In 2019, Adam Harry was shot to fame as the country's first transgender trainee pilot, set to receive support from the Kerala Government to become a commercial pilot. Two years later, he is a delivery man for Zomato because the Directorate General for Civil Aviation ( DGCA ) says he is unfit to fly as long as he is on hormone therapy.

The 23-year-old, a private pilot license holder ( PPL ) from South Africa, secured admission to the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology in Thiruvananthapuram in January 2020 under the Kerala Government's welfare fund for transgender people. A PPL allows its holder to fly an aeroplane as a hobbyist, whereas a commercial pilot can make a career in flying. Mr. Harry joined the institute and was soon required to undergo the Class 2 medical test to secure a student's pilot license. Mr. Harry was assigned female at birth. He identified himself as a trans man before the officials and displayed male physiological characteristics such as a beard and a male voice, yet he had no choice but to submit his application as a female because the DGCA's medical examination form doesn't include options for non-binary genders.

An extensive evaluation followed which included a psychometric test that's not normally required, the DGCA declared him 'temporary unfit' on the grounds of gender dysphoria ( unease due to mismatch between sex assigned at birth and a person's gender identity and because he is undergoing sex hormone therapy.) He was advised to complete his treatment and undertake a medical review.

Mr. Harry mentioned that the officials at the medical examination were transphobic and asked very personal questions about his physicality and how he would marry someone. He also added that the officials were bullying him to undress and the officials considered him dangerous to the extent that he was expected to cause danger to some passengers.

Later when he received medical clearance, again the DGCA declared that since he was on medication, he can't be declared fit to fly. However, since his masculinising hormone therapy is a life-long treatment, the DGCA forbids him from ever becoming a pilot in India.

Mr. Harry has been advised by the doctors not to break his transition therapy and added that he can't sacrifice his identity for his profession. He says,

'I want to be able to fly as who I am.'

Trans-rights activists added that the DGCA is missing any medical or scientific link between being on testosterone life-long and flying an aeroplane. Unless they establish it, they can't forbid anyone.

DGCA was confronted by the media as to why hormone therapy was a ground for denying a medical clearance. To which they replied that the candidate was informed of the reasons and cannot be shared as per medical ethics.

Harry wants to willingly fight it out and open a window for others who may follow him and an inspiration for all those who have been fighting all their life.

Born in a conservative Muslim family in Thrissur in Kerala, Mr. Harry was assigned female at birth and raised as one. As a teen, when he began to assert his gender identity by refusing to grow his hair long or by dressing up like a boy, his family beat him and forced him to visit psychiatrists. When he came out as a 17-year-old trans man on a social media post in South Africa, his parents forced him to return to India and put him in house arrest for some 10 months where he was regularly beaten up, forced to dress up as a woman and made to undergo correction therapy. Eventually, Mr. Harry managed to escape and found shelter at bus stands or railway stations.

The United States Aviation Regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA ), allows a person with gender dysphoria who has undergone a gender reassignment surgery or hormone replacement therapy more than five years ago to obtain a medical clearance on the spot from a medical examiner, while in case of persons with under five years of treatment, there is a mental health status report that needs to be additionally submitted. The FAA also allows a pilot to undergo a gender transition while still flying without being grounded.

In India, the landmark Supreme Court judgment in National Legal Services Authority ( NALSA ) Vs. Union of India recognized that third-gender persons were entitled to fundamental rights under the Constitution and held that no third-gender persons should be subjected to any medical examination or biological test which would invade their right to privacy. The Transgender Persons ( Protection of Rights ) Act, 2019, also prohibits discrimination against a transgender person, including for education and employment.

Adam says, "Gender issues are extremely misunderstood in our country. Transgender individuals voices are easily trampled upon. I will fight for justice no matter what it takes."

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