Shadi Petosky is a successful TV writer and producer from Los Angeles, and also a trans woman. On Monday, she was attempting to make a flight from Orlando to Minneapolis when she ran into some trouble with the Transportation Security Administration. As she stepped through the body scanner, which was calibrated for a woman, an agent noticed what he called an "anomaly" in her scan, and asked her about it. Petosky told him, "That's my penis," and that's when the shit hit the fan.
In the ensuing 40-minute interrogation, Petosky explained that she was a transsexual, but that didn't spare her from a humiliating series of pat-downs, luggage searches, and explosive materials investigations. It's still not clear what the TSA expected to find – she immediately confessed what she had on her, and while penises are explosive, it's not in a way that's dangerous to an aircraft.
By this point, Petosky was in tears. She volunteered to go through the scanner under the male setting, but was refused. She had registered a false positive on the explosive test, which only complicated matters. The agents asked her flat-out whether she was a man or a woman, which she refused to answer. When she asked the agents if they had been trained in handling transgendered passengers, she got the same stubborn reply over and over: "I know what I'm doing."
In the end, Petosky missed her flight, and went through every flyer's worst nightmare trying to get on another. She had been tweeting the entire incident as it unfolded, and by then both the TSA and American Airlines Twitter accounts were involved. @AmericanAir kept insisting she had been rebooked, even as she was stuck in the airport with no indication that that was true. Her story went viral in real-time, with strangers coming to her defense and attacking her from all directions. Coupled with misinformation in some news reports (including claims that she had refused the male scan), she found herself at the center of a media firestorm that producing Yo Gabba Gabba! never prepared her for.
As of Wednesday, Petosky is still tweeting about the incident, as are thousands more. Although there's obviously a lot of bad blood around this story, maybe it will ultimately help to change some minds about the issues faced by transgendered people. Or maybe people will just have fun yelling about it. Either way, that's a plus. Right?