Deaf man writes that TSA agent mocked him as “F*cking deafie,” then stole his candy, ate it

Update (June 12): The young author of the post alleging mistreatment by the TSA contacted Boing Boing to request that we delete/unpublish this blog post, explaining that he hadn't intended the story to "go viral." He then took down his account from his Tumblr (which, before this widely re-posted item, appears to have been a small personal blog read by a small number of real-world friends). Today, the TSA also published this post at the official TSA blog. Snip: "A close examination of the video during this timeframe indicates that officers working the checkpoint were professional and appropriate with all passengers." The author of the original Tumblr post told Boing Boing he wants privacy.

teaandtheatre, who is deaf, writes about an upsetting incident of "ableist" or "audist" harassment he claims to have received from the TSA, while going through a screening at the Louisville, Kentucky airport.

He explains that he was returning home from the National Association for the Deaf's biennial conference, with friends who'd attended the same event for deaf rights advocacy. He writes on Tumblr that he wrote the post as a kind of heads-up for other deaf folks, but it has gone viral outside of that community. Snip:

While I was going through the TSA, some of them started laughing in my direction. I thought it might’ve been someone behind me, but I found out otherwise.

They went through my bag (for no reason), and found a couple bags of candy I brought. I was told I wasn’t allowed to fly with that (wtf? I’ve flown with food before — these were even sealed still because I brought them right in the airport). I was then asked if I would like to donate the candy “To the USO”. Since I know the airport there has an Air National Guard base, and I figured it would go to the soldiers, I (annoyed) said sure, why not?

The guards, as I was getting scanned, started eating the candy they just told me was for the soldiers. In front of me, still laughing at me (very clearly now). One of them asked why they were laughing, and one of them came up to me, pointed at my shirt, laughed at me and said, “Fucking deafie”. The Louisville TSA called me a “fucking deafie” and laughed at me because I was deaf, and they expected wouldn’t say anything back (or wouldn’t hear them). Make no bones about it — she was facing me and I read her lips. There was no mistake. I would later find out that they had called at least 4 other individuals the same thing.

Read the rest here. I have contacted the TSA to inquire about the reported incident. In subsequent posts, the author —who says he was not expecting the story be so widely read—adds,

Does it make me angry? Sure, I made that post didn’t I? But it’s like…..a 3 or 4 out of the 10 of some of the other stuff. It’s just a day in the life of being deaf.

In other words, it's not just the TSA. Dealing with non-deaf assholes is a routine part of daily life for people who are deaf.

More in our happy-fun TSA archives.


  1. There is a small minority of utter douchebags in this world. Perhaps they’re less than 1% of the population, but they are there. If someone sticks out in a crowd, they are sometimes singled out by these utter douchebags for random harassment. (And I make no bones about it — they are doing it “for the lulz.”) 

      1.  I really have to ask that this kind of language stop right here.  I have known a lot of douchebags in my time, and I’m sure that they would be really offended at being compared to TSAs.

        1.  I’m pretty sure that douchebags will apply to well-paying jobs as well. TSA has well-paid supervisors and managers, and I don’t think that they’re any better than the lower-ranking people.

          I think it’s more, “create a job that only douchebags would enjoy doing, get douchebags.”

      1. Too bad the government gives them free reign to rape people, pull out their catheters and colostomy bags, and dump beloved relatives’ cremains all over the terminal, without the risk of being retaliated against or going to prison like the rest of the serfs we as Americans apparently are now.

  2. It’s time for Congressional hearings. These A**HOLES have to be removed from our nation’s air terminals and put into the unemployment line.

    1. It is well past time for that.  It is time that we subject Congresscritters to the same indiginites they force us to endure everytime we fly.  No secret handshake or but I’m a congresscritter bypassing security checks.  Make sure they are treated to the same asshattery all in the name of “safety”.

      It is time to demand that people stop listening to the talking heads to tell them the problem is we don’t have enough of this.  That people consider that this is nothing but a waste of tax dollars giving a bunch of people hired from the tops of pizza boxes power trips.

      Someone cue Blogger Bob up to say how this is an isolated incident and doesn’t reflect the total amount of asshattery people endure from the TSA every day.

      How much more are we just going to accept these thugs doing before we do more than complain into the void of the internet.  Scare a congressman, send a well written non-form letter explaining that this is unacceptable in America and if they don’t work on ending this program, your going to work on ending their time in office by voting for anyone but them in the next election.  It is time we get over the red state vs blue state bullshit they distract us with, these asshats allow this to continue – its time we elect new asshats to replace them and keep doing it until they understand they are supposed to represent us and if they fail to do that they will be replaced.

  3. I get the impression that, in the wake of 9/11, instead of making airport security actually good, they instead decided to just give extra power to the idiots who failed to prevent it in the first place.

