Transgender rights in Tamil Nadu

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Asia's first Genderqueer Pride Parade at Madurai with Anjali Gopalan[1]

Transgender people are called as Thirunar, Thirunangai for transfeminine people and Thirunambi for transmasculine people. The term Aravaani in Tamil was widely popularized before 1990's which is a substitute term for Hijra in India and visible male to female transgender people i.e. thirunangai are often discriminated against in jobs forcing them to resort to begging and prostitution. Thirunangai's (transfeminine) meet in Koovagam, a village in the Ulundurpet taluk in Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu in the Tamil month of Chitrai (April/May) for an annual festival which takes place for fifteen days. They also meet in Coimbatore singanallur Koothandavar temple and Madurai reserve line Maariyamman Temple festival where they offer Mullapaari(sacred millets and grains) to mother goddess.[2]

Tamil Nadu has an estimated population of more than 30,000 transgender people.[3] It has made great strides in trying to integrate transgender people into society. This includes welfare schemes initiated by the Government and acceptance of transgender people into the mainstream media and film industry.

"Sangam literature use the word ‘Pedi’ to refer to people born with Intersex condition, it also refers to antharlinga hijras and various Hijra, The Aravan cult in Koovagam village of Tamil Nadu is a folk tradition of the trans women, where the members enact the legend during an annual three-day festival. “This is completely different from the sakibeki cult of West Bengal, where trans women don’t have to undergo sex change surgery or shave off their facial hair. They dress as women still retaining their masculine features and sing in praise of Lord Krishna,". “Whereas, since the Tamil society is more conservative and hetero-normative, transwomen completely change themselves as women. In the ancient times, even religion has its own way of accepting these fringe communities.” The Bachura Devi worship in Gujarat and Jogappa cult of Karanataka are the other examples.the kinds of dialects and languages spoken by these community in different parts of the country and the socio-cultural impact on the lingo. ‘Hijra Farsi’ is the transgender dialect, a mix of Urdu, Hindi and Persian spoken in the northern belt of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and ‘Kothi Baashai’ is spoken by the transgender community in Karnataka, Andhra, Orissa and parts of Tamil Nadu. “They even have sign languages and typical mannerisms to communicate. The peculiar clap is one such,”[2][4][5]

— Gopi Shankar in National Queer Conference 2013

Welfare schemes[edit]

The Tamil Nadu state in India was the first state to introduce a transgender (hijra/ aravani) welfare policy. According to the transgender welfare policy transgender people can access free Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) in the Government Hospital (only for transfeminine people); free housing program; various citizenship documents; admission in government colleges with full scholarship for higher studies; alternative sources of livelihood through formation of self-help groups (for savings) and initiating income-generation programmes (IGP). Tamil Nadu was also the first state to form a Transgender Welfare Board with representatives from the transgender community.

In a pioneering effort to solve the problems faced by transgender people, the government of Tamil Nadu (a state in South India) established a transgender welfare board in April 2008. Social welfare minister will serve as the president of the board. This effort is touted to be the first in India and even in the world. The government has also started issuing separate food ration cards for transgender people.[6] Even though the transgender welfare board solely started focusing only on the development of Trans women in recent days the rights of Trans men and gender variants are discussed.

In additional effort to improve the education of transgender people, Tamil Nadu government also issued an order on May 2008 to create a third gender for admissions to government colleges.[7]

The Government has also decided to conduct a census on the transgender population in order to issue identity cards.[8]

On April 24 2015 Tiruchi Siva DMK moved the popular bill, which was supported by all political parties in Rajya Sabha, for transgender people to ensure they get benefits akin reserved communities like SC/STs and is taking steps to see that they get enrolment in schools and jobs in government besides protection from sexual harassment.[9]


In a monumental push in breaking taboos, the Tamil cable channel STAR Vijay started a talk show hosted by a trans woman named Rose. The programme is called "Ippadikku Rose", translated into Yours Truly, Rose.[10]

Karpaga, a transgender person born in Erode, performed a lead role in the Tamil movie Paal; the first trans gender in India to achieve such a milestone.[11] Kalki Subramaniam, a transgender person born in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu performs a lead role in a new Tamil movie "Narthagi".[12]

