Initial choice
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - March 24, 2019 - 12:00am

Furious at how some companies give you no option but to choose between "Male" or "Female"?

Well, here comes some relief from that binary oppression. United Airlines is leading the way in allowing passengers to choose what to reveal (or even, not reveal) about themselves. Moving forward, passengers who want to book a flight on that airline can now self-identify as something else rather than just "M" or "F".

According to airline industry news, United Airlines passengers can also choose "U" which doesn't mean "unfulfilled" or "unloved", but rather "undisclosed", or also "X" which could mean "extra sexual", but really just means "unspecific". (Huh? Where's the "X" in there?!)

Welcome aboard, Mx. Thing!

From the site, came this airline statement: "United is determined to lead the industry in LGBT inclusivity, and we are so proud to be the first US airline to offer these inclusive booking options for our customers," said United's chief customer officer Toby Enqvist.

"(We are) excited to share with our customers, whether they identify along the binary of male or female or not, that we are taking the steps to exhibit our care for them while also providing additional employee training to make us even more welcoming for all customers and employees.”

So that's the laudable intent behind the initiative. Never mind that there are probably other initials that could have been included among the choices, like "G" for "gorgeous", "B" for "bitchy" or "T" for "trendy". The good news is, from two choices, one now has four!

I wonder whether other airlines, including our very own Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, will follow suit. Considering that some countries already allow their citizens to indicate their transgender status on their passports, I'm sure these airlines are now having difficulty reconciling the data found on the passports with their own records.

I can just imagine an airport clerk looking at the electronic booking of a queer passenger and comparing it to the passport that Madame glamazon just brandished prior to check-in. (An ordeal our transgender friends always have to go through when passing through the immigration authorities of different countries). So this move might actually make it easier to reconcile the passport with the face.

This optionality might also work better to create data anonymity or shield data privacy, which some conscientious objectors to ubiquitous and uncontrolled data sharing have been advocating. Given the recent emphasis by our data guardians on strengthening data privacy measures in the private and public sectors, allowing passengers to choose "U" is actually a mode of respecting their preference to maintain their privacy.

As an even better plus, the move to allow non-disclosure might elicit more pleasant surprises when a "Kelly" comes barreling through the airport, and it's not Kelly Garrett, the beautiful female detective, but a mild-mannered businessman jetting off to inspect his vast enterprises. Or a "Jose Antonio" glides in, and s/he looks more like a Jane Anne. What a wonderful anecdote to bring home for the day, right?

I've flown United Airlines before, having been gifted with "free" tickets by friends connected with the airline. Not an unpleasant experience, and given that it's been around for a gazillion years, one must admit the airline knows how to build customer loyalty. With this latest customer surprise, it remains to be seen though whether United will delight more people than it disgusts. (The rabid homophobes must be frothing at their snouts).

What say U?

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