FAA will no longer put ‘disorder’ label on transgender pilots

This article is a re-post from THE HILL

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is no longer labeling transgender pilots as victims of a “gender identify disorder.”

The agency said this week that it has updated its medical guidelines for pilot testing to remove the disorder label for transgender pilots in favor of the phrase “Gender Dysphoria.”

The FAA said the new categorization will allow transgender pilots to be cleared to fly more quickly than when they were considered to have an identify disorder.

“We released new guidance for Aviation Medical Examiners on January 27 designed to standardize our policies on gender dysphoria and ensure pilots receive medical certification as quickly as possible,” an FAA spokesman said in a statement provided to The Hill.
The FAA tests pilots every year for medical conditions. Advocacy groups for transgender pilots had complained that the “disorder” classification resulted in extra medical scrutiny for healthy pilots who have changed sexes during their professional careers.

“Transgender individuals have quite a difficult time obtaining their FAA medical certificate, and still suffer discrimination at the hands of the FAA,” the Transgender Pilots Association said in a post on its website before the FAA announced the change.

“Unfortunately the medical process for transgender pilots is far from streamlined and tends to hiccup along the way because many of the FAA staff have no idea how to process our medicals,” the group’s post continued.

“Intervention by an outside entity like your congressperson or the [National Center for Transgender Equality] is often necessary to get knowledgeable people on your case to move it along.”

Transgender advocates cheered the changes.

“FANTASTIC NEWS! Transgender pilots will now be free to fly planes in the US without being considered to have a ‘mental disorder’,” TransValid.org tweeted Friday.

The FAA downplayed the significance of the changes to its medical guidances, even as transgender advocates were celebrating the removal of the disorder label.

“There is no new FAA policy. We have issued medical certificates to transgender pilots and air traffic controllers for many years,” the agency said.

“We continue to use the guidelines of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH),” the FAA continued. “The vast majority of transgender people who seek an FAA medical certificate get their certificate as long as they do not have disqualifying medical conditions.”


Source:  THE HILL – FAA will no longer put ‘disorder’ label on transgender pilots

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Transgender Pilots Frustrated Over Extra Scrutiny From FAA

Members from our site were contacted to assist in this KPIX CBS story and we applaud all of them for speaking out and sharing their stories, especially Jessica Zacharias who was the featured pilot in this story. Thank you Jessica and KPIX for your hard work in bringing this story into the public eye.


— Original KPIX Story —


OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – When it comes to clearing pilots for takeoff, the Federal Aviation Administration uses regular medical exams to make sure they’re fit to fly. But the process may not be fair for everyone in the cockpit.

Every time Jessica Zacharias starts the engine of a plane, she’s fulfilling a childhood dream.

“I remember in grade 3 creating a poster showing me and what my career goal was for the future and I said commercial airline pilot,” Zacharias said.

Zacharias wound up with a tech career and a pilot’s license on the side. She flies for fun, and sometimes ferries planes for other owners, and even gives flying lessons.

All of it requires her to update her airman’s medical certificate annually.

“You show up to a local doctor who is certified to give aviation medicals,” Zacharias explained. “You go there and they give you a very basic medical including vision tests, hearing tests, and then they do a lot of other things that a normal medical would do, in terms of blood pressure, listen to you breathe, heart rate.”

And that’s how it went, every year since 2001. Then it got complicated.

“This time around I got a letter in the springtime saying I wasn’t approved as a normal medical,” Zacharias recalled.

In 2013, Zacharias reported she was transitioning from male to female.

The FAA eventually renewed her medical certificate, after she provided additional information. But now they were saying they would require the extra information every time.

“I had to do an additional psych evaluation and I also needed to get an additional letter from my doctor, not only describing what was being prescribed, but also the prognosis of what were my plans for the future as well, and very detailed information,” Zacharias said.

Ilona Turner is the legal director for the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center.

“I think this is incredibly unfair,” Turner said. “The FAA is imposing these requirements on transgender pilots alone, that they don’t impose on anybody else, due to an absurd and incredibly out of date understanding of what it means to be transgender.”

The center helped another transgender pilot actually change FAA policy in 2012. Yet now, Turner said, this is happening to almost all transgender pilots anyway.

“Jessica was told that being transgender means that she’s inherently unstable, and that kind of attitude is something that was intended to be stamped out by the 2012 policy. And the fact that the folks at the FAA are still repeating, that is very troubling,” Turner said.

KPIX 5 asked the FAA for an on-camera interview several times, but they said no.

They did send a statement, which said, “Once a transgender pilot is determined to be stable following their gender transition, they may be issued an unrestricted medical certificate…We are in the process of clarifying our guidance in our aviation medical examiners guide.”

“Pretty frustrated and upset because. It was just kind of this blanket, ‘You need to provide more information,’ and no real reason why. Just that’s the way it is,” Zacharias said.

The FAA did tell KPIX 5 that they are updating their wording to replace the term “gender identity disorder” with “gender dysphoria,” the term used by the American Psychiatric Association and many transgender groups.

The original story can be found here:
KPIX – Transgender Pilots Frustrated Over Extra Scrutiny From FAA


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Transgender Pilots Cleared for Takeoff!

TamsynWaterhouse-e1344989787517Tamsyn Waterhouse, who had been a private pilot since 2003, called Transgender Law Center’s legal helpline in 2009 after she was told she would have to undergo burdensome psychological testing in order to renew her medical certification to fly. “I was honest with the Aviation Medical Examiner about my gender transition, and that’s when I was informed that I would have to undergo extensive psychological testing that non-trans people did not have to endure. It would have cost thousands of dollars. One psychiatrist described it as ‘every test in the book.’”

In response, Transgender Law Center, in collaboration with the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, began to advocate for policy changes to address this discrimination. Waterhouse’s cause was also supported by Waterhouse’s Congressman, Mike Honda, and Congressman Barney Frank. “I could have paid the money and tried to go through the process on my own,” noted Waterhouse. “But I wanted to make a difference for all transgender pilots.”

The FAA regulatory decision is a part of a growing trend among the courts, government, and private employers in removing barriers transgender people have historically faced in accessing employment and services. Most recently, in a case brought by Transgender Law Center, Macy v. Holder, the Employment Equal Opportunity Commission ruled that transgender people are covered under Title VII’s employment discrimination protections.

“Tamsyn had the courage to stand up and advocate for herself and other transgender pilots. Her willingness to share her story illustrates the power one person can have in making a difference. I am thrilled that Transgender Law Center was able to work with her to remove these excessive barriers,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director. “Transgender pilots, you are cleared for takeoff!”

Waterhouse now works at Google. She is currently brushing up on her flying expertise by training in the Bay Area, a busier airspace than she experienced during her rural upbringing, and hopes to be recertified soon. “One of my fondest childhood memories was flying with my dad in his small plane. I eventually hope to earn my commercial license,” she said.

Transgender Law Center’s legal helpline, which Waterhouse initially called, assists more than 1500 people each year in accessing appropriate identity documents, employment, healthcare, and housing.

Media Coverage Highlights:

This is a re-post from the Transgender Law Center (original below)
Transgender Pilots Cleared for Takeoff!

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