Transgender A. Revathi played a role as Transgender Chief in the 2008 Tamil film Thenavattu.[13]


On March 2009, a telephone helpline called "Manasu" was set up by Tamil Nadu AIDS Initiative-Voluntary Health Services (TAI-VHS) for members of the transgender community, their families and the public.[14]

Sahodari Foundation is an organization working for the transgender rights. Founded in 2007, Sahodari Foundation is a well known organization in India for its creative and alternative advocacy methods.[15]

Srishti Madurai launched India's first helpline for Genderqueer, LGBTQIA in October 2, 2011 at Madurai. Later in June 2013 the helpline turned to offer service for 24 hours with a tagline "Just having someone understanding to talk to can save a life".[16]

Transgender people in Tamil Nadu politics[edit]

Kalki Subramaniam, a transgender rights activist, writer and an actor,In the 2011 assembly elections, Kalki tried in vain to get a DMK ticket.[17] Again on March 2014 Kalki announced in Puducherry that she would contest in this election from Villupuram constituency in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. She is likely to be among the very few contestants fighting in the national elections from the transgender community that faces discrimination and ridicule.[18]

Gender issues in TNPSC and UPSC[edit]

Transgender Swapna and gender activist Gopi Shankar from Srishti Madurai[19][20] staged the protest in Madurai collectorate on 7 October 2013 demanding reservation and to permit alternate genders to appear for examinations conducted by TNPSC, UPSC, SSC and Bank Exams. Swapna, incidentally, had successfully moved the Madras High Court in 2013 seeking permission to write the TNPSC Group II exam as a ‘woman’ candidate. Swapna is the first trans person to clear TNPSC Group IV exams.[21]

Third Gender Literature and Studies[edit]

"Vaadamalli" by novelist Su.Samuthiram is the first Tamil novel about Aravaani community in Tamil Nadu published in the year 1994. Later Transgender activist A. Revathi is the first Hijra to write about Transgender issues and Gender politics in Tamil, her works have been translated in more than 8 languages and acting as a primary resources on Gender Studies in Asia. Her book is part of research project for more than 100 universities. She is the author of Unarvum Uruvamum (Feelings of the Entire Body); is the first of its kind in English from a member of the hijra community.[22][23][24] She also acted and directed several stage plays on Gender and Sexuality issues in Tamil and Kannada."The Truth about Me: A Hijra Life Story" by Transgender A. Revathi[25] is part of the syllabus for Final Year students of The American College in Madurai.[26] Later Naan Saravanan Alla” (2007) and Vidya's “I am Vidya” (2008) became first trans woman autobiography.[27][28]

Notable Tamil Trans and Queer People[edit]

  • A. Revathi - First Transgender to write about Transgender and Hijra's in Asia.[29]
  • Kalki Subramaniam - First Openly Transgender entrepreneur and Founder of Sahodari Foundation.
  • Narthaki Nataraj - First Transwoman to receive Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
  • K Prithika Yashini - First Transwoman Sub-Inspector of Tamil Nadu Police.
  • Rose Venkatesan - First Transwoman TV host.
  • Karpaga - First Transwoman actor.
  • Living Smile Vidya - First Transgender autobiographer.
  • Transgender Swapna - First Transgender I.A.S aspirant.[30]
  • Transgender Gunavathi - First Transgender Nurse.[31]
  • Padmini Prakash - First Transgender News Reader.[32]
  • Pastor Bharathi - First Transgender Pastor.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "One Who Fights For an Other". The New Indian Express. 
  2. ^ a b Winter, Gopi Shankar (2014). Maraikkappatta Pakkangal: மறைக்கப்பட்ட பக்கங்கள். Srishti Madurai. ISBN 9781500380939. OCLC 703235508. 
  3. ^ "Chennai: Move on toilets for transgenders sparks off debate". Express India. 23 June 2009. 
  4. ^ A. Shrikumar (2013-10-18). "No more under siege". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Welfare board
  7. ^ Admission to colleges, The Hindu, 5 May 2008
  8. ^ census and ID card
  9. ^
  10. ^ Rose in a Tamil talk show
  11. ^ Transgender to play lead in Tamil film
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Helpline for transgenders launched". The Hindu. 14 March 2009. 
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^