A few days after meeting the passport authorities, she found the online application form had a third option in the column for sex: `Transgender’.On February 15, 2015, Satyashree received her passport -the first person in Maharashtra, and perhaps India, to be issued the document with her gender listed as `Transgender’.
“It was one of the happiest moments of my life,“ Satyashree, a law graduate, told TOI. Satyashree, who stays in Vikhroli, is a board member and program manager under Project Pehchan of Darpan Foundation which works for transgender and hijra community rights in Mumbai.
Satyashree’s passport adds to the growing recognition the third gender is being accorded in India. In 2013, the Election Commission had issued voter cards to transgenders for the first time.
Activists said usually transgender persons get passports that identify them as a ‘Female’. This is not an identity that most transgender persons are comfortable with.
Satyashree is one. Born into a middle class family in Tamil Nadu with a government officer as father, Satyashree says she knew growing up that “I was different from the other kids”. As a teenager, Satyashree found out about the hijra community. Determined that she did not want to go into sex work or begging — the only professions open to the hijra community, she focused on her studies and graduated in law. In 2006, she left her home one final time, with her educational certificates in her bag, for Mumbai. Her guru in Mumbai was supportive about her ambition to work, but Satyashree met rejection and disillusionment. “Nobody was willing to offer me a job despite my educational qualifications,” said Satyashree, who then went to work as a peer educator with an NGO.
The passport struggle has its roots in her battle to get other documents like Pan card, Aadhar card, etc, for herself and her community members. “Very few in the community had proper identity cards or any document that would prove their existence or help them benefit from government schemes. Besides facing harassment and discrimination, it was difficult to get medical aid at government hospitals,” said Satyashree. Over the last few years, she has worked to sensitise government departments and hospitals.
The joy of getting her passport as a transgender is tempered with the realization of the stigma that follows the community. “My parents may accept me, but I am apprehensive about how the society and the village will treat them once they come to know that their son is now a hijra. I don’t want my family and my brothers to be affected because of me,” said Satyashree.