The TSA Didn’t Like Ashley Yang’s Transgender Identity, So They Fired Her

Transportation screening officer Ashley Yang got hired by the TSA for a two-year probationary period. But when they discovered that she was transgender, they told her she would have to work as a man, cut her hair or wear a men’s wig, use the men’s bathroom and pat down male passengers who routinely sexually harassing her. She refused and so they fired her just a couple days before her probationary period ended.

Luckily, Yang teamed up with the Transgender Law Center and successfully sued for back pay as well as pain and suffering. Now the TSA has transgender training for its employees, but that does little to end trans workplace discrimination in other places.

At the heart of her case, Yang’s employer decided they didn’t like her expression her gender and wanted her to undergo a “complete transformation”… whatever that means. The narrative pushed by trans-phobic politicians is that transfolk are just guys who decide to dress like women to gain access to the ladies’ toilet. But actual trans individuals know that the transformation is an ongoing process that—far from being a whim—goes to very the heart of their self-expression.

That’s why TBGLs (that’s right, why is the T always last?) need a nationwide Employment Non-Discrimination Act that includes gender identity. Even cis-gendered butch females can get fired regardless of their sexual identity if their employer disapproves of their non-conformity to gender-typed hair and clothing. And while the Supreme Court still hasn’t ruled on whether employers can force their female employees to wear skirts, a trans-inclusive ENDA would definitely settle the issue that troubled Yang.

Via Towleroad

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  • Kev C

    How did the TSA discover she was transgender? Pat down? Body scan? Full cavity search?

  • Jaime Renee

    So don’t they do background checks on people before they hire them? I would think that would show up if they actually did one. And really, I’m kind of torn on this. While I do think it shouldn’t matter in general that someone is trans, having someone who is trans(either pre-op or non-op) doing body pat downs on passengers is kind of unfair to passengers who are assuming they are only being intimately touched by someone of the same biological sex.

  • christopher di spirito

    This case has Janet Napolitano’s fat, stubby-little fingers all over it.

  • Aiden

    @Jaime Renee: How is it unfair?

  • Jaime Renee

    @Aiden: Its someone invading their personal space, someone they are assuming are of the same biological sex. To me its quite different from just interacting with someone in a public setting. I feel that if the person being searched had any knowledge, they would prefer not to be searched by someone who is trans just as many of us trans women would not like to be searched by a man whether they are gay or straight. If the person knew they were being patted down by a trans person and had no issue with it, that would be fine. Anytime you are invading an innocent person’s space like that, to me, its important that there is no misleading as to who is actually doing the patting down.

    I mean, seriously, let’s face it, so long as there are still male parts there, many women would not take kindly to being searched by them and despite our feelings about our own gender, that is something that should be taken into account. We can’t project our own beliefs onto them in that sort of setting, allowing someone to touch you like that even during a pat down is quite personal.

  • Ginasf

    @Jaimee: How many men do you think would be upset by having a gay TSA agent patting them down? I imagine, in our homophobic land of the free, quite a few. Therefore, you no doubt favor all gay male TSA agents to be fired as well.

  • Kev C

    @Ginasf: Yeah, most americans would prefer to be felt up by a heterosexual of the same sex.

  • Jaime Renee

    @Ginasf: I would think most men would be uncomfortable being pat down by any other man, gay or straight. But this isn’t about orientation, its about her current status as pre-op or non-op. I don’t think every job out there should have to be open to everyone who wants it, there are certain things that should be taken into account, especially when dealing with the public and even more so when there has to be the sort of contact patting down requires.

    Sure, in a perfect world, everything should be even, equal and all that jazz, but you can’t completely disregard the majority to please the few in every situation, especially where it concerns touching their body in that manner as part of the job.

    And I am still curious about how she got a job there without disclosing that she was in transition and without them apparently not finding it out til almost to the end of the two year probationary period. Heck, just getting a job at the little store here in my town involved a background check that required me to disclose any previous names I’ve used. But they already knew I was trans, so it wasn’t an issue.

  • Jane

    @Jaime Renee: You know, I get felt up by men just for having the audacity of going to a bar while being a woman. I think you protest too much.

