the gender. If we knew it was because he'd been photographed at a protest, I think he'd feel better about the getting singled out.

So here's the letter. Please forgive me for framing being transgender as a medical issue. I don't actually think about it that way. But I'm not above framing things in terms the bureaucrat on the other end will understand. And then give us what we want.

Email sent today below - let's see if I get a response this time. It's the second or third email I've sent the TSA of
I am requesting some assistance.

With the advent of the full body scanners, flying just got more nerve wracking for transgender individuals. After reviewing the website, especially the portion of the web site that regards persons with medical issues and/or disabilities, I have even more concerns. Transgender individuals are referenced no where (that I could find) on the TSA site.

Many of my friends and relatives who are transgendered have encountered increased difficulty in flying over the past year. It is common for transgender people to have legal names and genders that do not match their appearance. Even when supplying documentation from their physician, I know of multiple people that have been treated poorly while going thru security, including being taken out of line for a full search. Trans people often also wear prosthetics (breasts or penises) which will be visible on the body scan, increasing the likelihood of a flag.

Although I know that this a small part of the population, these are people with legitimate medical issues that cause their gender to be different from the gender which they were assigned at birth. I'm curious as to why there is no set standard for how these people are to be treated and what documentation they should provide so as to ease their way thru security like any other passenger. Even people who have legally changed the gender on their IDs may still be wearing prosthetics.

I have contacted you in the past with similar questions and have never received a response.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Jacquelyn Jones