    1. Maybe they’re hoping that if they keep this up, no one will want to fly anymore and the airlines will just go away. No air travel = safe air travel!

    2. It’s the NeoAusterity – the govt. can only justify paying so much for a Groper these days that the worst kind of ignorant, uneducable SCUM are attracted to the job.

  4. Mods: Thanks for your speedy removal of that moronic comment by shit-for-brains waldowv. Please tell me you deleted his account.

  5. In the dozens of flights I’ve taken since the formation of the TSA, I have yet to find an agent who is nearly as much of a jerk as this one. In fact, they all seem to go out of their way, at least to some degree, to apologize for the inconveniences they’re required by the Feds to impose upon me. That being said, there’s no excuse for what the agent did in this case.

    1.  I think that by this point, the kinds of incidents that are severe enough to make it to places like boingboing is an indicator of many more less severe incidents where an individual’s dignity is injured by a TSA agent and of a systemic failure.
      If we really want security and the preservation of human dignity at the same time, we’re not going to get it at wage levels that compete with fast food labor.   Either we have to pay a lot more money and hire actual professionals who are well heeled in this sort of work and we have to pay for it, or we just get rid of these useless monkeys whose theater of security has become tiresome, useless, and toxic.

      1.  I’ve got news for you: even among well-paid professionals, occasional slimebags make an appearance. Less often, true, but still too often.

      2. If we really want security and the preservation of human dignity at the same time, we’re not going to get it at wage levels that compete with fast food labor.

        TSA screeners are paid a lot more than fast food workers. They’re fully-benefitted, good jobs in the current world economy.

        Pay Band Minimum Maximum
        A $17,083 $24,977
        B $19,570 $28,546
        C $22,167 $33,303
        D $25,518 $38,277
        E $29,302 $44,007
        F $33,627 $50,494
        G $39,358 $60,982
        H $48,007 $74,390
        I $58,495 $90,717
        J $71,364 $110,612
        K $85,311 $132,237
        L $101,962 $155,500
        M $120,236 $155,500

        The above rates are basic pay rates and do not include locality pay. 2011 and 2012 basic pay rates are limited to $155,500. 2011 and 2012 adjusted pay rates (base pay plus locality) are limited to $172,550.

        This is for ALL TSA employees. Most people will not be in those bottom few tiers, and minimum pay is usually a probationary rate.

        In addition to rewarding work, you will be eligible for numerous benefits during your career with TSA.

        – A wide choice of health insurance programs
        – Personal leave days for vacation, illness, and family care
        – Ten paid holidays per year
        – Paid training
        – Fully portable Thrift Savings Plan (similar to a 401(k))
        – Non-taxable Flexible Spending Accounts for out-of-pocket medical or dependant expenses
        – Transportation subsidies
        – Defined benefit retirement plan
        – Flexible work schedules
        – Employee recognition program
        – Life and long-term care insurance
        – Employee Assistance Program
        – Uniform allowance
        – Telework

        These kind of benefits generally add 25-50% to the value of base pay.

          1. The source?  I’ve worked for large organizations.  New employees are usually probationary for 3 to 6 months and receive a low initial rate with a substantial increase if they pass probation.

    2. While this goes beyond the pale (assuming the victim correctly lip-read “deafie” and the TSO wasn’t making an innocent comment about the “yummy fuckin’ taffy” our deaf friend had just unwittingly donated to a  TSO instead of the USO), there is a definite contingent of power-tripping jerks in the TSA ranks.

      A TSA supervisor recently offered me a choice between throwing away my infant’s dinner because it was too liquidy, or keeping it sealed and submitting my entire family (wife, children, myself) to pat-downs and thorough searches of all our belongings.  The TSOs who performed the searches (yes, I accepted) were indeed apologetic.  One flat out said (once the supervisor was out of earshot) that he thought it was unnecessary and stupid–as he swabbed my four year old for explosive residue.   But the supervisor was totally out of line.  His behavior had nothing to do with keeping people safe and everything to do with lording his power over my wife and me.

      1. I was questioning the term “deafie” –  It’s not a slur I’ve heard about.  It sure seemed like a weird thing to say unless it’s somehow a regional, Kentucky thing.

        So, upon quick internet research (I know), it seems “deafie” is primarily a term deaf people use within their community.

        So, with that, I’m really wondering if a hearing person (in Kentucky) used the word as a slur against this guy.  Therefore I’m gonna question whether they said “USO” as well.

        None of this releases the TSA from their constant offenses, of course.  I’m just not fully on board with this one happening as reported.

