In a big win for aspiring pilot Adam Harry who identifies as a transgender as well as the entire community, the aviation safety regulator has for the first time framed new medical guidelines that allow transgender persons who have completed their gender transition therapy or surgery to be declared fit to fly. An ongoing hormone therapy will also not be a ground for disqualification.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation on August 10 issued guidelines for aeromedical evaluation of transgender persons for obtaining medical clearance for all categories of pilot’s license- private pilot’s license, student’s pilot license and commercial pilot license. These say that transgender candidates who have completed their hormone therapy and gender affirmation surgery more than five years back will be declared medically fit provided they clear screening for mental health in accordance with World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
If transgender applicants have completed the treatment within the past five years, they will have to undergo a psychological and psychiatric evaluation apart from a detailed report from their treating endocrinologist as well as a report from the surgeon, if there has been a surgery within the past one year. After an evaluation of these submissions, applicants can be declared fit.
Where candidates are on a life-long hormone therapy, as in the case of 23-year-old Adam Harry they will be considered fit if they have reached a stable dose. In April 2020, an ongoing cross sex hormone therapy was cited as a ground for refusing Mr. Harry medical clearance who was asked to seek a review once he was “off medications”, which virtually disqualified him for the rest of his life.
Where an aspirant has only recently started a hormone treatment, or has seen a change in the dose being administered, the person will be declared unfit for three months following which a review can be sought.
However, transgender pilots “may” have some limitations imposed such as being allowed to only fly as first officers (junior pilots) or when they are flying as pilot-in-command their co-pilot has to have 250 hours of flying on that particular type of aircraft or the co-pilot has to be a senior captain who is a trainer.
“I am very happy with the DGCA’s decision. This is the first time the DGCA has changed its stance for transgender persons. This will not only encourage other transgender persons dreaming to be pilots to come out of the closet, but everyone in the community to pursue the career of their choice. It is a big win for the transgender community,” Adam Harry told The Hindu.
The Hindu reported on July 3 about Mr. Harry, who is the first transgender trainee pilot with a private pilot license from South Africa being unable to complete his training in India after the DGCA in April 2020 rejected his medical clearance needed to obtain a student’s pilot license. Following which the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment wrote to the DGCA on July 11 calling its policy “discriminatory” and in violation of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2019 and demanded “guidelines for licensing” for transgender persons.
It has been a six-year-long battle for Mr. Harry to become a pilot. In 2016, he left his hometown Thrissur for South Africa to train at Sky Hawk Aviation Academy in Johannesburg, but after he came out as a trans-man on a social media post, his parents forced him to return to India and put him under house arrest for nearly 10 months. He then fled his home and found a family among the transgender community in Ernakulum and started to make a living at a juice parlour. In 2019, the Kerala government awarded him a scholarship to complete his training at the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology in Thiruvananthapuram. But everything came to a halt when he appeared for a medical examination to secure a student pilot’s license.