  • beerwad

    @Jaime Renee: If the TSA didn’t know she was trans the whole time, chances are the majority of customers probably didn’t know either. If the people she’s patting down don’t know she’s trans, they’re not going to be bothered by it. And unless she’s conducting pat-downs while in the nude, they don’t know what parts she has down there, and it’s none of their business anyway.

  • hold up

    @Jaime Renee:
    “But this isn’t about orientation, its about her current status as pre-op or non-op.” Is it? Your hypothetical airline customer magically becomes comfortable with trans women once they get SRS? That’s besides the fact that most people are uncomfortable with such invasive procedures regardless of the gender, sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, age, class, ability (if “you make me feel weird” is a basis for employment discrimination then why couldn’t you extend that to other aspects of identity) of the person performing them, and that making random details about your privates and surgical history known to strangers would freak them out in the fucking first place.

  • Jeffree

    @beerwad: 100% cosign on #11.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but all I care about is that the TSA employee conducts her/himself professionally. Gender & s:o of that agent doesn’t matter to me*.

    If Ms. Yang was able to meet the requirements of that job & perform the duties, firing her seems unreasonable & unwarranted.
    — — —
    *And I can empathize that someone with a history of abuse will have issues with the patdown that I don’t.

  • Shannon1981

    @Jaime Renee: There is so much ignorance running through your comments that I cannot begin to tear it apart at 4:30 AM. Let it suffice to say that what you are saying is transphobic. An MTF person is a woman. An FTM person is a man. A genderqueer person like me, who happens to have female parts but appear rather androgynouse mosttimes, is neither. Get off your high horse and stop insisting that discrimination against anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the grossly misguided, old fashioned, bigoted, and unnecessary heteronormative gender binary is justified because some bigoted ignoramus might be a bit uncomfortable. It is the people who are ignorant bigots with the problem, not us. Stop defending blatant discrimination, and get some fucking education.

  • Shannon1981

    Oh, and, being trans yourself, you should be the last person defending this BS discrimination.

    Sorry, I know I came off harsh, but just REALLY. I am so TIRED of members of our own community being apologists and pandering to bigoted straight people.

  • bob

    Intrusive searching is a separate issue, and a smoke screen in this case. You can try to explain it anyway you want, but the fact is that it doesn’t matter who is doing the groin-diving. It’s wrong, it’s ineffective, and it inspires fear.
    I’m so glad the court saw through the lies and innuendos. I’m not sure we need more divisive protection laws. I think actually upholding the laws we already have is enough. Y’know, like, you can’t fire someone if they’re actually doing their job. And you can’t make stuff up about why you fired them.

  • seaguy

    @christopher di spirito: Please Janet is a big ole Dyke she would have given the trannie a pass.

  • Jaime Renee

    I’ll readily admit that I have hangups myself about touching and who touches me. I’ve had some bad experiences and that has certainly affected my views on it. And I agree that she is a woman and should be regarded as such, but in cases where the job is definitely sex specific and involves that kind of contact, I think pre-op or non-op matters. Because face it, no matter how we may identify, until surgery, a mtf is still male bodied no matter the size of their boobs or how feminine their appearance is. I still haven’t been able to afford surgery myself yet and I have not hesitated to disclose that I am trans to any potential employer as I’d rather know from the get go if there are any issues with it since I do live in a state with no protections for gender identity/expression. Luckily, I work at a store where my fellow employees, all women, are respectful and they all knew me before transition as well.

    I’d like to live in a perfect world where stuff like that doesn’t matter, but unfortunately that’s not the case. I am of the mind that we have to be careful about what we demand and how far we can go in expecting non-trans people to disregard physical sex when gender expression/identity differs from it in situations like this. I’m not apologizing for anyone, just stating my own views which are definitely shaped by my own experiences and issues. Heck, to be honest, even gender queer people make me uncomfortable at times, but I will still respect their identity, but that doesn’t mean I have to think they are appropriate employees for any job they may choose. I am still working on my own issues regarding some of those things, but I’m just being honest about my own feelings on it. I’m not going to say anything I don’t actually mean or feel just to look better to anyone.

