FAA Makes it Easier for Transgender Pilots to Get Certified

Transgender pilots are no longer considered to suffer from a gender identity disorder -- that's according to an updated medical guide at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which changed its terminology from "gender identity disorder" to what it now calls "gender dysphoria," a more widely-accepted term within the LGBT community.

The FAA tells ABC News that the change was intended to streamline the process for transgender pilots and make sure pilots receive medical certification as quickly as possible. The federal agency was quick to note, however, that there is no new policy and 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.

"We have issued medical certificates to transgender pilots and air traffic controllers for many years," the FAA said in a statement to ABC News.

"Previously, each case was managed at FAA Headquarters. If there was no prior history of associated mental health issues, after several years following gender re-assignment surgery, airmen were advised they were eligible for an unrestricted (regular) medical certificate," the statement said. "No mental health status report was required."

According to the updated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) guide, transgender pilots who have either undergone gender re-assignment surgery five or more years ago, or have taken hormone therapy for for five or more years, are not required to submit a mental health status report.

However, those transgender pilots who have been taking hormone therapy or had a gender reassignment surgery within five years need to submit a mental health status report or an "evaluation from the treating physician, using World Professional Association for Transgender Health guidelines (WPATH), which addresses items listed in the Mental Health Status Report."

Proponents of the change say the updated terminology doesn't go far enough. Jessica Taylor, a transgender pilot who's been flying for seven years, told ABC News that while it's a big step forward for the transgender community, she's still campaigning for the FAA to remove "gender dysphoria" from the AME guide altogether.

"I still cannot believe we are treating gender dysphoria as a separate issue from being a breathing human," Taylor said.

One positive outcome, though, Taylor said, is that the updated AME guide has simplified things for transgender pilots.

"This has taken so much ambiguity for myself and every other airman for what the FAA is using as criteria for a transgender airman or airwoman," Taylor said.