Thiruvananthapuram: Adam Harry, India’s first transgender trainee pilot, is still worried about realising his flying dreams despite a clarification from the country’s aviation regulator on trans persons becoming pilots, saying the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has made it clear that flying duties cannot be assigned to those on hormonal therapy.
The DGCA has said there are no restrictions on transgender persons becoming pilots and directed him to reapply for a medical test to get a commercial pilot license. He is now doing odd jobs to sustain himself. Harry, a Private Pilot’s Licence holder (SACAA), said the assuaging words of the regulatory body seem to be contradictory as it has made it clear that flying duties cannot be assigned to those on hormonal therapy.
“Hormonal therapy is something which transgenders have to undergo life-long. How can they stop taking it”, asked the 23-year-old, who 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.
“Here, in India, they wanted me to stop taking hormones in order to get a licence, and this has been a tiring battle”, Harry, presently residing in this city, told PTI in an interview.
Harry 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 Directorate of Aviation during the initial review of medical evaluation and later suggested reapplying for medical on the grounds that he is undergoing hormone therapy.
“I am happy that now the DGCA has said there are no restrictions on transgender persons from becoming pilots in India. 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.
However, Harry termed as “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. “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,” he added. 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 on Sabha TV and taking gender sensitisation classes in schools and groups.
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.