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FAA Ends Discriminatory Testing for Trans Pilots

FAA Ends Discriminatory Testing for Trans Pilots


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.”


Related Reading:

DC Standing Up for Trans Community With New Campaign

Alaska to Allow Easier Driver License Gender Change

The Episcopal Church Gives Its Blessing to Trans Clergy

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Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to Christian Ghe.

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6:25PM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

This discrimination has ended as it should, however much it should never have happened in the first place.

5:27PM PDT on Aug 15, 2012


3:18PM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

Thanks Steve for the good news. Glad the FAA has changed their guidelines and I hope NCTE does monitor the FAA to make sure they follow through on implementing the new procedures in a fair and decent manner.

2:24PM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

@ James C
I am on board with you.
For eons mental problem was just that...a "thinking" problem without physical cause.
That sure got flipped on it's head (though we have a long long way yet to go).
Now they want to turn a "thinking" issue into mental health "problem".
I think I got my wording right ?
You are correct with the physical crap they wish to load onto a transgendered person.
If a MAN receives a WOMAN'S heart, or lungs or kidneys.....whatever or vise versa for a woman....
Does that man or woman have to then dance through these additional hoops ?????
They certainly DO NOT !!!!!
So....If these various organizations want to look at this as progress....more power to them.
BUT, I won't live long enough to know what ACTUAL progress looks like.

1:03PM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

Erica S. “Please forgive my assumption - I misread your statement as being that trans doesn't exist.”

No apology needed Erica. I was pleased that your question gave me the opportunity to describe the situation from a *supportive* medical context. I admire and respect trans people. My role (as I see it) is not to diagnose and ‘cure’ the young people who are referred to me, but to listen learn and support in any way I can. I have learned more from them (and a very close friend who transitioned 12 years ago) than I ever did in medical school :)

12:54PM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

Erica S....” you must have a medical degree and have studied the structural differences between the brains of trans folk and cis folk? ”

Yes to all questions .... And I did say DSM 3 onwards (I specified DSM 3 as it was the first time (1980) that transsexualism was specified). It is also worth mentioning that there is not so much a difference *between* the brains of trans and CIS individuals. Rather does the brain structure of some trans individuals resemble the brain structure of their desired sex. I am a specialist in paediatric mental health. Part of my work involves assessing and (if necessary) treating, young people with gender dysphoria. I am very familiar with the agonies they endure, mainly due to the attitude of peers, parents, society, the media et al. My point is that to require some airline staff to undergo an assessment not required of others is discriminatory. If however, there was any reason to suspect that an employee was suffering from some form of mental distress - what ever the reason (including a restriction on them being able to transition) - I would advise additional assessment. One other thing I would reduce considerably is the power wielded by my own profession over the lives of trans people and the pathologisation of non-conformity. In the UK Gender dysphoria is not classified as an illness. In most cases, the major threat comes not so much from within the person, but how society treats them.

12:16PM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

About damn time! They should've never been allowed to have such discriminatory rules.

12:12PM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

James C: Please forgive my assumption - I misread your statement as being that trans doesn't exist.

12:03PM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

Erica S. “.....physical configurations aren't as cut-and-dried as he likes to think”

Ah, but remember, when you are up against the ‘Arrogance of Ignorance’ facts fly out of the window :) There are those who prefer to live out their lives in a bubble populated by Barbie and Ken role models.

11:29AM PDT on Aug 15, 2012

So, James C, you must have a medical degree and have studied the structural differences between the brains of trans folk and cis folk? And updated your knowledge past the DSM-3? (FYI, trans people forced to not transition are very likely to have attempted suicide, as the gender dysphoria can be crippling)

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