I had the pleasure during my Air Marshal days of meeting the trans pilot who cleared the path for me to transition at work. It was an emotional meeting for both of us because I’d not only heard about her via her court case, she’s heard through the CAL company grapevine there was a Houston gate agent who was transitioning as well.
Jessica Starnes filed a successful lawsuit that reinstated her job, her seniority and paid her an undisclosed settlement back in the early 90’s. It was a case I was watching closely because I was at the emotional point of being ready to live in my truth and getting my transition started but was worried about whether I would be able to keep the airline job I absolutely loved at the time.
She won, and in 1994 I finally got my own transition started. She was based in Newark, and I ran into her at where the south side hallways of Terminal C intersected near the food court.
Both of us were crying when the meeting happened, and she told me, “You were one of the reasons why I fought so hard to get my job back. I wanted to make it easier for the next trans person to be themselves and keep their job,”
I thanked her for doing so, and she headed to her next flight and I headed to my gate.
The reason I’m going through this Moni flashback moment is because I not only have much love and respect for trans pilots I know or who are on my FB page like Denver based pilot Jessica Taylor, I have heard and read the wonderful news that trans pilots have won their long battle with the FAA and gotten them to drop the disorder label they saddled transgender pilots with.
On January 27 the FAA changed its Aviation Medical Examiners guidelines to remove the disorder label for trans pilots and replace it with ‘gender dysphoria’. The change according to the FAA will allow trans pilots to get their medical certifications more quickly and not undergo a time consuming and expensive process in order to convince federal officials they were medically fit and stable enough to fly.
Pilots have to get medical exams every year before they are certified to fly, and trans pilots not only are given that extra scrutiny before flight certification is granted, they face discrimination from the FAA in doing so.
This FAA policy change is also wonderful news to the Transgender Pilots Association..
However, trans pilots who have been on hormone therapy for less than five years or undergone gender reassignment surgery less than five years ago will still have to undergo additional testing and paperwork before they are certified.
But it still doesn’t change the fact that the FAA policy change, despite the attempts of that organization to downplay it, is good news for trans pilots.