I try to quickly sip the pipping hot coffee my aunt made and I pace in my room trying to collect information on how to apply for a passport as a Trans woman. Thousands of thoughts run through my head, I stroke my temples to ease the stress.
So I did what every youth of this generation would do “Google”. I searched “Applying for passport as a Trans woman” and I only got frustrated further as the only articles I could find were for the laws of foreign countries. I was disappointed that our country hasn’t kept up with the digital literary world, while every other country is advanced and informed through the internet. There was not a single search result that detailed the steps or procedure for applying for an indian passport being a transgender person.
I wondered if popular passport assistance agencies could help. At first they were clueless as many agencies never dealt with passport applications for a transgender person. None of them guaranteed that I would get a “F” gender marker on my passport which I dearly yearned for. They asked me for three important documents: My birth certificate, SSLC and any current address proof, thankfully I had my Aadhar card in my new name and Female gender marker. Even though India has been accepting enough to include a “T” marker along with “M” and “F” on passport application forms, there isn’t any protocol or any kind of guideline setup for the trans indian citizens.
The passport agency which I had finalised on, chickened out. They were scared of the media attention they would get, as I had told them that I would go to the media if the passport office denies the “F” gender marker on my passport. The only good thing I got out of them was that they advised me to visit the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) personally with all my documents and enquire how as a Trans woman I could apply for a passport.
Later, I called Transgender india . They encouraged me to stay strong and fight this battle with grace, and to show politeness in educating the passport officers if they were not aware of the current developments in transgender laws of our country. So taking their words to heart, I register for an account on the online passport government portal and fill out the application of and get an appointment date.
So there I was with fake confidence asking the enquiry officer what the procedure was? He was very kind and considerate and asked me to get all the documents that proves I’m a trans woman who has legally changed name and gender. Lucky me, I had an affidavit for my name and gender change. I had published my name change in two newspapers that is one local newspaper in Kannada and one national newspaper in English. I was a bit afraid for not notifying the Gazette as my lawyer had advised it is too tedious and isn’t that important who knew he would be right eventually. The enquiry officer had asked me to notarize a document and handed me “Annexure E” which is the layout for the proof of name change exclusively for applying passports.
I wake up early and prostrate in my morning prayer with only one thought in mind, “Oh Lord, help me with this war on Red tape”. I book an Ola share cab to Lalbagh PSK. I enter confidently and make my way to the token counter where they assign you a number which sticks with you throughout your process until you exit out of the office.
I was nervous at how the person at the desk would react looking at my documents. Thankfully they were all jaded to even look at the documents. I had to stand in line again as I hadn’t signed on the photocopies which is required by them before I enter the actual passport office. They file all my documents in a brown paper folder and directed me to the entrance of the counters. The entrance was guarded by a security guard who scans the barcode on your appointment printout and lets you in. I see a huge crowd of stressed out people tired of having to stare at the large monitors where their tokens were displayed along with the counters they were assigned. There are three counters A, B, C and a APO who sat in a separate cabin.
I learn that A counters Edit, Scan and upload documents to the servers. B counters are verification counters who authenticate all your documents. C counters are occupied by senior final verification officers who weed out any documents that B counter officers might have missed. I wait for hours together in the queue to get through A counter where at first they ask me to wait while they get help on processing documents of a transgender person finally they get back and proceed normally taking my photo on spot, my finger prints and so on.
At B counter the officer looked intimidating because when I went over to him, he had just finished shouting at an applicant for not producing a proper document. He looks at my documents, gives me a stern glance and authenticates all my documents and then gives the green light to go ahead to the C counter. Watching the token assignment display, I thought to myself that this wasn’t that bad afterall but I was completely taken aback when the officer at C counter murmured that I should get a government hospital certificate or a letter stating that I indeed suffer from gender identity disorder and would want to live as a woman for the rest of my life. The doctor’s certificate which I had produced before them was a private hospital document. Then she asked me to meet the APO who sat in a private office cabin. Again I was directed back to display when my token number flashed APO next to it. I went ahead in the APO’s office, I greeted the lady and took a seat while she quickly glanced all my documents, I was first disappointed that she too wasn’t convinced at the doctor’s certificate but after a friendly conversation she said she would escalate me to the regional passport office in Kormangala and asked me to visit that office after two days. I was soon ushered out as there were many in the queue, I was guided to the exit counter where they print out your passport application status.
I was disheartened to find my passport status was “On Hold”. I thought I had to again go through the medical horror experience. I spoke to my fiance who encouraged me that this was very petty and cheered me on as all my other documents were approved and authenticated.
Early morning I get ready and again book my usual Ola share cab. I went there early around 7:30 to get a seat upfront, I knew this as I had read Google reviews about this regional office earlier.
The token counter opened at 9 on the dot and I was the eight person in the queue which helped me get my process done early. I was asked to go to the various counters within the building. And finally I met a very educated and knowledgeable lady officer who was very kind and polite in the way she handled my application. I informed her that I need “F” on passport as the supreme court of India had made the landmark judgement for transgender people stating that we could choose any of the three gender markers on my official documents without hormone treatment or Genital reassignment surgery. She surprised me when she confidently reaffirmed the same. I showed everything I could, my blood work, hormone level record, ultrasound scans etc… I further convinced her by telling her that I needed to have the surgery in Thailand which she wished me good luck for. Finally I tasted the fruits of my labour when she said those sweet words “You have been granted a “F” marked passport”. I couldn’t contain the excitement I experienced then. I wanted to shout out to the world that I had won my right to identify as myself in my documents. Later, police verification was initiated and for several days in a row I hadn’t received any call which I was notified I would get. My mom asked to call the police station and enquire. Later on an officer visited my home. I told my story and disclosed my Trans identity, which I think helped create sentiment in the officer’s heart who nodded positively.
Soon my passport was printed and dispatched by speed Post which took two days or so to arrive. Now whenever I see my passport, I feel like I have won a medal of self respect. Hope you all could make it through the war unharmed.