Current Affairs

Psychological tests for trans pilots in US is abandoned owing to a one-woman campaign

Christopher Brocklebank August 23, 2012
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Psychological testing for trans people who wish to become pilots has been abandoned after one woman sustained a three-year campaign.

Tamsyn Waterhouse from San Francisco has been flying since she was a child under her father’s supervision.

She gained her private pilot’s license in 2003 at the age of 23.

But when the 32-year-old attempted to get her medical certificate renewed as a post-graduate student in 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration made it almost impossible for her to do so.

“I was in the process of gender transition at the same time,” Ms Waterhouse explains in a Youtube clip posted by the Transgender Law Center.

“The aviation medical examiner I saw had to defer my app to the FAA. And the FAA responded by demanding a litany of psychiatric tests, which one psychologist I spoke to described as ‘every test in the book’.

“It would have taken days and thousands of dollars to undergo the tests and the FAA would still have the discretion as to whether to issue certification after that.”

Ms Waterhouse said she would have been obliged to then retake the test every five years in order to renew her license, again at the FAA’s discretion, when ordinarily, applicants only have to undergo physical, vision and hearing tests.

She said: “Even if I could have paid the money, passed the tests, and got a limited form of certification back, every transgender pilot in the US would be subject to the same discrimination.

“I decided that was unacceptable and so I got in touch with my congressman’s office and transgender law centre.”

Ms Waterhouse enlisted the help of Reps. Mike Honda, D-Calif. and Blarney Frank, D-Mass, as well as the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“Over the course of several years, and a lot of hard work, now we’re proud to announce, finally, that the FAA has removed this unnecessary, burdensome, and prejudicial, psychiatric testing requirement,” she said.

Now neurocognitive testing will only be required of trainee pilots if is clinically indicated.

Ms Waterhouse said she will be applying for a commercial pilot’s license as soon as she has her medical certification back.

Related topics: Americas, national center for transgender equality, national gay and lesbian task force, San Francisco, US, US

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