"The win is a temporary one, as the DGCA is yet to frame guidelines for the medical assessment of how transgender persons training to be pilot. But I am thrilled that at least this has been achieved. However, I will still be filing the writ petition in Kerala High Court," Harry told The Quint.
"I am looking forward to the day, I fly in India – while embracing my Identity."Harry added.
In a press release, the DGCA said that there are “no restrictions on transgender people to obtain pilot’s licence and ratings." But added that it was subject to certain requirements such as “age, educational qualifications, medical fitness, knowledge, experience etc."
In 2020, Harry, who identifies as a transgender man, received the Kerala government's support to undergo training and become a commercial pilot. He took a medical test in the same year to join the course, but the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) denied him permission citing that he is "unfit to fly" due to hormone therapy.
In 2016, Harry, who is also a victim of transphobia had travelled to South Africa's Johannesburg to pursue training at Skylark Aviation Academy to become a pilot. However, when he opened up about his gender identity on Instagram, his parents stopped supporting him financially.
He tried to complete his studies in Johannesburg while also engaging in part-time work, but he was forced to return home due to lack of support.
In Ernakulam, he took up various jobs – from food delivery to working in restaurants – to support himself. It was here he met a journalist, who covered his story and put him in touch with the Social Justice Department.
While he reached out to them to start a juice shop, the Kerala government offered him scholarship to pursue his pilot training with the Rajiv Gandhi Aviation Academy under the transgender persons' welfare fund.
In 2020, when Harry joined the institute, he had to undergo the Class 2 medical test to be eligible for a student pilot's license. He was forced to take the test as a female person – the gender he was assigned at birth – as DGCA's medical examination form did not include options for non-binary genders.
"I was told that there were only two categories to choose from – male and female. There was no option for him to give a test as a transgender man. So to make sure I cleared the test, I stopped my hormone therapy for six months. This was draining for me physically and emotionally. Any trans person can tell you this is not easy. But despite everything, my testosterone level was high and I did not clear the test."Adam Harry to The Quint.
“They said due to gender dysphoria and hormone replacement therapy (HRT), I am not fit for flying,” he said, adding that the officials at Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Bengaluru, were transphobic. Harry was also forced to undergo a psychometric test – something that is not sought from all pilots.
That's when, Harry decided to take the DGCA to court as the institute was planning to return the government scholarship – as he is not undertaking flying lessons but only on-ground classes.
Letter By Ministry Of Justice
"Denying commercial pilot licence to a transgender candidate is discriminatory and against the law," said the Ministry of Social Justice in its letter to DGCA on Monday, 11 July, and urged it to come up with separate medical guidelines and licensing for transgenders to join the profession.
In its letter, the Social Justice Ministry also sought a report from the aviation regulator about injustice subjected to Adam. It also suggested that DGCA officials have to be sensitised on the rights of transgender people. Besides, the Ministry also wanted the regulator to list the preventive measures that it would take to ensure that such incidents don't happen again.
Arun Kumar, Director General of DGCA wrote in the letter, “The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment would like to bring to your notice that the actions of the DGCA are in conflict with the judgment of the Supreme Court in the National Legal Services Authority case and violates the provisions stated under The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2019, as it ends up being discriminatory by denying/ terminating employment or occupation on the basis of gender of the person," The Hindu reported.
Among other directions, the Ministry of Social Justice also asked the DGCA to create special provisions so that trans people can opt "male, female, or transgender person," as their gender, while applying for all jobs regulated by DGCA.
It also asked the regulator to upgrade the medical standards especially when people are undergoing gender affirming medical interventions. The Ministry also suggested that DGCA review drugs used during hormone therapy which pilots can be allowed to consume in a monitored way.
(With inputs from The Hindu.)