'I felt unsafe and belittled': Transgender woman says WestJet staff 'outed' her in front of co-passengers

Lenore Herrem was asked to show her ID twice and said that the incident made her a target of stares and comments

                            'I felt unsafe and belittled': Transgender woman says WestJet staff 'outed' her in front of co-passengers
(Source:Getty Images)

Lenore Herrem, who was flying from Calgary to Saskatoon on a WestJet plane, claims that she felt "unsafe" and became a target of various comments and stares after the airline outed her as a transgender woman to the other passengers on her flight. Lenore recalled that the agent at the gate was "upset and confused" when he saw her ID and boarding pass for her flight home to visit her parents.

Even though Lenore's presentation is a female, in her ID, her gender has been marked as male. At the same time, her picture on the ID is also presented as male. "She got upset and said, 'They don't match,' but her colleague said, 'Yes, they do, it's fine, go ahead,'" Lenore said while describing the agent's reaction.

"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," Lenore recalled telling the agent, reported CBC News. After clearing the gate check, Lenore boarded the plane and, ten minutes after being seated on her seat, both the agents who had checked her ID at the gate got into the flight.

She stated that the agent who seemed confused before demanded to see her ID for the second time. "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," Lenore recalled. 

"She rolled her eyes at me and said, 'Are you sure it wasn't your girl name that was on the computer?' She outed me in front of the whole airplane," she further added. Even though Lenore has traveled by air many times, this was the first time she was facing 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."

Egale Canada Human Rights Trust website states that "outing a transgender person against their will can put them in a dangerous or threatening situation and can have significant impacts on their mental health." Lenore states that she often relies on "passing" as a female especially in places that are new because she feels "safer".  "She took that away from me," she said.

WestJet stated that they have apologized to Lenore following 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," the company said in the statement. "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."

Lenore said a WestJet representative told her they will be doing an internal investigation. They also gave her a credit for the flight. I was pleased with the way [the representative] did deal with it. 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," she said.