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WATCH: Transgender Pilots Subject to Extra FAA Scrutiny Despite Policy Change

WATCH: Transgender Pilots Subject to Extra FAA Scrutiny Despite Policy Change


A pilot from California says she was forced to undergo an extra psychological evaluation because she is transgender. 

A pilot who has flown for years was forced by the Federal Aviation Administration to undergo an additional psychological evaluation to renew her license after she decided to transition, despite policy changes, reported San Francisco TV station KPIX.

Jessica Zacharias told the station that in 2013, when she notified the FAA that she was transitioning, "I had to do an additional psych evaluation and I also needed to get an additional letter from my doctor, not only describing what was being prescribed, but also the prognosis of what were my plans for the future as well, and very detailed information."

In 2012, the FAA released new medical certification guidelines for transgender pilots, eliminating several rounds of unnecessary psychological testing that were once required.

However, according to Zacharias, the FAA said it would require the extra information every year. "It was just kind of this blanket, 'You need to provide more information,' and no real reason why. Just that's the way it is," Zacharias told KPIX. Additionally, according to the report, the FAA announced it is just now replacing the phrase "gender identity disorder" with "gender dysphoria," a term used by the American Psychiatric Association to describe the condition of being transgender.

Ilona Turner, legal director for the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center said requiring extra exams for transgender pilots is flawed. "I think this is incredibly unfair," Turner told the station. "The FAA is imposing these requirements on transgender pilots alone, that they don't impose on anybody else, due to an absurd and incredibly out of date understanding of what it means to be transgender."

Zacharias works in the tech industry but flies for fun, gives lessons and sometimes even pilots planes for other owners, according to KPIX. Turner, whose group was able to get the FAA to revamp its policies in 2012 on behalf of another transgender pilot, said issues raised in that case are reappearing.

"Jessica was told that being transgender means that she's inherently unstable, and that kind of attitude is something that was intended to be stamped out by the 2012 policy. And the fact that the folks at the FAA are still repeating, that is very troubling," Turner said.

In a statement the FAA told KPIX: "Once a transgender pilot is determined to be stable following their gender transition, they may be issued an unrestricted medical certificate...We are in the process of clarifying our guidance in our aviation medical examiners guide."

Watch the report below from KPIX:

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