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Anti-Gay Activist Adds Homophobia to Airport Frisking Controversy

By Evelyn Schlatter on November 24, 2010 - 10:37 am, Posted in Anti-LGBT

As if travelers don’t have enough to worry about when they go through airport security, the leader of a prominent anti-gay hate group has added a dollop of his personal agenda to the mix. With the controversy growing over whether the new full-body scanners and more-aggressive pat-down searches are excessive invasions of privacy, Peter LaBarbera, long-time anti-gay activist and director of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH) is worried that gay Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees will “get turned on” while patting down travelers of the same sex.

LaBarbera’s press release, published on AFTAH’s Web site Nov. 16, came in response to a statement from U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano assuring that members of the same gender would perform checkpoint pat-downs. “Isn’t it just as inappropriate for a ‘gay’ male TSA agent to pat down male travelers as it is for a normal, heterosexual male TSA agent to pat down female travelers?” he wrote. “The reality is, most traveling men would not want Barney Frank to pat them down at the airport security checkpoint. … Neither would it be fair to assign Ellen DeGeneres to pat down female travelers.”

LaBarbera – who has a reputation for going to gay bars and fetish events to snap photos as he conducts “research” into the “homosexual agenda” – is using the concerns of mainstream groups over the new security procedures to stoke his own long-burning anti-gay fires.

U.S. airports increasingly are turning to sophisticated full-body scanners using Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT). An AIT machine produces a detailed three-dimensional image of a person beneath his or her clothing. The Electronic Privacy Information Center calls AIT machines the equivalent of a “physically invasive strip search.” EPIC has filed a lawsuit against DHS to suspend the deployment of AIT machines pending an independent review. The ACLU also has registered complaints about the technology.

Travelers can opt out of going through the AIT scanners – but then they must submit to the TSA’s recently enhanced hand-search standards. Rather than using the backs of the hands to check a person, TSA security personnel now use open hands and fingers on travelers’ bodies, including on breast and genital areas. In one recent incident, a rape survivor stated she was “traumatized” all over again by the procedure.

A public outcry has also accompanied the new standards. Today is “National Opt-Out Day,” organized by We Won’t Fly, which bills itself as a grassroots consumer advocate group. The protest calls on travelers to refuse the electronic scan and choose a pat-down instead, hoping that slowing down airport security lines will amount to a “creative protest.”

But to the mind of LaBarbera – who seems to have no greater calling in life than fretting about gay pleasure – that would just mean more salacious opportunities for homosexual TSA agents to titillate themselves at the expense of travelers. He demands “the TSA should put conditions on employment for self-acknowledged homosexuals.” They should be barred from patting down travelers, “so as to avoid being put in sexually compromising situations.” And if the TSA doesn’t know which of its employees are gay, LaBarbera continues, “Is it fair to travelers who may end up getting ‘groped’ by homosexual TSA agents who are secretly getting turned on through the process?”

Requests for comment from TSA have not been returned.

  • Speedfreely

    Bottom line, everyone is too damn sensitive these days! gay or not, if I got a knife or a gun on my person, I hope that the “gay” or “straight” TSA agent finds it before you (the other passenger) finds out I have it! Our western culture is, in my opinion, becoming tainted with too much sensitivity. This country is split more down the center than it ever has been. this is a dangerous time!

  • Kate De Braose

    Where is the justice in having a fully dressed person groping you and looking at scanners that show your naked body? Are all these employees also scanned and massaged everywhere before they check in for work? I am definitely suspicious now that our wealthier business classes are anxious to have a more cowed and obedient population at their disposal.

    Maybe we need to increase the numbers of FBI personnel so they can investigate likely bombers preemptively instead of wasting time examining little kids who are going on trips to Grandma’s house for the holidays.

    I do not believe for a moment that anyone believes this new routine is necessary for anyone’s safety.

  • Mitch Beales

    The pat down is only as mandatory as flying is. Personally I believe all the airport security that has been put in place since 9/11 is needless theater. The recent changes don’t seem very dramatic to me. The main thing that’s different is that they are being implemented by a Democrat administration. Gender and sexuality are red herrings that have little or nothing to do with the serious erosion of our liberty precipitated by the “Reichstag fire” that was 9/11.

  • John Smith

    TSA agents are NOT doctors and patients have the right to request a same or opposite gender doctor or to refuse treatment. To compare a mandatory pat down for citizens not charged with any crime is a very different situation.

  • Mitch Beales

    I think it goes beyond homophobia to the fear many folks have of anything sexual. I find many women that I encounter quite attractive and yet I have no problem whatsoever behaving appropriately. The fear really goes back to an attitude that sexual impropriety is somehow provoked by the victim and that somehow justifies the behavior of the perpetrator. If there is evidence that inappropriate behavior is more prevalent when the perpetrator finds the victim attractive I’d like to see it.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    I think the problem is that homophobes believe that since homosexuals are attracted to men, they must be attracted to every man. This of course is ridiculous- I would ask such a person if they find every woman attractive.

