The air conditioner in the car had to be turned down. Anannyah Kumari Alex was feeling cold. It was a long journey at the end of a busy day with the ‘party’. It was recently that she joined them, the Democratic Social Justice Party (DSJP), one that ‘embraced her and told her she could be a leader if she got an opportunity’. For Anannyah, a 28-year-old trans woman who’d been fighting for gender equality, this seemed just the right time to take that plunge.
Anannyah doesn’t have the jitters of a first-timer. She answers the phone with ‘hello, how do you do’. Years of working as a radio jockey, you gather. Not just that, she loves interacting with people, she says. In her own words, “I love learning new things and having new experiences.” So far, she has been a radio jockey, a make-up artiste and, what she is most passionate about, an anchor. Not one at a time but all together, for the past five to six years.
“I come from Perumon in Kollam, where the rail tragedy [of 1988] happened. Mine is a very typical family. They could not accept my gender identity. The discrimination was so bad at home, in my town, and even school that I had to drop out of Class 12 and run away,” Anannyah says with the same calmness.
She spent some time in Bengaluru before coming back to Kerala and finding her space. She was adopted by Renju Renjimar, popular trans make-up artiste.
Anannyah worked hard. This year she anchored the 25th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Ernakulam and Thalassery. Politics happened after that.
“This year, it’s also my first vote, in Kollam constituency. And I wouldn’t miss it for anything,” she says excitedly.
She chose not to contest from Kollam. She went to the other end of Kerala – Malappuram’s Vengara. The same place that Indian Union Muslim League (IUML)’s strongman PK Kunhalikutty is contesting for the United Democratic Front (UDF).
“Why am I running for elections,” she asks before the question is put to her. “To fight for the equality of all human beings. Even now, when you speak of gender equality, you only talk of men and women. But at every place that you speak of equality, it should be about men, women and transgender people. There should be gender equality and that is why I’m contesting. Because transgender people are capable of being in politics and I’m going to represent them. I will work tirelessly for the equal treatment of all people.”
She uses the word equality every few lines. It is clearly a value she holds most dearly. But it does not answer why she chose Vengara of all places.
“I’m [reportedly] the first trans person to contest the Assembly elections in Kerala. My name will go down in history and when people look back, it should be clear how important the election had been. I want to contest against a strong candidate. I’m giving him a chance to contest against me, not the other way around,” she says.
While talking about the state government’s promises for the welfare of transgender people, Anannyah says that it does not address all the basic needs. “As a representative of the community, coming from the ground, I can make that happen.”
She is happy working for the DSJP, a party that gave her the opportunity to prove her leadership skills. “How many years will it be when a mainstream political party gives a seat to a trans person? They are not even so keen to give space to women candidates, but are forced to do so. Even this year, we saw women protesting about not getting seats. I can’t wait for them to open their eyes and offer seats. The time is now,” Anannyah says.
Watch: Veena George's interview with TNM