I Have the Right.
I have the right to opt out of the TSA body scanners. I have the right to stand there, politely, and wait for someone to manually inspect my diabetes devices. I have the right to decline to send my medical devices through the scanning machines. I don’t make unreasonable demands during airport security screenings, and I follow the rules as they are laid out to me.
But, rules or not, I have the right to be treated like a human being, instead of having a flock of TSA agents stand beside me and talk about my diabetes devices – the one attached to my body, not theirs – without even looking at me. And when they do look at me, and I try to smile at them to remind that I just want this to be cool and easy and not a big deal, they don’t even acknowledge me. But I’m supposed to let them touch me. Most often, the agents treat me as they'd like to be treated, but over the weekend in San Francisco, it was more "do as I say and don't question my authority."
I have the right to be listened to. I don’t expect every TSA agent to be familiar with the devices I am wearing, which is why I am happy to answer any and all questions. I do want to help. “What is that? I’ve never seen that before,” the TSA agent says to her supervisor, pointing to the Dexcom G4 transmitter bulge on my left thigh. They both lean in, close to my body, and stare for a few seconds. “It’s a diabetes device, a continuous glucose monitoring device,” I say. “I was asking my supervisor, ma’am. Not you,” is the response. Oh? Cool.
I have the right to lose my patience, too. I don’t exactly want to be wearing these devices. I’d kind of rather not have diabetes, or to have to discuss it in great, but ignored, detail at airport screenings in front of dozens of people. I’m trying to be really, really smooth about this whole thing because I’m pretty sure the TSA agents see a lot of nonsense during the course of their day, but why can’t they extend me the same courtesy?
I have the right to request to be shielded from embarrassment. I get embarrassed when I explain that the sensor and transmitter are physically attached to my body, and you ask me ten times if I can just remove it and send it through the scanner. I get embarrassed when I have to show it to one, then three, then five different people. I get embarrassed when I see women watching me through the glass as they put their shoes back on, humiliated on my behalf as they see the TSA agents asking me repeatedly to lift my shirt to show the pump, or roll up my pants leg to show the sensor. Why are these screenings not the same, across the board? If I had known this screening was going to be such a crummy one, I would have definitely taken them up on the private screening room option. Sure, I am read the same boilerplate each time, but the physicality of the screening varies so much. Most of the time, I am not embarrassed. But for the times when I am, that embarrassment is thorough and complete.
I have the right to request that my decisions be respected. Why does the agent have to roll their eyes when I respectfully request an opt-out? “All of those devices can go through the x-ray machine, and you can go through the body scanner,” is what I’m often told, and when I decline (again, respectfully), I get stared down, as if I’m a jerk for wasting their time. I don’t mean to disrupt the flow of their day, but they made me feel like a crumb, like I did something wrong for wearing these devices and opting out of the scanner devices. For making a choice I have the right to make.
I treat you with respect, and courtesy, and I try to make the screenings at airports as pleasant as I can. I am only asking for the same in return. “We’re just doing our jobs,” is the reason given for this lack of respect, and that’s supposed to be justification. “I’m just minding my health,” is my reason for making the decision to wear these devices, and yet I’m treated at best like a criminal and, at worst, like an animal at the zoo.
It's not about the TSA knowing everything about diabetes. It's about being treated with respect. I'm angry, and I have that right.