  • Frank

    Great post, R Lavigueur. You summed it up perfectly.

  • Yvonne

    I agree with R Lavigueur. It’s irrational to assume everyone gets aroused from this sort of situation. Some people actually take their job seriously and I would blame the employers more if they somehow managed to hire someone without an appropriate or mature mindset for their job.
    Similar to what Mitch Beales pointed out: that it would be inappropriate for a man to ever work with a woman in a this type of scenario? It is part of their duty to perform those actions and they probably don’t really enjoy the jobs themselves. They most likely feel just as uncomfortable performing the task as the person receiving the actions. One will only make a fool of themselves by making such rude assumptions.

  • R Lavigueur

    Sympatico’s comment is typical of heterosexual males in western society, who seem to be far more homophobic than heterosexual women. I don’t mean to say that Sympatico is a bigot or anti-gay, by homophobic I mean harbouring an irrational fear of gay men, namely the fear that gay men will sexually prey on them if they come in physical contact with them. The same sorts of fears are being used to argue against repealing DADT, with allusions frequently made to the inappropriate nature of gay men showering with straight men. Of course, none of the these fears have come true in armies where gay men serve openly, nor are gay TSA agents likely to find having to search the bodies of who knows how many irate travellers to find their jobs in any way arousing. But to a lot of straight men, the assumption seems to be: If that man is gay, he’s probably thinking about me sexually right now.

    I think this is because our society so intrinsically links heterosexuality and masculinity that men feel far more vulnerable to being associated with homosexuality than do women. Hence, while fearing that the TSA agent examining them might be sexually preying on them might be characterized as an irrational fear, LaBarbara is likely to win points from the mainstream by leaping on it.

    But what can you do? If its inappropriate for a gay man to have this kind of contact with straight men, does that mean that gay travellers should be able to request an opposite-gender agent? It seems far more likely that arousal (as if any would occur) on the part of the one being touched would be noticed and thus become awkward or uncomfortable. Should doctors too be banned from opposite sex examinations, and which doctors if so? Dentists?

    As Mitch Beales mentioned above, I think it’s far more likely that LaBarbara is worried that his male (straight or gay) TSA agent might find him a little bit excited by the pat down. He wouldn’t be the first anti-gay bigot to be publically outed in a humiliating fashion.

  • Mitch Beales

    Sympatico did you read john’s comment above? Do you really think it’s inappropriate for a male physician to examine a woman?

  • Sympatico

    I have no problem with most homosexuals. However, I fail to understand how reasonable people cannot see how it is inappropriate for a homosexual to be touching bodies of people they may have a sexual interest in.

    I’m a hetero guy. If I were to be putting my hands over every part of the body of female travelers, it would be outrageous! So why do you think it’s different for homos?

  • WMDKitty

    Porno Pete strikes again. *sigh*

    I, for one, wouldn’t mind being “patted down” by Ellen DeGeneres…

  • James Hutchings

    ‘LaBarbara’ is an unfortunate name for an anti-gay activist.

  • Frank

    Oops, it wasn’t Beck, it was another conservative radio show host in central Ohio last Sunday who said the same things. I mixed them up because their voices sound the same to me.

  • john

    Secretary Napolitano assuring same gender pat downs, is an insult to all people. TSA agents are professionals, and not thrilled to be touching anyone. We seem to take one step forward (end of don’t ask don’t tell), then two steps back. LaBarbera has made one thing clear however; we have a long way to go. Can you imagine the idiocy of making hospitals perform same gender exams?

  • Frank

    Glenn Beck repeated this very same nonsense on his show last week. Nice to know where he gets his talking points from (I already knew about Petey’s post before this, though).

  • IludiumPhosdex

    From what I heard, “We Won’t Fly” is actually in that league of sham “grassroots” movements as are actually supported by corporate interests hoping the Great Unwashed will “wholeheartedly” embrace what turns out being a corporate-friendly agenda and articles of faith.

    Otherwise known as “astroturf.”

  • Mitch Beales

    If a “gay TSA agent” became aroused while patting down LaBarbera it seems unlikely that anyone would be the wiser. On the other hand it might be immediately apparent and very embarrassing when LaBarbera becomes aroused during an “enhanced” pat down.

  • Joyce L. Arnold

    LaBarbera’s reputation preceeds his every “homosexual!” scream. When I read the press release a few days ago, it was with a familiar mixture of boredom (I think even the crickets yawn) and concern (because obviously there really are people who listen to him, and those saying similar things, as legitimate sources of factual information).

    Ultimately, of course, like all those who propogate the hateful, inaccurate, manipulative “information” regarding LGBTs (or any other group), LaBarbera can’t be ignored. I hear a good number of people of the heterosexual orientation saying, very sincerely, that being gay and lesbian (very seldom is bisexual; very, very, very seldom is transgender, mentioned) no longer “matters.” “Nobody cares.” Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true. Fewer people “care,” it seems, but the harm done by those who do fixate on the “evilness of homosexuality” do very real harm to very real people.

    Good to see you writing with SPLC.