On the heels of India's Supreme Court granting legal recognition to third gender citizens known as hijra, a transgender woman from southern India has set off on a campaign for a seat in Indian parliament. Bharati Kannamma, 53, is seen as the first trans candidate in a general election, running as an independent for the Madurai district in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Of course, she's faced a long battle for her own recognition. The AFP reports:
"Even when people come to see me talk, they have certain set notions," the social activist told AFP ahead of Madurai's polling day on Thursday, in the phased general election that winds up in mid-May.
"It is only when they hear what I have to say and see me in person that they can get past the fact that I am a transgender," she said.
Kannamma has been involved in the transgender community for quite some time, having come out in 2004, leaving her bank job to fight for rights for the trans community as well as for those in poverty. Armed with a masters degree in sociology, a four-person campaign team, and an $83/day budget, Kannamma is fighting through the world of nepotism, bribery, and general corruption that India's political world is often steeped in.
"I have nothing to fear and I have no vested interest in being corrupt and the people see that," she said.
She's also campaigning on a wider ticket than transgender rights.
"I would develop the city's infrastructure and importantly, rid its systems of corruption and bring it on par with the country's top cities," she said.
While that's an incredibly tall order from a completely grassroots candidate, Kannamma seems to be a perfect candidate to make some really game-changing moves for the LGBT community and other marginalized populations with no strings attached.
Image via AP.