  • MizB

    I think its very interesting that even someone like Jaime still equates genitals with potential for harassment – because isn’t that what the fear/discomfort with a pat down is about? That someone will take advantage of me sexually? (touch me in a way I don’t want/get pleasure from touching my body/get pleasure from making me sexually uncomfortable/elicit an unwanted sexual response from me).

    It’s what’s going on between the *ears* not the legs, that matters, but seeing how even Jaime has conflicting feelings on this, its easy to understand how folks with zero exposure to Trans-folk would be confused and/or fearful.

    Honestly though, I don’t care who pats me down – if they’re professional about it, fine, if not, file a complaint. Ultimately, you can only judge what someone *does* not what you are afraid they might do.

  • Michelle

    Jamie, if you are a customer going through TSA and you approach someone that appears to be a woman and they pat you down per procedure and you go on your merry way, it is completely irrelevant what genitals they had. What genitals they had does not in any way, shape, or form impact that person’s ability to do the job they have been assigned. Unless they do something inappropriate outside of the scope of the process they are tasked with, you would be none the wiser that the person who just patted you down was gay, straight, cis or trans. Unless of course you are an X-Man and have the mutant power of X-ray vision. You would go off to your gate, get on your plane and travel wherever you were going with perhaps a feeling of angst over the procedure itself (which is a separate issue), but you would not give any second thought to, hmmm, what genitals did the TSA agent that just patted me down have? You’re argument is baseless, and fear mongering. It plays into the hands of the bigots and it’s this irrational fear of something you wouldn’t have any knowledge of in the moment of the process. Unless the trans person themself outs themself to you at that moment or unless they are wearing some Super Trans person cape, you would have no clue at all.

  • missanthrope

    @Jaime Renee:

    Sometimes employers can find out if you’ve haven’t had your gender changed with social security. If they send in paper with “Jessica Robinson, female” and SS records are “Jessica Robinson, male” then Social Security will send back a “no match” letter saying that the records don’t match and then you have to out yourself or be suspected of identity theft. The social security administration requires surgery for a gender change which some trans either can’t afford, don’t want, or can’t get for health reasons and it creates a real mess, as it did for Ashley.

  • Sweetbrandigirl2004

    @Jaime Renee: I completely agree with you. In the video Ashely asked what determines a complete transition thats very simple Complete gender reassignment surgery completes the transitional process. I disagree with the whole transgender meme and the third gender they would force upon society. If these people truly think they are of the other gender then they should get counseling and therapy and follow the SOC guidelines, if diagnosis as GID then they should have the support to transition from one gender to the other otherwise they don’t deserve protection so they can play dress up.

  • Sweetbrandigirl2004

    @Michelle: I disagree as the vast majority of transgender people DO NOT pass as the gender they would have you believe they are and that makes people very very uncomfortable. that being said I do not and would not let some 6’5″ broad shouldered square jawed masculine male looking person in a dress pat me down with their huge hands and deep voice, and I’d be very uncomfortable just being around such an Individual regardless of how well they can do the job.

  • Jane

    . . . And Brandi just nicely demonstrated the fear mongering you don’t want in your own life Jaime. When members of our community cannot defend each other it opens the door to “forcing their 3rd sex”‘, and “all transgenders are broad shouldered with the build of a NFL linebacker that were formal dresses everywhere they go” arguments in our own house. Don’t we get that enough outside of our own house?
    Since you believe someone should have to complete the transition before being to perform a job like that how could they EVER have the surgery since you have to live two-years full-time before surgery? I read your earlier posts, you were lucky and were able to keep a job. Maybe Ashley wasn’t and this was the only job she could get.
    Since you don’t even see genitals, what are you afraid of? Ashley was going to rape other women in the middle of an open space in a big airport and no one notice? I will agree if a TSA agent had their pants down with genital exposed waiting to pat me down I would be concerned. As terrible as the TSA is though I don’t they would allow anyone to do that(male or female).
    Brandi, you act as if you are completely comfortable being patted down baby a woman you have never met as long as you have proof she does in fact, have a vagina. I’m not comfortable letting a stranger grope me not matter what the sex.

  • Sweetbrandigirl2004

    @Jane: My comment was in response tp Michelle whop stated that no one would known if someone is transgender. I was pointing out the the vast majority of transgender people don’t pass and the reason why they don’t pass. Likewise let me correct you RLE is one year living and working fulltime in the correct gender. also I’m not a part of your house or under you F#$%% umbrella so don’t assume I am or want to be.