  6. 9/11 countermeasures fall in to three categories: 1) stuff that would actually have had some impact on the events of 9/11,  2) Orwellian stuff that some have wanted to do for a long time to build their power bases but were previously thwarted by constitutionality, 3) random stuff done purely as proof against the accusation that “you haven’t done anything”. I think the TSA is pretty solidly in that last group. 

  7. Given how the airline treated them after they arrived and found their luggage had been misrouted (would only talk to them by phone), they probably should also have pulled up “United Breaks Guitars” on their laptops at full volume…

  8. PLEASE do not share this post and this story.  The person who wrote it has repeatedly requested that people NOT send this viral.  He is concerned for negative consequences for himself and other people with disabilities.

    He was venting primarily to other people with disabilities.  This post has gone way past what he wants.  He explicity has said he does not consent to efforts to make this post viral.

      1. Astroturfing is when a political or commercial entity poses as individuals or a grassroots movement in order to manipulate public opinion. Unless you think Julia S. is a TSA plant, using it in your post the way you did doesn’t really make sense, and implies a sinister motive on Julia’s behalf that isn’t justified.

  9. Folks,
    The PERSON TO WHOM THIS HAPPENED publicly asked that NOONE repost this incident without his EXPLICIT CONSENT.  (Please read the rest of his blog for his reasoning and frustration over being posted to BoingBoing). 

  10. @Alexander Langshall @Julia S., I’m sincerely sorry if that is the case (not being sarcastic here), but that was not clear to me at the time I wrote this post. The post I linked to made no mention of that wish (at least not at the time, perhaps it’s been modified since). It was a public post, not protected in any way. Nowhere in the post did the author explain he did not wish for others to link to it, or discuss it.

    The fact that you cannot control the spread of something published online without access restrictions is something those of us who work on the internet at large sites like Boing Boing understand.

    But I recognize that not everyone with a Tumblr read by friends and family understands this.

    I can see how that would be stressful and upsetting for someone who did not foresee such a situation.

    At this point, however, it is too late. You can’t “take back” something that’s out there on the internet in front of millions already. Believe me, I know. 

    I have, however, tried to compose this post in a respectful and non-exploitative manner. I hope it leads to greater understanding.

    1. It seems like you can do everything right and things still go pear shaped. Sorry, Xeni.

      There is an unfortunate history of the Deaf being treated like second- and third- class citizens in this country, and while this is an example of the TSA being themselves, the unfortunate reality is that it is not out of the ordinary for Deaf people in this country to be treated this way on a daily basis.

      It would be nice if a call for better treatment and understanding of the Deaf was the message that goes about the signal-noise ratio. 

    2.  I understand once it’s out there, it’s out there. He says in his blog he vented, went to lunch, and came back to holy shit 600 note.  I think he was also thinking this would be discussed within the community of people with disabilities, not the large able bodied community. I do think your article is respectful and non-exploitative, especially given the information you had at the time.

      From what he wrote, part of his concern is the intense anger that other people are having.  He says:

      “Honestly, I want an apology from these people and an opportunity to educate them. That’s it. 
      This has turned into disability porn because these people are crying over it, talking about how they want to “move to canada”, and honestly just…..wanking over it and making it more dramatic than it really was. They’re angrier than I am. They’re sadder than I am. They’re calling for vengeance while I’m not. The guy it actually happened to. What the shit, people. This is not ok.”

      It’s definitely a difficult situation the information has been released into the wild and there is no way to stop that. Presented with the same information, at the time I would have done the same thing you did.

      What I would love now is to encourage people to be mindful about how and why they’re sharing this person’s  story. 

      The shirt he’s wearing says: “nothing about us without us” is the idea that policies should not be made about marginalized groups without their direct & full involvement. I would strongly suggest people read his own words and try to be guided by what he wants to happen to his own case .  He says he wants an apology & an opportunity to educate.

      A different person in a different situation might want all the viral righteous anger of the internet (which is a powerful and amazing force). It’s just in this specific case, this person would prefer people act on his behalf (creating petitions, organizing complaint calls, etc) without asking him first.

      1. It’s the fact that he’s not the first nor even the hundredth person to suffer at the gloved hands and ignorant jerky minds of the TSA, that makes people as angry as they are, I think, for many of them. $0.02

  11. My favorite part of this story was when the fed up multitudes of American air travelers en masse pushed passed the stunned and impotent TSA minders and staged a world wide sit-in on commuter planes across the country and the world; grounding thousands of planes and causing a massive and unprecedented aviation stoppage that led to Congressional hearings and complete upheaval of pointless and draconian security theatre in favor of a system that no longer treats people like chattel and instead focuses on subtle, proven effective threat detection…

    Yeah, that part was awesome.  The rest of the story was rather rage-inducing, as is all too often the case when the TSA gets BB’s attention.

