TW: Mention and description of Systemic transphobia
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) usually helps flights- and dreams- safely take off as it is the country’s primary regulatory body for civil aviation. In the case of Adam Harry, however, it seems to have declared that when it comes to queer folk the runway is the limit, for India’s first openly trans pilot is being denied permission to take off.
When Harry’s parents stopped providing him financial support after he came out on Instagram, he was forced to give up his pilot training at the Skylark Aviation Academy in South Africa and come back to India.
In 2019, he managed to escape his abusive household and started taking up various jobs in Ernakulam to support himself. When the Kerala government heard his story, they granted a scholarship under the transgender person’s welfare fund to train at the Rajiv Gandhi Aviation Academy. It might have seemed that the winds of change were finally going to reach Harry’s wings, but this turned out to be only the beginning of his struggle against the hetero-cisnormative societal and institutional norms.
For starters, even though Harry’s scholarship had specifically been granted under a fund for transpeople, in 2020 when he started at the academy he was forced to take the DGCA’s Class 2 medical test under the category of the gender that he was assigned at birth, i.e. ‘female’.
The lack of non-binary options on the form meant that Harry had to go through the physical and emotional turmoil of pausing his hormonal therapy for six months. Though this was an incredibly tough and unfair thing to have to go through, clearing this medical examination would have given him his student pilot’s license so Harry was left with no choice but to suffer for this period. He was also asked to undergo a psychometric test which is not a regular requirement. However, he was still denied clearance.
As Harry reportedly told The Quint, he was denied clearance on the grounds that his testosterone level was too high and his gender dysphoria and the fact that he was going through Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) made him unfit for flying. He said, “They were reeking of transphobia. They told me that if they give me license, it would put many people at risk…”.
This cisnormative and binary understanding of human bodies is incredibly problematic in a medical examination and once again exposes not only the institutionalized transphobia in governmental procedures but also in the field of medicine.
This situation has forced Harry to get into a legal battle with the DGCA in the Kerala High Court. In a statement posted on his Instagram Handle (@pilotadamharry on 5th July 2022, he clearly stated in part, “DGCA’s unwillingness to make changes in guidelines for the employment of trans community is transphobic and also denial of the constitutional right to not get discriminated on the basis of gender”.