Writer Christine Rodriguez has been travelling a lot for work lately, going in and out of airports regularly to get to festivals and media events.
But with the return to air travel has come an unpleasant experience: Rodriguez has had her hair searched by airport security agents three times in less than two months.
The third time it happened was about two weeks ago, at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
“I was really upset because it’s just, it’s not random. It’s happening to me, like, every time I travel,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, who has a mixed racial background, often wears her crown of brown hair in a ponytail.
Even when she undid her ponytail and shook her hair out at the security gate, the agents said they would have to check her hair with their own hands, she said.
“They don’t seem to understand that it’s deeply offensive and invasive,” she added.
Rodriguez said the searches, which took place at three different Canadian airports, happened after she had entered the body scan machine at the security gate.
The first time, on May 20, Rodriguez said she thought the request was a joke but went along with it because the agent conducting the search was a Black woman.
“I didn’t feel too threatened because she probably could relate to my experience,” Rodriguez said.
The second time it happened was in June, and the third, two weeks after that. The checks began to feel like a “physical violation”.
Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), which is responsible for the screening of people and baggage at airports across the country said it cannot comment on a specific case until it has investigated an official complaint. The federal agency aims to screen people in a respectful and professional manner. It encouraged Rodriguez to file a complaint, which she says she has done.