  12. there’s a link on that red colored word that says “TSA” under the story next to the words “READ MORE”.  It brings up an unimaginably horrible list things done to innocent travelers in the recent past – from little girls getting fondled to old women with colostomy bags.  Oh even the dead aren’t safe.  I can’t believe people stand for this.  They’re really won haven’t they?  The terrorists, the government, everyone who got together and caused this through action or reaction, direct, and indirect.

  13. I did a bit of a google on TSA complaints and found a posting at ProPublica. Michael Grabell writes, “In my first week at ProPublica in June 2008, I filed a public records request for the agency’s complaint files.” FOUR years later they finally send him the info.

    Its a list that covers only 9 months, has approximately 40 complaints per page and is EIGHTY-SEVEN pages long! That is almost Three Thousand Five Hundred complaints, or 9 per day.

    I’m not sure about link posting in comments, so this should do if anyone wants to check it out for themselves: propublica dot org/article/tsa-reveals-passenger-complaints-four-years-later

    and the 87 pages: propublica dot org/documents/item/352371-tsa-complaints-3-1-08-to-12-31-08 dot html

    Given the reports I keep seeing posted across the ‘Net, there’s some serious smoke showing that there’s one hell of a fire burning.

    1. page 13, item TSA-080328-030, 3/10/2008: “Student is proposing that TSA consider using backscatters to screen passengers so that everyone would be searched instead of only minorities being subjected to certain screening.”

      wow… i wonder how he feels about their implementation. :)

    1. The thing is, a lot of them should be banished to the wilds of the Sandia salt flats where they would be forced to crush boulders for pavement gravel until they die of heatstroke. There’s no excuse for the kind of shit the TSA keeps pulling.

      The whole organization seems to be run by psychopaths: No fear of punishment or retribution, no desire to normalize behavior to the level of human decency, constant manipulation of others, preying on the elderly, the very young and the infirm and the disabled

    1. Sure! Do you have high speed rail that goes cross-country and cross-continent in your back pocket?

  14. These agents should be hung from the nearest light post, and their supervisors should be thrown in jail for the rest of their lives.  This tyranny must end!

    1. Yeah… but I bet you also called for the death of the guy in line in front of you at McDonalds when he got the last McRib, too, so excuse me if I decline your bandwagon.

  15. About a year ago I was going through the commuter terminal in San Diego and noticed the metal detectors were closed off and everyone was being directed to go through the Rapiscanners. I’m a frequent flier and up until then I made sure everything I wore through security was metal free and wouldn’t set off the detector just so I wouldn’t have to deal with secondary searches involving the scanners that I’ve read so much about here on Boing Boing. Also, it wasn’t long before this I had a suspicious mole on my arm removed so I wasn’t keen on increasing my already moderate risk of getting skin cancer. I politely told the TSA agent that I wanted to opt out of the scanner for the pat down. 

    There weren’t many agents available and I had to wait a while, my husband was already through and  wondering where I was. About a dozen people passed me as I stood near the entrance to the scanners, (a couple of families with little kids) and it probably would have taken longer if I hadn’t been paged over the intercom (my credit card had fallen out of my husband’s bag, I asked him to hold onto it while I dug for my passport in the line up). The TSA agent was clearly annoyed and finally asked another agent to take me to the secondary screening area where I was to get patted down.I had gotten pat downs before and had no problem with it, but this was prior to the more aggressive pat down policies that were recently put in place. The woman was indeed aggressive, barking questions at me  about medical devices (I told her I had an internal implant on my spine and she didn’t seem to understand what that meant until I explained that it was UNDER the skin); she didn’t pat down but pressed hard, almost pushing me over a few times as she flattened her hands on my butt and back. And of course, the genital area thwack. I thought I was braced for this, thought I had all the right things to say, but after it was done I was physically shaking, in shock. And I was angry.I bitched about it on Twitter and when I got home, wrote complaint letters to both the TSA and Alaska Airlines but the responses were disinterested at best. TSA: “we did everything proper”,  Alaska: “Sorry, nothing we can do, you should complain to the TSA.”And every trip to the US since has been a massive stress fest. In fact, I’ve actively avoided going to the US by air unless absolutely necessary. It’s also why a part of me is glad to be missing SDCC this year.I just can’t understand why so many are okay with this happening. Police aren’t allowed to do half of this shit but jumped up security guards can?  What the fuck is happening to the country?

  16. This is deplorable, but I was just wondering that if the TSA agents are eating food they have confiscated from travellers, then isn’t it really dangerous ? What stops someone from injecting harmful chemicals into their muffins and candies (err … laxative/cyanide) ?! This is really callous, in addition to being insensitive, attitude on their part. 

    1. I believe that there is absolutely nothing that stops travellers from putting a hilarious amount of laxative into some tempting but forbidden treats that they might accidentally forget to leave at home.

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