Gay Pilots: Flying Over the Rainbow
The image of a pilot as portrayed by the likes of Leonardo di Caprio, Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford – glamorous, brave, handsome and surrounded by pretty, swooning cabin attendants is far from reality. Pilots are just normal men and women and many of them of course are also gay. But what is life in the crew rooms and cockpits of the world like for gay pilots? Attitudes towards LGBT pilots in general have improved greatly over the last few years but the pilots themselves have endured decades of intolerance which continues in many parts of the world.
David Pettet of the National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA) in America told us: “We do have reports still to this day of homophobic incidents, from the flight deck, aeromedical examiners, and flight schools. Whether it be a derogatory comment about the LGBT community, a joke or judgement, we have seen it a lot. NGPA also has members in Europe, South Africa, Australia, Asia and all over the Middle East – membership in some places where people can be imprisoned just for being gay where there is certainly a lot more discrimination than we ever have had here in the United States”
In 1990 the NGPA was officially formed after a gathering in Provincetown, where people only knew each other on a first name basis, and identified each other with some sort of aeroplane shirt. Today the NGPA has grown to over 2,000 paid members, and a constituency over 4,000. The first official international NGPA event was in Toronto in the summer with Canadian Aviation Pride. With members spread out over the world, the organisation continues to reach out and answer the call for help and the need of local chapters in these countries. NGPA is growing worldwide and the next chapter to be formed will be in the U.K. later this year, with a goal to host the first meeting by the end of the year.
David continued “ Our Advocacy committee is hard at work identifying the needs of the LGBT aviation community and ways to make it better. With transgender in the spotlight, we have focused this year in providing the support they need to successfully obtain their medical certificates and keep their jobs while going through the transition. Our involvement in mentorship starting at the university undergrad level has increased, and we are continuing to form official chapters at flight schools so they too can have the support they need through their pilot training. We have seen an increase in military membership since ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was demolished, and we have heard very few issues since then in the military.
The majority of our success has been over the past 18 months in the U.S.A. with diversity and inclusion. While there is much more work to be done here, we recognize the need for the rest of the world. NGPA is expanding to support the LGBT international aviation community. Employers are at NGPA events recruiting pilots and offering scholarships to NGPA members, and we now see pictures of all transgender flight deck crew, and two NGPA members flying a flight across the U.S. This is progress, and the more we show it is normal, the more society will accept it, and be more inclusive. Our allies are just as important so when we’re not there to educate or in some case defend ourselves, they are there to do it.”
Anybody interested in the work of the NGPA can visit the website www.ngpa.org and of course please visit our site too: www.brookfieldav.com.