  • Jane

    Honestly; I wasn’t saying you were. I was referring to Jaime who said earlier she is trans. I should have tagged better, my bad. My comment wasn’t clear whom it was directed to. I will say though, you came to a board discussing transgender issues on a LBGT site, so I feel there is reason able assume most posters are part of the LBGT community. If this were a major news outlet like Fox News or MSNBC it would be different.
    My comments regarding you illustrated how a fellow trans person(Jaime) not supporting a fellow trans person and how it leads to comments such as yours.
    You can correct and feel sly that you know more than I do but when surgery isn’t the focus of your life. I mean, saving up $30,000 takes a while and at some point you just start living and not worrying about BS requirements about your own life.

  • hold up

    “I completely agree with you. In the video Ashely asked what determines a complete transition thats very simple Complete gender reassignment surgery completes the transitional process.”

    That’s a really narrow, ignorant outlook which shows a complete ignorance of biology and eliminates the entire purpose of being transgender. If you think biological sex and gender are indistinguishable, there is no such thing as “complete gender reassignment.” Because that is physically impossible. Vaginoplasty does not accomplish that. And the procedures for FTMs are nowhere near as “complete” and often cost a fuckload more money.

    “If these people truly think they are of the other gender then they should get counseling and therapy and follow the SOC guidelines, if diagnosis as GID then they should have the support to transition from one gender to the other otherwise they don’t deserve protection so they can play dress up.”

    Wtf? There is absolutely nothing in the WPATH standards of care or the GID diagnosis about having to desire genital surgery. In fact WPATH says:

    “No person should have to undergo surgery or accept sterilization as a condition of identity recognition. If a sex marker is required on an identity document, that marker could recognize the person’s lived gender, regardless of reproductive capacity”

  • Laughriotgirl

    Brandi… there is an article, with a story and a point. You know, the things you completely ignored so that you could shoehorn your tired, played out, fact-free single-issue comments into.

    Considering, Brandi, that the largest group who is hassled in places like restrooms and showers is not trans women or cross dressers or even drag queens, but actually non-trans women you seriously need to check your misogyny (go ahead look it up).

  • Sweetbrandigirl2004

    @Laughriotgirl: Misogyny ? me ha ha ha ha ha nothing could be further from the truth. Especially since I’m a Lesbian and have been in several relationships with genetic women, I love women likewise I didn’t Ignore the subject of the story at all. I commented on the story and the fact that “Ashley” (you might known who she is t girl she’s the subject of the story said that the TSA would ONLY allow her to stay if she had “Complete” Transition, Meaning having GRS which is the standard and in my opinion not unreasonable. She also asked in her video what constituted a complete transition to which I replied undergoing GRS as it is seen by most therapist and counselor as the sole Cure for GID and the culmination (go ahead look it up ) of a transition.

    Also since your threw it out there I’m assuming you have factual =data to proof that genetic women are hassled more then Tg’s and cder’s most likely you don’t what a surprise….NOT !

  • Ginasf

    @Sweetbrandigirl2004: As a woman who is trans who does happen to be post-op, I would be more creeped being patted down by some fetishistic character who seems morbidly obsessed with vaginoplasty, gives herself some cutesy girly name which doesn’t match her vicious personality and has little icons of herself in a bikini in a pathetic attempt to validate her womanhood than the trans woman you mentioned. It takes a lot of strength of character to transition when you’re not ‘passable’ and I can categorically state that some of the happiest and coolest trans people I’ve met were not passable.

  • Sweetbrandigirl2004

    @Ginasf: While it is entirely your choice as to you would rather have pat you down I also agree it takes a considerably amount of courage to transition despite and knowing one won’t pass, but it is counter to the goal of every cder’s transgender and TS women of history as “Passing” and blending back into society has always been the goal well at least it is for a “TRUE” Ts women the vast majority of transgender and cders just don’t give a crap how they look or what people think which is their prerogative.

