Transgender TSA Agent Who Was Forced to Pat Down Men Wins Settlement

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Damian Dovarganes/AP

Ashley Yang at LAX on August 4. She was fired last year after being forced to identify as a man at work.

Managers at Los Angeles International Airport commanded a woman, who was originally male before undergoing hormone therapy, to pat down male passengers and use the men’s restroom.

Ashley Yang, 29, was living her life as a woman, dressing in more feminine clothing, using the ladies’ room and wearing her hair long.

That kind of behavior was apparently not acceptable to managers in Los Angeles International Airport. In order to keep her job as a security checkpoint screener, managers allegedly forced her to cut her hair and dress as a man, citing the fact that she had not had physical surgery to change her sexual identity. However, California recognizes her as a woman on her driver’s license.

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Yang reportedly received verbal harassment from passengers, recognizing her still-feminine appearance and saying comments such as “I haven’t had a girl touch me for a long time.”

When she complained to her supervisors, saying their treatment constituted sex discrimination, they fired her. She had been working at LAX for two years.

Yang filed a civil rights suit and received five months of back pay and tens of thousands of dollars in a settlement. LAX now requires sensitivity training to prevent future incidences.

Yang hopes that her story will allow the larger LGBT movement to gain ground in a country that has yet to accept them.

“I really want to change those policies,” Yang told the Transgender Law Center, who helped her file her claim. “I really want to push forward in some way and use my story as a leverage for those before so that I can somehow help others in the future.”

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Zachary Cohen is a contributor for TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Zachary_Cohen. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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