C Devi, a 33-year-old transgender person, is set to take on AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa in the RK Nagar constituency in Chennai.
She is the first transgender person in Tamil Nadu to contest in the assembly elections. She will be contesting on behalf of the Tamil party, Naam Tamilar Katchi.
But Devi doesn’t see herself as standing against Jayalalithaa in the elections. “Jayalalithaa is one of the biggest leaders in the state. I’m not standing against her, I’m standing for the people in the constituency,” she said.
Devi hails from Salem and has worked with various NGOs from 2004, focusing on the empowerment of sex workers and transgender people. In 2009, she started a home called Thaimadi for the homeless, which now hosts more than 60 residents.
Talking about her election campaign, she said, “I’m going to focus on the upliftment of the poor, on providing clean drinking water and on better employment for the people in the constituency.”
She has been a member of Naam Tamilar Katchi for the past three years and took the plunge into politics because she feels politics offers the most potential for helping people. “I have been wanting to work for poor people for many years. I feel through politics one can help people more than anywhere else,” said Devi.
One of the main problems faced by transgender people is the lack of acceptance by people, she said.
She pointed to recent statements by actor and Congress spokesperson Khushbu Sundar, in which she allegedly said that members of the transgender community are asking for big roles in politics without really working for it.
Devi countered, “Actress Khushbu should not have made such a statement. If other people can become part of politics, then why not us? She has no right to say anything about us, whether we can or cannot be part of politics. We strongly condemn her statement.”
Devi was 16 years old when she realized she was a transgender person and wanted to undergo a sex-change operation.
Even though she faced opposition from her parents, she went ahead with the sex-change operation when she was 17 years old. “My parents only accepted me after they came to know that I was working in NGOs,” she said.
Devi currently stays in RK Nagar with her mother, and runs the Thaimadi Trust.