Individuals suffering from gender identity issues will no longer be required to undergo psychological evaluation in order to qualify for a pilot’s license, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decided. The change, reported the UK’s MailOnline news site, came after a “transgender” individual identifying himself as Tamsyn Waterhouse (pictured, from YouTube video) campaigned to have the long-time safety policy dropped. Waterhouse, who lives in San Francisco, “learned to fly as a child under her [sic] father’s supervision and gained her private pilot’s license in 2003 at the age of 23,” reported the news site. “But when the 32-year-old attempted to get her medical certificate renewed after finishing grad school in 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration made it near-impossible for her.”
In a YouTube video posted by the Transgender Law Center, which assisted in the case, Waterhouse explained that at the time he applied for the medical certificate renewal, he was also “in the process of gender transition” — meaning, apparently, that he was going through various surgical and hormonal procedures to assume a female identity. “The aviation medical examiner I saw had to defer my app to the FAA,” explained Waterhouse. “And the FAA responded by demanding a litany of psychiatric tests, which one psychologist I spoke to described as ‘every test in the book.’ ” Waterhouse explained that the tests “would have taken days and thousands of dollars” to complete, “and the FAA would still have the discretion as to whether to issue certification after that.”
The man-turned-woman complained that “even if I could have paid the money, passed the tests, and got a limited form of certification back, every transgender pilot in the U.S wold be subject to the same discrimination,” something he and the Transgender Law Center determined was unacceptable. With the help of, among others, homosexual Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Waterhouse and the Transgender Law Center succeeded in forcing the FAA to drop the policy. “Over the course of several years, and a lot of hard work,” Waterhouse said on the YouTube video, “now we’re proud to announce, finally, that the FAA has removed this unnecessary, burdensome, and prejudicial, psychiatric testing requirement.”
Waterhouse, who hopes to be in the air soon with a renewed medical certificate, said [s]he felt that the effort was “a big first step” toward ending discrimination against people who feel like changing their gender identity. “Someday I hope that all pilots can be treated fairly with regard to gender,” Waterhouse told ABC News.
Matt Wood, the Transgender Law Center attorney who helped Waterhouse with the case, argued that the FAA policy was tethered to “outdated stereotypes that someone who changed their gender had something mentally wrong with them. Anyone who is transgender has to undergo medical or psychological treatment to help their external body match their internal sense of self. That is no different from any other kind of medical condition….”
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