Trans trainee-pilot Adam Harry flags DGCA's 'contradictory' rules on hormone therapy

Thiruvananthapuram: Adam Harry, the first transgender trainee pilot in the country, fears his dream to become a commercial pilot will remain one forever even after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) making it clear that there is no curb on people in his community becoming pilots.

Harry is now worried about the aviation regulator's clause that flying duties cannot be assigned to those on hormonal therapy. The 23-year-old transman hailing from Kerala's Thrissur alleges that the DGCA's norms seems to be contradictory. The DGCA has directed him to reapply for a medical test to get a commercial pilot licence.

Harry, a Private Pilot's Licence holder (SACAA), believes the DGCA's clause in effect stands in his way of becoming a pilot as transgender persons have to undergo hormonal therapy throughout their life. He expressed his concerns in an interview with PTI.

He is now doing odd jobs to sustain himself. He has decided to move to South Africa to join a flying school after the DGCA authorities asked him to stop taking hormones in order to get a licence to fly aircraft.

"Hormonal therapy is something which transgenders have to undergo life-long. How can they stop taking it. Here, in India, they wanted me to stop taking hormones in order to get a licence, and this has been a tiring battle. I therefore got my academy changed to an aviation school in South Africa," Harry said.

He said he was happy about DGCA's official statement that there are no restrictions on transgender persons from becoming pilots in the country. “It is good that they have said this officially as this will give confidence to trans persons who want to pursue their ambitions," he added.

Harry had enrolled in the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology here in 2019, with the state government's support. But he was denied his medical clearance for licence by the DGCA during the initial review of medical evaluation and later suggested reapplying for medical on the grounds that he is undergoing hormone therapy.

Harry termed "misleading" the regulator's claim that he has not completed the required hours of flying --using his student pilot license -- so as to be eligible for a commercial pilot license.

"DGCA's claim that I haven't received my licence because I haven't finished my ground classes is misleading. I attended several ground classes at the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology, but in order to get my South African Private Pilot's licence converted here in India, I needed to get my South African licence updated. I went there to do it, and I got the medical clearance done without any trouble," he said.

Harry has been fighting in India to fly as a licensed commercial pilot identified as a man.

Harry said he has a Class-2 medical [clearance] from South Africa Civil Aviation Authority and "they did not restrict me from taking hormones or undergoing physical transition".

The trans person, who is struggling to survive as there is no support from the family, has been doing odd jobs including food delivery, being a part-time anchor in Sabha TV and taking gender sensitisation classes in schools and groups.

System inadequate: Kerala minister

Responding to the matter, Kerala Higher Education Minister R Bindu said what Adam was facing is the tragedy of "how woefully inadequate the current system is" when it comes to providing support for trans people.

"In Adam's case, he is already qualified to fly in India. Countries such as the US and South Africa also grant pilot licences to transgender, non-binary people as well," the minister said in a tweet.

Upon the request of Harry, the Left government, which had given a scholarship to him, has withdrawn the money given to the Rajiv Gandhi Aviation Academy and the process is on to transfer that fees to the institute in South Africa.
Assuring that the Kerala government stands with Adam, Bindu said necessary action has been taken to provide assistance to continue his studies in South Africa.

The DGCA had on Tuesday said the use of hormonal replacement therapy (to change gender) was not disqualifying if the applicant has no adverse symptoms or reactions.

However, flying duties are not permitted while the dose of hormonal treatment is being stabilised or until an adequate physiological response has been achieved and the dose no longer needs changing, it added.

(With inputs from PTI)

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