    As for my Name and my bikini……….Check yourself your jealousy is showing

  • Ginasf

    @Sweetbrandigirl2004: That’s right, hugely, insanely jealous. Naming yourself “Brandi” with an ‘i’ couched in “sweet..girl” (let me guess, you like to put on cheerleader drag and jump up and down in front of the mirror showing your panties pretending all the jocks are hot for you?) and parading around in a bikini deluded into thinking you’re more passable than others and we’re jealous of you… I would say someone’s history of crossdressing fantasies is showing (not that I criticize you for that, just own up to it, because it’s painfully obvious to everyone else).

  • Sweetbrandigirl2004

    @Ginasf: Well doctor Gina guess what your wrong again I’ve Never cross dressed EVER in my entire LIfe ! Before transitioning to my true self I never had worn clothes of the opposite gender and no I don’t own fetish clothing It’s not my think i’m a real women and have no use for shit like that unless it’s halloween. Likewise a great deal of time thought and soul searching went into finding my name. Just for your information the bikini picture was snapped by my girlfriend just as well were about to leave to go to leave to go to the lake last summer I don’t prance or parade around my house like some fetish crazed transgender cross dresser. I’m a normal women leaving a very normal life and other then my being gay and liking women.

  • Jeffree

    @BinaryBrandi: Promise us that you’ll never wear pants, because y’know, real women don’t don trousers: that’s crossdressing too, amiga.

    It’s so….unladylike. In fact, you should push to have that put into the guidelines that you worship & misquote so frequently.

  • Jane

    The hate you bring to this forum I think really shows a reason why LBGT civil rights is taking so long. We can’t even stand as a group and present a uniform message. Like it or not in the world’s eye we are in the same group. LBGT is considered a group.
    A little bit of truth from me; sometimes I don’t like some cross dressers who give trans women trying to live a normal life a bad stereotype. However; I will fight for their rights just as much as any other LBGT issue because without a united stance it only hurts us as a group. I repeat again we are like it or not in the world’s eyes we are part of the same.

  • Sweetbrandigirl2004

    @Jane: I would correct you theres NO hate in my post nor do I have any hate as you put it for the transgender Inc. I do however feel they try to push their personal agenda and have No vilification for how they “Choose” to live and that they use the diagnosis of gender Identity as vilification. This in my opinion drags TRUE HBS transsexual who DO have a legitimate medical condition under the transgender umbrella and thus people then assume that thew antics we often hear of in the news ie: transgender robs bank, transgender beats elderly man, transgender refuses to cover breast on NJ beach. not to mention the 50 plus cross dressing men who wear inappropriate cloths like mini skirts and way to much make up and go to their local mall. All this type shit has an influences on how normal people see’s Transsexuals and it contributes to how they feel and how they votes and in my opinion these bad decisions by people who aren’t serious about transition or who don’t have a medical condition and aren’t truly on the journey a transsexual is on keep transsexuals from gaining full equality in society after they have made the transition. For the cross dresser they can go home take off the clothes,make up and wig and they can fit back into society retaining all the rights they always had, like wise the on again off a gain transgender can do the same with no loss or burden placed upon them not so for a transsexuals in transition once they begin the process they can hide or take it off once began they are in the mist of a long and difficult metamorphous that can take years to complete.

  • Jane

    @ Brandi
    I dont 100% disagree with you. I once lived with 50+ cd who wore clothes that made me sick to my stomach they were so bad. I live a normal life now and worked very hard at getting there for many years. I agree too that media tends to cover the bad examples of a MtF. Your original comments are in regard to Ashley who Is so passable nobody questioned anything for 2 years. You do not think a real MtF that 100% passes should be able to have that position. I disagree. This article would different if the person in question was a cd that just wanted to wear a bra in public. I do actually support in some cases atleast proving you are transitioning to be able to work as the desired gender.
    If you agree that there is a difference between a cd and a MtF why should a 100% pass able “real” ts not be able to perform her job?

  • Sweetbrandigirl2004

    @Jane: Jane your incorrect I didn’t say I was against Ashley keeping her job. I was responding to Ashley’s question that she posed in her video of what constituted a “Complete” transition and in my opinion GRS surgery complete said transition. The TSA was fully willing to allow her to keep her job if she completed her transition and had GRS. The story doesn’t say what Ashley’s response was but it does say tht she ignored the TSA warning and continued to come to work just as she had and the TSA then had no choice but to take action..

