I have read a lot about How to change the gender marker and name in other countries. I’ve heard stories of how other girls changed their name and gender marker, in India. And I’ve done it myself. It is easiest for me to tell how I did it. If you do not want to read through this whole letter, everything may be summarized in these three steps:
Three steps to change the gender marker and name
- Go to lawyer and make an gender marker and name change affidavit. A Judicial Magistrate (or Oath Commissioner) has to sign the affidavit.
- Get the affidavit notified in at least two News Papers
- Notify the change in the state/govt. gazette, based on the strength of the above two documents.
If you have time and want to know more details, I’ll just narrate how it went for me. I know a lady who works for a Community NGO (Sis Shanta). She was the first in our state to get her papers altered/rectified. I asked her for help beforehand and went home sometime in July 2015, about a week before Id-ul-Fitre. Unless you are an army brat, you’ve got to do this back home where you were born and raised.
Get a Gender Change affidavit & Newspaper Publication
Shanta sis and I went to see a human rights lawyer, Mr. Samananda, if I remember correctly. He drafted an affidavit and with me in tow, went to see an Oath Commissioner. I should probably tell you that before we went, we sat at his place for a couple of hours. He brought up that I have to be sure I would never go back to living as a guy. That I need to convince the Commissioner that I am sincere and would live out the rest of my life as a woman. The first time we went, the Commissioner was not home. The next morning he signed the papers. Sis Shanta and I went to get it published in two New Papers.The affidavit came out in print the next morning. I had selected the Newspapers with some consideration to ensure that not many people in my locality ever saw it. My family is supportive but I did not want to test their commitment against the backlash of a conservative society.
Changing the Voters Id Card
Anyway, after securing the two documents, the affidavit and the Copies of the Newspaper, we went to the offices of the Sub Divisional Officer. Which office and which officer is responsible for maintaining the Electoral roll (voter roll) and issues Elector’s Id Card varies from state to state I suppose. This office is responsible back at my place and they had a drive going on to amend mistakes in the Voter Roll. I filled out a form to change the Gender marker and name on the card, attached the old card, copies of the Affidavit and Newspaper and submitted to a lady clerk. She goes, “You want to change your documents to Male?” I took it to mean she perceived me as a girl and I explained the situation to her. I was pleased with myself.
Things had been sailing smoothly but here we ran into a hurdle. The lady told me that they need me to attach copies of my Aadhar Card issued by UIDAI. I had been reluctant to register with UIDAI until now due to privacy concerns but this seemed like as good a place as any to give up a little idiosyncrasy in exchange for something I want. The office that does this was in an adjacent building. But the line there was a mile long. As I thought of going home, dejected, the lady clerk informed us that there was a camp running for Aadhar in the same office. They scanned my finger prints and Iris and gave me a receipt. This too I attached with the form.
Some officer than signed the form and we had to take it to another part of town, some office of the Election Commission. The Govt sure does have a lot of offices. After submitting the signed form there, they took less than 24 hours to issue a new Voter ID with the name I wanted and gender female. The card had the same number as the card before. Sis Shanta informed me that most people who seek this change wanted the identifier “others” and not female. I did not ask how many change it the other way i.e. female to male but now I wonder. The same day I applied to SBI to change the gender and name in my bank account. They too were very co-operative. But that may be because I used to work there. In an hour or so, I had my real name and corrected gender on my bank passbook.
Change the gender On PAN Card
After securing these, I went back to my current place of residence, in another state, some 400kms from home. Sometime in August 2015 I applied for the changes in my company’s records. Shortly thereafter, I applied for the same changes in my PAN Card. Yes, another thing; UIDAI E-mailed me my Aadhar card. I printed it immediately. I attached the Aadhar card copies too while applying to both my Company and NSDL.
Here, it became a little complicated. NSDL kept asking for clarifications and proper format of Annexure A and stuff like that. They also managed to misplace a bunch of documents I sent them subsequently. I had to ring up their call center several times and threaten legal action. I sent them copies of the Supreme Court judgment that empowers people to change the gender. Sent some colorfully worded e-mails. Finally, after some 3 months, I had a new PAN Card with my real name, my right gender and new photograph but the old PAN number.
Changing details in my company records
Something like this unfolded with our Company. I had sent several reminders to several stakeholders, but no action was taken. Finally I called up the Human Resources Department in Head Quarters and was told they are waiting for the “hard copies”. I was flabbergasted; no one told me I had to send hard copies. Nevertheless, I sent them a pile of papers. Again, no word for 3 months. In desperation, I wrote a e-mail, threatening to leave the company if my concerns were not addressed immediately. I sent a black carbon copy to the CMD of the company. And then the heavens opened up the next day. The General Manager, HR, sent a letter to a bunch of people saying the matter has to be resolved by the end of the day.
The last thing I changed is my PRAN Card. PRAN stands for Permanent Retirement Account Number. They did change the gender and name on record but sent me a card with the old photo and signature. I am am yet to resolve this.
Changing Gender on Educational Certificates
If you catch the drift up until now, you would have gathered that it takes quite a long time to change all your documents so you will have to be patient. My educational papers still has the old name and gender. I think this process is long and done in series, not parallel i.e. 10th, 12th, Graduation, Masters etc. in that order. Once you are in a long term job, these papers are hardly ever called upon. But the one paper I want to acquire soon is the Govt. Gazette Notification. The process apparently varies from state to state and I am expecting to have to cut through a lot of red tape.
As you know, some other girls have not been so lucky. Some cases are still stuck in the courts. Some girls used different methods and got off “easier”. As they keep saying about transition, you have to walk the talk. Everyone’s experience is slightly different.
Final words of Wisdom
Now that I am done telling you about what happened, I might as well write what my impressions were and what I think will help. The first word off the start mark is, “be presentable”. You should go properly dressed as the desired gender. It shows a certain degree of commitment on your part. I went wearing a Salwar Kameez. Try to wear something exclusively worn by women. A skirt is much more feminine than a pair of jeans or pant suit.
The second that you need to know is that the NALSA Judgment explicitly states that the govt. cannot insist on proof of medical intervention to change the gender marker to male, female or other, irrespective of how u currently present/look. But I figure it would help if you did not appear as if you are “just saying” and you looked the part. Stereotypes are there for a reason. Again, it is better to have your GID certification ready. Some personal involved did bring up the issue of medical certificates. I did not show them and instead told them of the Supreme Court Judgment. But it feels nice to have an ace up your sleeve.
It may be interesting to note that even before the NALSA judgment, many girls did change the gender and name. I am not very sure but basically you went to a judge post SRS and he/she gave an order directing the govt to enable all changes. So, if you are having difficulty trying to change your papers, do not get frustrated. If you continue your transition, at some stage, you will look like the gender you want to live in. The wrong name and gender on your papers will be a source of irritation. But you have to remember that you are not necessarily what it says on the papers. Once you complete your transition successfully, there is no force that can make you what you do not want to be.