New procedures outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will mean that trans-identifying pilots will no longer be subject to extra testing in order to qualify for a license.
It is standard practice for the FAA to require all prospective pilots to undergo rigorous physical and psychological examination to assess whether they are fit to fly. However, trans-identifying applicants have in recent years been required to undergo extra procedures, adding extensive and expensive behavioral and psychological testing barriers that have led to many trans pilots being grounded and others to lose their jobs, often for no other reason than their gender identity or expression.
Under new medical guidance issued in the past week, the FAA has now abandoned that threshold, creating a new standard in how it deals with applicants with Gender Identity Disorder (GID).
According to the Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners, those standards include a status report detailing all current medications and relevant information, copies of all pertinent inpatient and outpatient medical records in relation to a GID diagnosis, a licensed professionals psychological evaluation, and hospital and post-operative reports from surgeons if the applicant has undergone gender reassignment procedures. The guide also notes that if surgery is elected for at a later date, follow-up reports will then be required to assess the clinical outcomes and fitness of the applicant.
These new guidelines seem to shift the emphasis from treating a GID diagnosis as an automatic barrier to becoming a pilot to actually assessing individual applicants on their abilities and characteristics, in effect no longer discriminating based solely on a limited understanding of a GID diagnosis.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), who worked closely with Representatives Barney Frank and Mike Honda together with the FAA to bring about this change, said in a posting on its website:
The National Center for Transgender Equality would like to thank Drs. George Brown and Randall Ehrbar for their expertise as well as the FAA, the Obama Administration, the Transgender Law Center, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Representatives Mike Honda and Barney Frank for their work on this issue. NCTE will continue to monitor this issue to ensure the new procedures are implemented in a fair and sensible way.
The NCTE has also said it feels these new guidelines send a strong message that trans people should be assessed based on their individual merits. Said NTCE director Harper Jean Tobin in a comment to the Advocate: “This sends a positive signal that being trans shouldn’t create barriers to people being able to [perform] a highly-skilled job with a lot of responsibility,” Tobin says. “We think this is going to make things a lot easier and fairer all the way around.”