The Tamil Nadu government has reconstituted the state’s Transgender Welfare Board with 12 transgender persons and one cis woman. Named the ‘Thirunangaigal Nala Vaariyam’, the board includes 10 trans women, two trans men, and a cisgender woman. The move has been appreciated by transgender communities in the state, firstly for giving priority to the voices of transgender persons in issues concerning them, and secondly for including trans men in the board, which is rare. The board is constituted under the Tamil Nadu social welfare department.
The trans welfare board of Tamil Nadu was first constituted in 2008. Over the past few years, the board has been effectively dormant. It was headed by the Minister for Social Welfare and Women’s Empowerment, while other officials of the social welfare department acted as the members of the board. A statement released by the department on October 11 stated that to ensure complete safety and to implement welfare schemes for trans persons in the state, the board will include 12 trans persons and a cis woman.
The members of the Board include A Riya from Namakkal; T Beauty of Thoothukudi; Sathyasri Sharmila and M Neela of Chengalpattu; Priya Babu of Madurai; P Mohanambal Nayak of Tiruchi; R Anushri, M Radha, K Aruna and S Sudha, K Arun Karthik and Vidya Dinakaran of Chennai; and Selvam Muniyandi of Theni.
Speaking to TNM, Arun Karthik, who works as a restaurant manager in Chennai, said, “This is a welcome step by the government. Now we can represent our community and address our concerns better. There is still a lack of awareness about the community, which will be given preference.”
The board is currently called ‘Thirunangaigal Nala Vaariyam’, and Arun said he will request the government to change this to ‘Thirunar Nala Vaariyam’, to include transgender men in the title. ‘Thirunangai’ in Tamil means a trans woman, while the word for a trans man is ‘Thirunambi’. ‘Thirunar’ is the word the community uses to denote the whole spectrum of trans identities. “The state government over the years has been using the term ‘Thirunangai’, only referring to trans women. But there are a large number of trans men too. Hence ideally the government should start using the term Thirunar, which will serve as a blanket term for both trans women and trans men,” said Arun.
“Now that the board is formed, we will insist on a census for transgender persons in Tamil Nadu, this is the first step. Through a census, we can identify the exact population of trans men and trans women in the state,” Arun said.
The statement said that to ensure societal acceptance and dignity for trans persons in the community, several welfare schemes have been initiated such as housing, bank loans for starting businesses, free travel in government buses, pensions for transgender persons above 40 years, and COVID-19 induced lockdown relief fund.
Besides this, as several trans persons do not possess government documents, the government is also aiding them with trans identity cards, ration cards, and essential IDs such as birth certificates, voter IDs among others.