In April 2014, the Supreme Court of India ruled in National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) v. Union of India that trans persons would have the right to self-identity as male, female or ‘third gendered’ with no prior requirements of medical or surgical intervention. The Court further directed the state to regard trans persons as a category of ‘socially and educationally backward citizens’, thereby entitling them to constitutional guarantees of affirmative action in public employment and education. In international politics and law, ‘backwardness’ is a standard trope of orientalist discourse. But in Indian constitutional law and politics, ‘backwardness’ has a rich and diverse set of connotations having become the hegemonic basis on which different kinds of marginal groups lay claim to affirmative action in different areas. ‘Backwardness’ has a peculiar temporality, is envisaged as a temporary condition that carries within itself the promise of its extinction. I will explore what this temporality has meant in respect of anti-caste radicalism before speculating on what it could mean for struggles around gender identity. In conclusion, I will reflect on the relationship between gender and ‘backwardness’ in an India that aspires to great power status.