The petitioner is Myra Grace Bandikalla, a transwoman from Andhra Pradesh. She came to Mumbai in 2010 and since has been working as an Air Traffic Controller for the Airport Authority of India, the respondents in this case. Having been medically diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, Myra has self-identified as female for many years. She was undergoing hormone replacement therapy at the time and intended to undergo Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS). Being a government employee requires a NOC/documentation from the Respondents in order to apply for a passport. The Petitioner has alleged that her employers have refused to incorporate her name and gender in the official services record, despite having a PAN Card & AADHAR Card bearing her new name and gender. The petitioner has alleged gender discrimination and sought to register her name and gender in the respondent’s employment records as well as issue a NOC so she may apply for a passport. The respondents insist that since Myra has not undergone SRS yet she is not transgender. The respondents also submit that Myra must undergo an examination by their own Medical Experts.
The issue before the Court is whether a transgender person who has not undergone SRS or intends to undergo SRS may identify as transgender.
The Court relied on NALSA v. Union of India to understand the term ‘transgender’. Accordingly, it held that ‘transgender’ is an umbrella term encompassing diverse identities and experiences. Sex reassignment surgery is not a necessity to identify as transgender. It further relied on NALSA v. Union of India to affirm that gender identity is an important aspect of one’s personality. Gender identity must be guided by principles of ‘self-determination, dignity and freedom’. In order to obtain legal acknowledgement of one’s gender identity, no one must be forced to undergo sex reassignment operations.
Consequently, the Court issued ad-interim relief to the petitioner by directing the respondents to incorporate her new name and gender into her employment services record and also to issue any documentation/No Objection Certificate she may require to apply for a Passport.
This case re-affirms the right to self-identification for transgender persons and non-requirement of a surgical or any other medical procedure in order to be “certified” as being transgender. By denying the Airport Authority of India’s claim that Myra cannot be transgender since she has not undergone SRS and must be subject herself to an in-house Medical Examination by her employer, the Court has set a precedent that employers may not force employees to undergo SRS or internal examination to prove their trans identity.