Adam Harry is India’s first transgender pilot. However, his wings have already been clipped. The 23-year-old from Kerala, who has completed his training and was hoping to fly commercial flights, can no longer do so.
In 2019, he was the first transgender trainee pilot of the country. He also got support from the Kerala government to become a commercial pilot. But after two years, Harry has become Zomato’s delivery person instead of being a pilot. Because the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (General of Civil Aviation) says that as long as Harry is on hormone therapy, he is not eligible to fly.
Now, the 23-year-old pilot Adam Harry has been forced to work as a food delivery agent for Zomato. Harry came to the limelight in 2019 when he became India’s first trans trainee pilot.
Adam Harry received his private-pilot license (PPL) from South Africa and later enrolled at Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology in Thiruvananthapuram in January 2020 for a commercial pilot license, according to a report.
After an extensive medical examination, the DGCA rules that Harry is “temporary unfit” to receive a license to fly because of gender dysphoria – a mismatch between biological sex and their gender identity, according to a report.
According to Britain’s National Health Service, the publicly funded healthcare system, gender dysphoria is a sense of unease that a person may experience because of a mismatch in genders. The dissatisfaction may be so intense it can lead to depression and anxiety and harm daily life.
Kerala government’s social welfare department helped Adam Harry to secure admission to the flying institute for a career in flying. During birth, Harry was assigned as female. However, Harry identified himself as a trans man to officials with physiological changes like a beard and a male voice. To secure his student pilot license, he was required to undergo medical tests. But Harry was forced to submit his application form as a female as DGCA’s medical examination form had no option for transgender.
According to Harry, he was asked intrusive personal questions bordering transphobia. He was questioned about his physicality and how he would marry someone.
However, Harry cannot stop his treatment. “I can’t sacrifice my identity for my profession. I want to be able to fly as who I am,” he told the newspaper. With no other employment opportunities, Harry is working as a food delivery agent for Zomato. He has reportedly planned to move the Bombay High Court against the DGCA’s decision to deny him permission to fly until he is receiving therapy.
How did Harry learn to fly?
In 2019, the Kerala government sanctioned Rs 23.7 lakh to help Harry to pursue a three-year course at the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology in Thiruvananthapuram and secure a commercial pilot’s license.
He secured a private license in 2017 after undergoing training in South Africa’s Johannesburg, becoming India’s first transgender pilot. However, after his family learned about his identity, they disowned him. Harry needed a commercial license to become an airline pilot and he turned to the Kerala government for help.
“I am really grateful to the government for the helping hand. Otherwise, my dream will never have become a reality… I am planning to join the Rajiv Gandhi Academy for Aviation Technology RPT Technology for the three-year studies and training to get a commercial pilot license,” states Harry.
Harry belongs to an orthodox Muslim family from the Thrissur district. He completed his schooling and then joined an aviation academy attached to Lanseria International Airport in Johannesburg. Though his family had initially supported him, they stopped all the assistance after he continued to be vocal about his gender. It was difficult to complete the training in South Africa without financial support but Harry did not give up on his dream.
He had to sleep on the streets and do odd jobs to fund his course and living expenses. “But, I completed my training and received the private pilot license in 2017. I returned to India but my parents continued to pressure me to suppress my gender,” he told to a news agency.
He ran away from home and despite having a private license found it difficult to make ends meet. “After moving out of home, I stayed in several places with the support of transgender friends. I got a job at a private aviation academy in Kochi but they did not pay me. Later, I even worked in a juice parlor to make both ends meet,” he said.
Back then, he was hopeful to get a job in an airline company once he secured his commercial license. But with the DGCA refusing that, Harry’s dreams won’t be able to take flight.