Breast Forms in Checked Luggage vs Carry on Bag
What You Need To Know Before Your Upcoming Trip
It is not hard to imagine that airport security can be daunting for someone who is transgender. When it comes to traveling with a silicone breast form, they face similar challenges to people who have survived breast cancer. Body scanners pick up breast prostheses, and if a TSA agent is inexperienced, this can cause awkward situations.
Due to the nature of this silicone prosthesis, it is best to travel with them in a carry-on bag, but if that is not possible, they can be included in a checked bag. Let us have a look at some pros and cons of each option.
Airport Security and Silicone Breast Forms
A breast prosthesis, whether for a cancer survivor or a transgender woman, is considered a medical necessity, so they are not subject to weight limits or the 3-1-1 rule. However, they must still be scanned.
Wearing breast forms
When you wear breast forms, security staff are not allowed to ask you to show them or remove them at any point. If that happens, calmly ask to speak to a supervisor and alert officers to your rights. If proper procedures are not followed, it is important not to start arguments with staff or be rude, but rather to file a formal complaint as soon as the check is complete.
Usually, when TSA scanners detect prosthesis, you will require a pat-down by an airport staff member of the same gender. For trans people, this is dependent on the gender that you identify with, not what is stated on your legal documents. The pat-down is fairly thorough, so it is best to be prepared for that experience. You can ask for it to be done in a private area.
If you do not want to go through the scanner, you can request from the start to just undergo the pat-down. The actual pat-down itself will only take a few seconds, and if all goes well, the time you spend at the security checkpoint will not be excessive. If you are still anxious about it, you can register for a TSA pre-check.
If you wear your prosthesis during your flight, you will benefit from making sure that the bra fits you well. If the bra fits well, it is not noticeable, and you can comfortably wear your prosthesis for the duration of your flight.
If you pack your silicone prostheses in a checked bag, they will also still be scanned, and there is a chance that the bag will be searched by security staff. They will also need to be stored in zip lock bags as additional protection against damage but can otherwise be stored with your other things. Due to the price of breast prosthesis, many people prefer not to leave them in checked bags for fear of theft or damage, either during baggage screening or transportation.
If you pack them in a specialized storage container for your breast forms, it can also be checked or carry on. The special container will still need to go through screening and be x-rayed, but because they are prostheses, they are considered medically necessary and will not be subject to the 3-1-1 rules. Even when using a special container, it is still best to place them in a ziplock bag as well.
If you are traveling within the US, then TSA personnel are not allowed to confiscate your breast forms from carry-on bags during screening. They will be picked up during the screening process for carry-on bags, and this might lead to additional screening, but remember that you are able to request that this be done in private. You can also request for this private screening to be done with a companion if you are not comfortable attending it alone.
If you are traveling abroad, it is best to research security about silicone breast forms in that country ahead of time. Know what your rights are and what would be the best way to store them. For example, a country like Saudi Arabia might have wildly different security rules than can be expected in the US.
Breast Cancer Survivors and Transgender Women
As you can imagine, trans women are not the only demographic that makes use of silicone breast forms. They are also commonly used by breast cancer survivors. While this is important to acknowledge, the rules remain the same. A silicone breast form is a medical necessity and should be treated accordingly.
Breast forms are not subject to the liquids rule and are considered necessary for management of a medical condition. Sometimes this condition is cancer sometimes;, it is gender dysphoria.
Body Scanners and a Metal Detector
It might be helpful to fill out a notification card for airport security ahead of time. This way, you can let them know about the prosthesis in advance. As mentioned before, if you do not feel comfortable with the body scan, you can request to skip it and instead undergo the pat-down. But at least one of those is compulsory for everyone.
At this point, a breast form might trigger new security systems, although a body scanner will not harm the breast form. If the scanner picks them up, you will likely need to be manually checked by a female security officer. You can request for this to be done in a private screening area.
Remember that if you are wearing a prosthesis in the form of silicone breasts, no person employed by Homeland Security TSA may ask you to expose any part of your body, especially not something like your bra, or to lift your clothing, or even to remove a part of clothing to expose your skin.
If you are worried about anything like this happening, you can have a letter stating that you are wearing and have packed medical prosthetics. This letter needs to be provided by a doctor. This is not necessary to have but is allowed if you feel it will bring you peace of mind.
Interactions with the Transportation Security Administration
Security staff is trained to treat you with respect. However, if you do run into problems, the golden rule is never to start a fight, show aggression towards, or be rude to TSA agents. You could be subject to serious criminal charges for such behavior.
It is always the hope that professionals will treat you with respect, but unfortunately, it does not always come to pass. You are required to stay calm and follow the correct procedures. Do not stop a TSA agent from completing their duties. Calmly and respectfully alert them to your civil rights, ask to speak to a supervisor, etc.
If all else fails, lodge an official complaint after the fact.
What to Expect In-Flight
Many people who wear this sort of prosthesis on the plane report feeling them expand due to air pressure. Although this can be a strange sensation, you do not need to worry; it should not damage the prosthesis.
You can also expect to see some small black dots forming within the prosthesis. This does not damage them and is part for the course when dealing with the air pressure associated with flying. You will still be able to wear them in-flight, and the black dots will disappear within two weeks.