She is entering the political fray after 25 years of activism.

Meet Sudha She wants an AIADMK ticket to take forward the transgender cause
news Friday, March 18, 2016 - 20:25

For 43-year-old transgender person P Sudha, helping to empower her transgender peers means taking the plunge into politics.  Once that decision was made, for Sudha the choice was obviously the AIADMK, considering her admiration for the party leader and Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has grown over 15 years.  

On Thursday, in Chennai, Sudha applied for an AIADMK ticket, and all of her transgender friends were there to support her. She said, “I like Amma (Jayalalithaa). I like Amma’s administration. Compared to other states, Tamil Nadu has been improving, and that is only because of Amma’s administration. That is why I have applied for a ticket to this party.”

Sudha hails from Tirunelveli, and for the past 25 years she has been working for the cause of transgender persons. She says that things have certainly improved a great deal in the past few years.

“20 years ago, discrimination against transgender people was very high. Wherever a transgender person went, they used to face it. But gradually, there have been some changes — acceptance from society, families, and government, and media sensitization,” she said.

As an instance, she points to changes in the field of education. “It used to be very difficult. A transgender person was unable to pass Class X and go ahead with studies. But nowadays, even if a transgender person goes to college that is not a big deal.”

Sudha decided to jump into the political fray because she felt that only with greater representation would the momentum of change build up further. Politics will provide the power of decision making, which more members of minorities must be given, she says.

Sudha’s journey has not been an easy one. She started realizing that she was a transgender person when she was eight-years-old. “My parents used to keep saying that I’m a boy but I felt like I’m a girl. So, physically I was a male but my mind was that of a female. I used to go to the houses of transgender people in my locality and wear their sarees, put on lipstick and get dressed up,” she said.

When she was 18-years-old her parents found out about her transgender identity. “They went and fought with all the other transgender people and told them ‘Our son should not come to your houses again,’ said Sudha.

Sudha ran away from home when she was 18 years old. Till she was 30, she never went back. Then her family came to know that she was working with an NGO and was well-respected. They finally accepted her. “Now, I go there for one or two days and come back. I stay with my friends here,” she said.

Four years ago, Sudha began her own organization, called the Indian Transgenders Initiative.

Does her family support her now that she has decided to enter politics? “I told them I’m going to work for people, and they did not object. My brothers are very supportive of my decision.”

Sudha feels that one of the major obstacles standing in the way of empowerment for transgender people is the lack of jobs. “The government cannot provide jobs to all the transgender people. Only the corporates can do so. So, if I get a ticket then I will talk to the corporates and get them jobs.”

But Sudha doesn’t want to be too unrealistic with her goals. “I would first focus on helping the transgender people in my constituency. After that, I can support other transgender people.”

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