In 2009, Tamsyn Waterhouse contacted the Transgender Law Center’s legal helpline. The private pilot had a problem- in order to get her medical certification to fly she would have to undergo burdensome psychological testing that her cisgender counterparts would not.
She stated that “I was honest with the Aviation Medical Examiner about my gender transition, and that’s when I was informed that I would have to undergo extensive psychological testing that non-trans people did not have to endure. It would have cost thousands of dollars. One psychiatrist described it as ‘every test in the book.’”
TLC and the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force began to advocate changes to the policy in order to address this discrimination. This was supported by Waterhouse’s Representative, Mike Honda and Representative Barney Frank. Waterhouse stated “I could have paid the money and tried to go through the process on my own. But I wanted to make a difference for all transgender pilots.”
The FAA regulatory decision is a part of a growing trend among the courts, government, and private employers in removing barriers transgender people have historically faced in accessing employment and services. Most recently, in a case brought by Transgender Law Center, Macy v. Holder, the Employment Equal Opportunity Commission ruled that transgender people are covered under Title VII’s employment discrimination protections.
Masen Davis, the executive director of TLC, said “Tamsyn had the courage to stand up and advocate for herself and other transgender pilots. Her willingness to share her story illustrates the power one person can have in making a difference. I am thrilled that Transgender Law Center was able to work with her to remove these excessive barriers. Transgender pilots, you are cleared for takeoff!”
Waterhouse currently works at Google, but she is still working on getting recertified soon stating “One of my fondest childhood memories was flying with my dad in his small plane. I eventually hope to earn my commercial license.”