Trans pilots can take to the skies after Indian flight regulator overturns ban

India’s flight regulator has agreed to let trans pilots fly commercial planes in a huge win for activists.

Pilots operating a commercial plane. (Nicolas Economou/Getty)



In July, would-be pilot Adam Harry spoke out about his years-long fight to get his commercial pilot’s license.

Adam left India to go to flying school in South Africa, but things came to a halt when he came out as transgender and his parents cut him off financially.

Still determined to get his pilot’s licence, he managed to win funding from the Kerala state government to complete his studies. But he was declared “unfit to fly” in 2020 after a medical examination found he was on hormone therapy. He was then reportedly told he would only able to proceed if he stopped taking his hormones.

“It was like choosing between my career and gender identity,” Harry told the BBC. “There are many pilots around the world, flying airplanes in their identity. 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.”

Now, Harry can proceed with his career after India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) introduced fresh guidelines for transgender pilots on Wednesday (10 August), setting out medical criteria for people undergoing hormone therapy.

The new guidelines apply to student and private licences, and state any individual who identifies as transgender must have completed more than five years of gender-affirming hormone therapy to be declared medically fit. They must also pass a further mental health screening that all aspiring pilots are required to undertake.

With the new guidelines in place, Harry is closer to piloting his first commercial flight is closer than ever before. But he will still have to undergo a psychological and psychiatric evaluation from an endocrinologist, and an examination to check if he has undergone surgery within a year of application.

“I am very happy with the DGCA’s decision. This is the first time the DGCA has changed its stance for transgender persons,” Harry told  The Hindu Times. “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.”



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