India’s first trans trainee commercial pilot blocked from flying over hormone treatment
Adam Harry, who hopes to become India’s first trans commercial pilot, is fighting for justice after being declared “unfit” to fly because of his medical transition.
Harry told the BBC that he has been flying since before coming out, and that initially his family was funding his studies at an aviation school in South Africa. However, when he came out as transgender, they cut off contact.
Nevertheless, the 23-year-old managed to get a private pilot’s license, allowing him to fly as a hobby, and on returning to India he received funding from the Kerala state government to continue training and secure his commercial license.
But his career aspirations were halted in 2020 when India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told him he was “unfit to fly”.
Harry claims that he was declared unfit after a medical examination because he had started hormone therapy.
Knowing that he would need to be taking hormones for the rest of his life, he told the BBC: “It was like choosing between my career and gender identity.”
“There are many pilots around the world, flying airplanes in their identity,” he added.
“I have a class two medical [clearance] from South Africa Civil Aviation Authority and they did not restrict me from taking hormones or undergoing physical transition.”
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When Harry took his story to the press, it received attention around the world, and thankfully, changes started to take place.
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India’s federal ministry of social justice and empowerment got in touch with the aviation regulator, accusing it of discrimination. It also ordered the regulator to update its policies to be more inclusive of trans employees.
In response, the DGCA said in a press release that hormone therapy would not disqualify Harry from flying, and that finally, two years later, he could reapply for medical clearance as his true self.
While Harry is happy to be able to once again pursue his dream of becoming a commercial pilot, he still plans to take DGCA to court to make sure that no other trans folk are treated this way.
“The win is a temporary one, as the DGCA is yet to frame guidelines for the medical assessment of how transgender persons train to be a pilot,” he told The Quint.
“I am thrilled that at least this has been achieved. However, I will still be filing the writ petition in Kerala High Court.”