Eight years ago, Akkai Padmashali met an LGBTQI activist named Vasu. They became fast friends and eventually fell in love.
“When Vasu first came to Bengaluru, we were working for the same organisation. He is from a small village called Magadi in Bengaluru Rural district and we kept in touch since our first meeting. Later, we started seeing each other,” Akkai said.
Eight years later, Akkai and Vasu are now married. Their January 20 wedding and reception was attended by friends and family, and the couple has the full blessings of their parents.
A well known transgender rights activist and a trans woman, Akkai Padmashali runs Ondede, (meaning ‘convergence’ in Kannada), an organisation that aims to create awareness about sexuality, sexual diversity and the right to choose one’s sexual orientation.
And when it came to her own marriage, it wasn’t a decision she took lightly.
Vasu had proposed marriage to Akkai several times over the years but she had constantly refused.
“I was against the institution of marriage as I had apprehensions about domestic violence. Vasu had proposed marriage many times and back then, my work as an activist was more important to me,” said Akkai.
“My friends and advisors then told me that marriage need not mean violence, and if two people support each other and are in love, it would work out. It took me eight years to understand that,” she recalls.
Vasu, who used to work as an LGBTQI activist, now runs a laundry service in Magadi. Both Vasu and Akkai’s family members offered their support for the union.
“I have been in love with her for a very long time. Her dedication and passion for the cause is what I love about her the most. Since I was an activist for many years, I had told my parents about the transgender community and the challenges they face every day. They were very supportive and accepted my decision completely,” Vasu said.
“We told both our families two months before the wedding and they accepted our decision instantly. I have to say, this marriage is one of a kind in India. It is wonderful that everyone was so supportive. It was a happy occasion and there was nothing to hide. My husband knows that I cannot bear children. We are from different castes and that never mattered to any of us,” Akkai said.
Akkai plans to continue her work for the LGBT community in Bengaluru, while Vasu will head back to Magadi to continue with his business.
“My husband has offered me his complete support. I will be visiting him once in a fortnight. The distance will never matter to us. We have transcended boundaries,” Akkai said.
Akkai is a class 10 dropout, and hasn’t been able to pursue her education since. However, for her work with the transgender community, she was awarded a doctorate in Peace and Education by the Indian Virtual University in 2016.
She also received the Rajyotsava Award in October 2015. She joined Sangama, a local NGO that works with sexual minorities and later founded Ondede.