An American transgender judge has been forced to cancel her trip to India this week after her visa was allegedly stalled. Victoria Kolakowski, who became the first transgender trial court judge in 2010, was expected to participate in a programme on LGBT law and policy as part of the American Embassy’s speaker programme.
In a Facebook post, Kolakowski, 55, wrote that the visa was not ready a day before her departure on March 9 even as she had applied applied for it on February 20. Kolakowski was told to return in the afternoon on March 9 when she visited the front office for Indian visas. She was later told to come back again the next morning to get a manager’s authorisation to pick up the visa at the Indian consulate in San Francisco. “We came back Friday morning at 9 a.m., with my bags in the car, awaiting a 1:40 p.m. flight.” Kolakowski was eventually told the visa was still unavailable while the organisers told her “they were in urgent discussions” with US State Department officials.
Kolakowski later went to the consulate with her invitation letters and other documentation. “Just before they closed at noon, a man came out to return the letters,” she said. “He pointed to the letter where it said ‘to participate in a program on LGBT law and policy in India.’ He explained that they needed to know more about the programme, so they had directed their inquiries to the Indian Embassy in DC, who forwarded the matter to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.”
Kolakowski was told that officials were awaiting authorisation from New Delhi, but by then everything in India was closed because of Holi. The judge said that officials insisted to her that the State Department had provided details of the trip to the Indian government “well in advance” and that there should not be any cause for delay.
US Embassy’s cultural affairs counsellor Craig L Dicker said that he had met India Council for Cultural Relations director general to get the visa but failed. “I’m sorry to say that we have been left with no choice other than to cancel your program as currently scheduled,” Dicker wrote in an email to Kolakowski, who had put a map of India with rainbow colours on her Facebook profile page in honour of the LGBT community she was hoping to meet in India.
An Indian government source told The Sunday Express that the visa was not denied. “…the US embassy was asked for details of her programme and purpose of visit since she was being invited by it. No details were provided and so the application could not be processed further.’’