Akkai Padmashali, came by wearing the silk saree of her mother. She, born as he, named Jagdish in a typical middle class family in Bengaluru. Jagdish always knew he was a girl and wished to make up himself as a girl. Liked to polish his nails, to play with the same age girls. But nobody tried to understand a her in him or realise him.
Today, she, a male to female transgender, calls herself Akkai Padmashali and is a human rights activist. She is the first transgender who attained a driving license in the name of Akkai. She is the one who is rewarded Karnataka Rajyotsav Award and she is the person, who used to go to abroad to attend seminars on third genders. Yes, she Akkai struggles for the gender identity and social acceptance.
She came to Hotel Udayasamudra, Kovalam, Thiruvananthapuram to participate in an international conference to talk on third genders and gender inequality. “Kerala is very beautiful, blessed with good people, high literacy, etc. But the attitude of the people towards the third genders can’t tolerate. Don’t blame the third genders, only that I want to tell to all Keralites. She said. But she didn’t forget to congratulate the Kerala Government for bringing out a transgender policy.
She is an activist of the third genders, who are in the minority class. Akkai born as a boy. But she recognised her in him, when she was in her childhood. Akkai liked to help her mother, in childhood rather than to play with other boyfriends in his same age. She used to wear her mother’s saree and ornaments to decorate herself. Her parents actually afraid in her behaviour as a girl. She attained puberty in her eighth age. At that time she was taken by her parents to a doctor. Treatment also started.
“I used to play with girls a lot. One day my father brought me home and poured hot water on my legs. He said that if I didn’t act as per society’s norms, that was his punishment. Then I tried to keep a gap with the girls. But in my teenage I recognised that I can never live as a man, but as a woman”. Akkai tells.
She had a confused childhood, often inviting her parents’ anger for wearing her sister’s dress or playing with girls. She didn’t like to remember her school life. All used to tease her on the way. Nobody tried to understand her. She used to put kajal in her eyes and polished her nails. Even the teachers couldn’t try to understand her. Twice, she attempted suicide. That much bitter was her childhood. When she was in her teenage, she had a sexual attack at training centre, where she studied. Her six friends were behind this. She made a complaint about this to the principal. The principal told her “you are a boy, but your behaviour is similar to a girl. So you face these”.
“Those days… I don’t even like to remember. I was compelled to stop my studies at tenth standard owing to bitter experiences. When I was at the age of 16, I opened to my younger brother that I am not a boy as you people think, but a girl. He is the first person, who understood me fully and he shared this with other family members. But nobody accepted me. At that time I realised that I am an orphan. Nobody to support me and to understand me. All laugh at me”. Akkai became emotional.
She has undergone a sex reassignment surgery. She was a sexual worker for the period of four years from 2000 to 2004. She was ascetic too for a period. As no door was open to her, she compelled to go those ways, which opened in her way.
Akkai is a founder member of Ondede, an organisation that aims to create awareness about sexuality, sexual diversity and the right to choose one’s sexual orientation. Bisexual and transgendered persons are denied social justice. If they are not denied social-economic rights, they would not have become the sex workers, of course, most of them did not want to become so. Even though Akkai couldn’t continue her studies after high school, her English is in perfect margin. She has gone to the countries like Japan, Nepal to take classes for Transgenders.
She was invited by the Indian President to attend the swearing in ceremony of the Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir. She realised the importance of educating the policy makers and the judiciary about the problems faced by people belonging to sexual minorities in India. In her opinion Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code should be scrapped. That penal code says sexual acts between two persons of the same sex and other sexual activities that are against the order of nature and hence punishable.
As a good singer, she likes M.S. Subbhalakshmi and S. Janaki the most. She learned classical music for few years. Nobody took the initiative or liked to teach her, so she compelled to stop that also in the half way.
Yes, Akkai Padmashali’s story is that of a phoenix rise from the ashes.
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