FAA will no longer put 'disorder' label on transgender pilots

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is no longer labeling transgender pilots as victims of a "gender identify disorder."  

The agency said this week that it has updated its medical guidelines for pilot testing to remove the disorder label for transgender pilots in favor of the phrase "Gender Dysphoria." 

The FAA said the new categorization will allow transgender pilots to be cleared to fly more quickly than when they were considered to have an identify disorder.   

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"We released new guidance for Aviation Medical Examiners on January 27 designed to standardize our policies on gender dysphoria and ensure pilots receive medical certification as quickly as possible," an FAA spokesman said in a statement provided to The Hill. 

The FAA tests pilots every year for medical conditions. Advocacy groups for transgender pilots had complained that the "disorder" classification resulted in extra medical scrutiny for healthy pilots who have changed sexes during their professional careers. 

"Transgender individuals have quite a difficult time obtaining their FAA medical certificate, and still suffer discrimination at the hands of the FAA," the Transgender Pilots Association said in a post on its website before the FAA announced the change.

"Unfortunately the medical process for transgender pilots is far from streamlined and tends to hiccup along the way because many of the FAA staff have no idea how to process our medicals," the group's post continued.

"Intervention by an outside entity like your congressperson or the [National Center for Transgender Equality] is often necessary to get knowledgeable people on your case to move it along."  

Transgender advocates cheered the changes. 

"FANTASTIC NEWS! Transgender pilots will now be free to fly planes in the US without being considered to have a ‘mental disorder’," TransValid.org tweeted Friday.

The FAA downplayed the significance of the changes to its medical guidances, even as transgender advocates were celebrating the removal of the disorder label. 

"There is no new FAA policy. We have issued medical certificates to transgender pilots and air traffic controllers for many years," the agency said. 

"We continue to use the guidelines of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)," the FAA continued. "The vast majority of transgender people who seek an FAA medical certificate get their certificate as long as they do not have disqualifying medical conditions." 

The updated FAA medical guidelines for transgender can be read here.