Flying while binding, UK/Ireland edition
March 18, 2019 8:14 AM   Subscribe

On Wednesday I'm flying from Stansted to Dublin, and then back again on Saturday. This is my first time flying while also wearing a binder, do I need to be concerned about anything in particular?

I identify as non-binary, have short hair, wear exclusively men's clothing, and generally bind when I'm out in public. I'm AFAB and still have F gender markers on my passport because my country doesn't legally recognise my gender identity, fun times! In terms of how I read to other people at the moment, I get double takes from some people but I also routinely get called "ma'am", "love" and other female-gendered terms by around 50% of the people I interact with publicly. I don't wear any makeup or decorative jewellery and keep my hair short but I still clearly read as female to a subset of people.

It's a short-haul flight so I'm not concerned about comfort or safety while wearing the binder; this question is more around how much (if any) hassle I can expect at the airport. I don't know if I'll be going through a body scanner or a metal detector; hopefully the latter as it's a short-haul flight within the EU.

Is there anything I should/shouldn't do or say in this situation, or do I just proceed as though it's going to be a non-issue?
posted by terretu to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
I would proceed as if it is going to be a non-issue but I would be particularly scrupulous about removing all metal. Failing to do so on a recent UK/Ireland flight meant I dinged red on the standard walk through scanner and I think it was just change I'd forgotten in a pocket.

I was then asked to step into the body scanner and then had a pat-down. I am a cis female presenting person and my pat down was from another F person. It was all very low-key and polite but this may be something it's worth the additional vigilance to you to avoid.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:24 AM on March 18

Also: light shoes without metal parts that don't reach your ankles, or otherwise take them off. The wrong shoes get me dinged on the metal scanner all the time.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 8:46 AM on March 18

I've flown through the Dublin airport, and it seemed to be pretty low-key on the hassle scale. At the security checkpoint, I went through a metal detector, but I don't believe I went through a body scanner. (Googling: they *have* body scanners, but the standard practice is just to use the detector.) Seconding the recommendation to wear things without metal. Slip-on shoes, pull-on pants, no jewelry, and you should be in and out.

Also, keep in mind that there are plenty of people who look pretty androgynous even if they identify with a particular gender, and also that security has seen every kind of human appearance that there is. Unless you're planning to be a one-person flash mob at the checkpoint, they're not going to remark on you.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:50 AM on March 18

Body scanners frequently highlight me for additional screening. The areas that then get patted down are my thighs or upper arms, clearly metal free and far removed from anywhere where there may be any metal such as my bra wire or jeans button. For comparison, I rarely trigger the metal detectors.

And it turns out that the scanners are designed to identify non metal objects as well as metal ones. They are also prone to false positives. In my case I suspect that being obese and a preference for garments to fit loosely round my chubby arms (i.e. more fabric), results in readings that are not what the programming deems normal. So I suppose binding could also result in anomalous scan readings at which point they‘ll wave the wand over the area and run the backs of their hands over it. You’ll have to decide if that is problematic for you.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:16 AM on March 18

Be careful not to let your body or clothing brush the metal detector, which will set it off and invite a wanding. Also, my experience comports with koahiatamadl's re suspecting that my love handles and batwing arms register problematically on the body scanner.
posted by carmicha at 1:57 PM on March 18

US experience: I got through the body scanner things as an androgynous/male-presenting afab person much more easily with a binder than without. I guess the compression made my chest look less "anomalous" on the scanner or something when I was flagged as male.
More irritatingly, I set off the scanner a couple of times with loose jeans and boxer shorts when I was flagged as female (presumably) because there was more fabric in my crotch area than whoever calibrated the scanner expected (I wasn't packing).
Even if you do set off the scanner you probably won't have to say anything- I never had any security workers actually ask any questions; they just did a perfunctory pat down or wand wave and sent me along.

You know how your body reacts to binding better than I do, but IME it was worth the awkwardness of dealing with a public restroom to take my binder off before getting on the plane. I left my binder on for a flight from DC to Boston once and it was really painful.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 4:43 PM on March 18

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