Lenore Herrem is a transgender woman. She was boarding a flight from Calgary to Saskatoon on Canadian airline WestJet when the gate agent outed her in front of other passengers.
According to Herrem, the agent at the gate seemed ‘upset and confused’ when Herrem presented her ID and boarding pass.
Though Herrem’s gender presentation is female, the gender on her Quebec health card still says ‘male.’ The accompanying photo on the card is from five years ago and shows Herrem presenting male.
‘She got upset and said, “They don’t match.” But her colleague said, “Yes, they do, it’s fine, go ahead,”’ Herrem told CBC News.
‘So I gently and discreetly expressed to her, “It’s because I’m transgender, that’s why they don’t match up. But my face is the same and my ID matches the name on my boarding pass.”’
Herrem boarded the plane and settled in her seat. About ten minutes later, the two gate agents came aboard. The confused agent once again demanded to see Herrem’s ID.
‘She said something like, “Oh, that’s not the name I remember seeing on the computer when I looked at it,” and she started spouting off different, other women’s names that were not mine,’ Herrem recalled.
‘She rolled her eyes at me and said, “Are you sure it wasn’t your girl name that was on the computer?” [The agent] outed me in front of the whole airplane.’
Herrem had never experienced anything like this before. This instance is also the first time she had an issue with her ID.
‘I felt unsafe, vulnerable, belittled,’ she said. ‘I was in shock, it was quite traumatizing having someone, especially the way she did it so loudly and in front of everyone, it was really unprofessional.’
Outing a trans person can have dangerous consequences for their safety as well as their mental wellbeing.
Herrem, like many trans women, relies on ‘passing’ as female to avoid being outed and harassed.
‘She took that away from me,’ Herrem said.
In a statement, WestJet apologized to Herrem and said they are reviewing the incident.
‘WestJet’s inclusive culture is a point of pride for WestJetters and our goal has always been to create a safe and inclusive environment for all,’ an emailed statement to CBC News read.
‘We have extended our apologies to the guest and are reviewing the matter as we are continuously assessing and evolving our practices and policies to maximize inclusiveness and celebrate diversity.’
Herrem said WestJet representative is investigating the incident. WestJet has also given her a credit for that flight.
‘I was pleased with the way [the representative] did deal with it,’ Herrem said. ‘She expressed that they will be implementing training to staff to deal with these sort of situations better in the future which was the most important thing for me to hear.’
Back in 2016, WestJet was listed as one of the safest, budget-friendly airlines by AirlinesRatings.com.