    I’m also against self diagnosis and self treatment as I feel ONLY a trained gender therapist is qualified to make a diagnosis of GID. i also feel a therapist is needed to support an individual while they go through the transition. process it’s not easy as the high numbers of suicide attest to.

  • Sweetbrandigirl2004

    Jane who says Ashley is TS no wherein the story does it say she’s under gone any counseling nor does the story mention her counselor being involved in trying to help work things out with the TSA. The lack of any counselor being mention leads me to believe that she doesn’t have one and is therefore just another self diagnosis self medicating transgender. Thats not to say that she very well couldn’t be TS but without a formal diagnosis we’ll and more importantly shell never know.

  • Jane

    Have you considered some “real” ts’s don’t have the money? Would you rather she choose between a live she hates because she’s broke and probably committ suicide? A trans person knows in their heart their body is wrong. One your on hormones long enough(self or prescribed) things never go back the way they used to be. Asking a trans woman on hormones for over a year is the same as asking you to live as a man. She is a 100% passable woman who obviously did more than put more than put on women’s clothes. This idea that we don’t understand our own feelings is bulls***. I don’t need some stupid therapist to tell me what I already know. It does help to have an endo to monitor my hormone levels so I don’t have a blood clot.
    I self-medicated for about 3 months. Why? Because the area I lived in @ the time had NO resources. I started self-medicated when I couldn’t stab the knife in my heart and drink enough gas to lock up my lungs. Just knowing I had hormones in me changed my life and started the chain reaction which ended in living a normal life.
    Your attitude is what leads to suicides in rural areas and poverished youth.

  • Jane


    When did you know you liked girls? Did you need a therapist to tell what you already knew? I really want to know why you think you don’t need therapy to like women(which used in the dsm) and trans people do? What makes Lesbians more able to process feelings than trans people?

  • Jane

    Badly worded question. I really want to why you dont need therapy and trans people do.

  • tina

    Brandi’s comments also illustrate the utter indifference those of her ilk show towards intersexed people whose gender identity happens to be congruent with their intersexed biology, i.e. they don’t identify as “men” OR “women”, and who don’t want or need SRS- if they were lucky enough to not have it forced on them as infants by hard line binary worshipers bent on “normalizing” them, that is…

    It’s also worth noting that binary-fascist transpeople are usually the most strident in claiming their conditions to be a form of intersex and in so doing support the notion that intersexed people are simply “defective” men and women, who if they are happy with their androgynous gender identity and biology are labeled as crazy by the Brandi’s of the world.

  • factchecker

    @Jaime Renee: Intimate touching should not occur, however your comment is fear mongering and stereotypical, its the same as saying “I don’t want a gay man”
    to touch me, its assuming that opposite gender searches which by the way are non-strip, are somehow bad or folks should have a right, many folks are uneasy about things such as gays and lesbians and tend to judge folks by the gender identity or sexual orientation.

  • factchecker

    @tina: Exactly, while intersex folks are not common, they exist, also one does not have to be intersexed, consider a woman with excessive testosterone
    or a female boxer or body building who chooses not to have children or rejects estrogen.

    It’s their choice

  • factchecker

    @Sweetbrandigirl2004: The perception in the media of crossdressers and perverts over 50 is stereotypical and wrong, much like the “pro-family” groups use images of a predator going into a little girl’s bathroom which in fact such predator would go in anyway. Cross dressing in itself is not being transgender, can a woman for instance cross dress, in religious places a women wearing a pants would be one, notice how you use the term “over 50” to denote a big old pervert man, such terms can be used against gays, for instance is a male fashion designer gay or queer?

  • factchecker

    @Jane: I think brandi’s comment makes not more sense but a reflection of fear and debate, in instances where say a nudity situation occurs, for instance going to a locker room where there are gang showers and no privacy, many folks would object or have mixed feelings, however in these situations mere discomfort such as when trans folks use the restroom discreetly and just doing their business its different.

    Ashley however is taking hormones , and of course we need not stereotype and say so and so is taking hormones at this stage so they are transgender, and this situation does not rise to that to extent, although its a debate followed up later.

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