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Transgenders hit a wall

New Delhi, June 21: When three persons wearing salwar-kameez walked up to the Supreme Court complex last week for an entry pass, officials at the reception didn’t know what to do.

They “spoke in male voices and even had a shadow of a beard”, said a lawyer who was there at the spot.

Rules require visitors to fill in a form where they have to state their gender among other details. But the form had no category called “others”.

“The male/female column has to be ticked for the pass to be issued. The three wanted to be let in as females. The staff didn’t know what to do,” said the lawyer.

Finally, a senior official intervened and the three were issued passes as “females”.

That wasn’t the end of it, though. Women security officials wouldn’t frisk them, saying they were “male”, while the three refused to be patted down by male guards.

The three were finally allowed in after male guards checked them with a metal detector — from a distance.

“It was humiliating,” Sita, one of the three transgenders who had gone to the court that day to file a petition, said later.

If Sita is still hurting, it isn’t because of the guards. Sita is upset that the country’s highest court hasn’t been able to sensitise its staff towards transgenders — people born with typical male or female anatomies but who have had hormones or undergone sex reassignment surgery as they felt trapped in a “wrong body”.

The Election Commission has given transgenders the choice of registering under a separate sexual identity as “others”, and Sita feels if the court entry form had a similar provision, they would have been spared the harassment.

“The women security guards weren’t aware that we are like them, we think like them and feel like them. When they refused to frisk me, I felt bad, but I forgive them. My only grouse is that the court, which has passed judgments in our favour, hasn’t been able to build awareness amongst its staff towards us.”

Last year, the Supreme Court had sent notices to the Centre and states on a petition by the National Legal Services Authority asking for a directive to include transgenders as a third category.

The government has officially recognised the third sex in documents like passport application forms, ration and Aadhaar cards, transgenders still face discrimination.