Mom, Dad, P,
I might not see you next week.
That thought scares me. Recognizing I might not see you next week means that if I don’t, I don’t know when I’ll see you again. It’s been eight months since I last saw Mom and Dad. In May, Peter and I had dinner with some other people, but we haven’t really spent time together for over a year. We’re not that kind of family, the kind that doesn’t see each other.
Last month, I went to Pittsburgh for a wedding. I was ushered, strong armed, through the new security measures. I asked the agent what it was, what the machine was because I honestly didn’t know at the time. I knew there were new machines to examine us, but I did not know that this was one of them. The guy smiled at me and just told me to hold still. He didn’t tell me what was going on. Staring at the machine while I collected myself, I realized what happened. I felt violated. I watched the woman behind me in line go through, laughing because of how she had to pose. I didn’t know how to take that.
I still don’t.
Later on, I looked up pictures from those machines. The high quality ones. They’re scary. We’re laid bare. Our clothes are stripped. Our hair is gone. We’re bestial; we’re ghosts. There’s a picture of me like that. A ghost.
There is someone whose job it is to look at those pictures. All day they sit and see people, silver, fleshy masses of people run before their eyes. I feel sorry for them, that this is what people have been degraded to for them. This is what we have been degraded to. This is what I have been degraded to. I am disgusted. I am ashamed.
I never sexted. I never took naked pictures of myself. I mean, sure, there are a few drawings, but I dated artists. And that made me feel wanted–good–that someone would sit there and remember the lines that make me up. To have those lines so placed in their mind they couldn’t forget them and needed to put them down. But that’s different. I’m comfortable with people I trust, people I love, having pictures of me exposed. I’m not comfortable with a stranger seeing me like that.
The alternative is patdowns, but they don’t sound much better. I’m not comfortable with my body, which I think isn’t surprising. I don’t like being touched by strangers. I don’t know if I will be okay with someone I don’t know touching me. I do know I am not okay with being told I cannot revoke consent if I decide I am uncomfortable once it starts. Flying might not be a right, but the chance to remove consent is.
A TSA spokesman said that that giving us the right to revoke consent doesn’t make sense in a post-9/11 world. A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 2007 decision gave the TSA the ability to complete a security screening even if someone declined to fly. CNN tells me that the law says once a security screening starts, I cannot reject both a full body imaging and a patdown, I have to do that from the outset. I have to say no before anything starts, and once it’s started, I cannot say no. Federal jurisdictions recognize that we have the right to revoke consent to sex even after penetration happened–that at any point I can say no and have it be over. Now, I’m being told that is not true. There are times when I am not allowed to say no and have it stop. This -feels- like rape, it ticks off every learned instinct about what is and is not acceptable when it comes to people touching me. Even if I tell the TSA no, I’m done, they don’t have to stop. They won’t stop.
And I don’t know if I can deal with that.
I’m afraid. We’re living in a time of words. Over the past few years, when the public has gotten angry, they wrote. They made noises. They talked. They never did anything. Eventually they accepted the change as part of reality, part of how things are done. I’m afraid that the internet anger will just be words and that nothing with happen, that I won’t feel safe flying again.
And I do love flying.
I hope that I can see you next week. I hope that my own shyness, my desire to not rabble rouse, my desire to not be another internet story, to not be arrested, overrides my instincts when a person I don’t know starts to touch me. If not, I hope that you’ll be able to be okay with not seeing me. I hope I’ll be okay with not seeing you.