“When I started flight training, I never told anyone that I was gay. Whenever anyone asked about my love life, I told them that I had a girlfriend, who actually was a boyfriend”.
Pilot experience - Sexuality
What follows is an account sent to us by a Pilot who wanted to share their own experiences and how they dealt with the situation. Is being gay as a pilot, more difficult than in any other profession? From this pilot’s account it seems that a lot depends on your own acceptance of your sexuality and the culture of the airline/ country you are operating in.
At first, this subject will not seem like something that would have a huge impact to a pilot’s life at work. Whilst that normally is the case, it can be a problem, mostly on a personal level. Being open and honest about begin gay or straight, is part of being able to be yourself and not having to hide from the outside world. As we all know, you meet a lot of people in our job, and most of the time, we talk a lot, especially on longer flights. Having to hide a big part of your life (e.g your partner), can be difficult.
Start of your career
Most of this will come from my own personal experience. When I started flight training, I never told anyone that I was gay. Whenever anyone asked about my love life, I told them that I had a girlfriend, who actually was a boyfriend. It made me really uncomfortable when the other students asked. And because they noticed I avoided the subject, they kept digging. I thought, if I pretended to be straight, I would not be different from the rest. However, trying to hide it was more difficult then actually being different.
When joining the airline, I thought I learned from this. I joined with the idea to be honest about me being gay. But when I started training, again, I avoided the subject. A couple of months into the job, one of the captains just assumed I was gay, and asked me if I had a boyfriend. We had a long conversation about being gay as a pilot. He assured me within the company, being gay was not an issue.
And now almost 3 years later, I can say that he was right. I have never had any bad experiences or comments. Having said this, we work for an airline where everyone accepts you the way you are. This is not always the case though. A lot of my friends work for airlines in ‘XXX’ and ‘XXX’. The story I just described, does not apply there. A couple of guys found it really hard to keep up appearances. They felt very unhappy and most of them have now decided to leave the job and try to get back to the UK.
- Own acceptance
- Acceptance of friends and family
- Culture / religion
- Company policy/standards
- Country / local Law
It can be helpful to speak to other colleagues who are gay too. Also, knowing that the company has a supportive attitude to being gay, is really helpful for trying to be open and honest. In some countries, being gay is not legal. So in that case you have nobody to support you, except your own friends and family.
Being a gay pilot within an airline environment does not have to be a challenge. It all depends on the culture of the company, where you are based and the local law. In the UK, I don’t think it is a problem, however, on a personal level it can still be.