LGBT rights in Tamil Nadu

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Asia's first Genderqueer Pride Parade at Madurai with Anjali Gopalan and Gopi Shankar Madurai[1]

LGBTI rights in Tamil Nadu varies from the rights for the gay lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex community[2][3] Transgenders in Tamil Nadu are called Thirunar, Thirunangai (for transfeminine people) and Thirunambi (for transmasculine people). The term Aravaani in Tamil was widely popularised before 1990's which is a substitute term for Hijra in India and visible male to female transgender people i.e. thirunangai are often discriminated against in jobs forcing them to resort to begging and prostitution.

According to an estimate from 2015, about 16,380 people in Tamil Nadu identifies themselves as LGBT.[4] Government has provided ration cards and opportunity to change sex without any fee through operation at the Government General Hospital.[5]

"Sangam literature use the word ‘Pedi’ to refer to people born with Intersex condition, it also refers to antharlinga hijras and various Hijra, The Aravan cult in Koovagam village of Tamil Nadu is a folk tradition of the trans women, where the members enact the legend during an annual three-day festival. “This is completely different from the sakibeki cult of West Bengal, where trans women don’t have to undergo sex change surgery or shave off their facial hair. They dress as women still retaining their masculine features and sing in praise of Lord Krishna,". “Whereas, since the Tamil society is more conservative and hetero-normative, transwomen completely change themselves as women. In the ancient times, even religion has its own way of accepting these fringe communities.” The Bachura Devi worship in Gujarat and Jogappa cult of Karanataka are the other examples.the kinds of dialects and languages spoken by these community in different parts of the country and the socio-cultural impact on the lingo. ‘Hijra Farsi’ is the transgender dialect, a mix of Urdu, Hindi and Persian spoken in the northern belt of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and ‘Kothi Baashai’ is spoken by the transgender community in Karnataka, Andhra, Orissa and parts of Tamil Nadu. “They even have sign languages and typical mannerisms to communicate. The peculiar clap is one such,”[6][7][8]
Gopi Shankar Madurai in National Queer Conference 2013

Social Security

The Tamil Nadu state in India was the first state to introduce a transgender (hijra/ aravani) welfare policy. According to the transgender welfare policy transgender people can access free Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) in the Government Hospital (only for transfeminine people); free housing program; various citizenship documents; admission in government colleges with full scholarship for higher studies; alternative sources of livelihood through formation of self-help groups (for savings) and initiating income-generation programmes (IGP). Tamil Nadu was also the first state to form a Transgender Welfare Board with representatives from the transgender community.

In a pioneering effort to solve the problems faced by transgender people, the government of Tamil Nadu (a state in South India) established a transgender welfare board in April 2008. Social welfare minister will serve as the president of the board. This effort is touted to be the first in India and even in the world. The government has also started issuing separate food ration cards for transgender people.[9] Even though the transgender welfare board solely started focusing only on the development of Trans women in recent days the rights of Trans men and gender variants are discussed.

In additional effort to improve the education of LGBT people, Tamil Nadu government also issued an order on May 2008 to create a third gender for admissions to government colleges.[10]

The Government has also decided to conduct a census on the transgender population in order to issue identity cards.[11]

On April 24, 2015 Tiruchi Siva DMK moved the popular bill, which was supported by all political parties in Rajya Sabha, for transgender people to ensure they get benefits akin reserved communities like SC/STs and is taking steps to see that they get enrolment in schools and jobs in government besides protection from sexual harassment.[12]

The Manonmaniam Sundaranar University (MSU) has announced that all institutions under its fold would provide free education to members of the Transgender community from 2017 academic year.[13]

In 2016, Supreme Court referred a curative petition in opposition to the previous verdict upholding the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, to a Constitution Bench indicating that they decided to reopen the section again. This move was celebrated by the LGBT community in Chennai.[14]

Helpline and other services

On February 2009, first lesbian phone helpline was launched by Indian Community Welfare Organization (ICWO) following suicide of a lesbian couple in Chennai.[15]

On March 2009, a telephone helpline called "Manasu" was set up by Tamil Nadu AIDS Initiative-Voluntary Health Services (TAI-VHS) for members of the transgender community, their families and the public.[16]

Srishti Madurai launched India's first helpline for Genderqueer, LGBTQIA people on October 2, 2011 at Madurai. Later in June 2013 the helpline turned to offer service for 24 hours with a tagline "Just having someone understanding to talk to can save a life".[17]

In 2013, a Chennai Dost was launched focused on LGBT in Tamil Nadu. The service called ‘grooms wanted’, permitted gays and bisexuals to register online.[18]

Civil Rights

Transgender A. Revathi got a driving license as a woman in 1997.

K. Prithika Yashini along 21 other transwomen received the appointment orders from Chennai City Police Commissioner Smith Saran on April 2017[19] In terms of judgement of the Madras High Court delivered on 6 November 2015, directions were given to the Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services Recruitment Board (TNUSRB) to appoint K Prithika Yashini as a sub-inspector of police as she is "entitled to get the job". The judgement further directed the TNUSRB to include transgender people as a "third category", apart from the usual category of "male" and "female".


Kalki Subramaniam, a transgender rights activist, writer and an actor. In the 2011 assembly elections, Kalki tried in vain to get a DMK ticket.[20] Again on March 2014 Kalki announced in Puducherry that she would contest in this election from Villupuram constituency in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. She is likely to be among the very few contestants fighting in the national elections from the transgender community that faces discrimination and ridicule.[21]

On 2016 Tamil Nadu Assembly election C Devi, a 33-year-old transwoman the first transgender person in Tamil Nadu to contest in the assembly elections. She contested on behalf of the Tamil party, Naam Tamilar Katchi to take on AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa in the RK Nagar constituency in Chennai.[22]

Gender issues in TNPSC and UPSC

Transgender S. Swapna and gender activist Gopi Shankar Madurai from the organisation Srishti Madurai[23][24] staged the protest in Madurai collectorate on 7 October 2013 demanding reservation and to permit alternate genders to appear for examinations conducted by TNPSC, UPSC, SSC and Bank Exams. Swapna, incidentally, had successfully moved the Madras High Court in 2013 seeking permission to write the TNPSC Group II exam as a ‘woman’ candidate. Swapna is the first trans person to clear TNPSC Group IV exams.[25]


In a monumental push in breaking taboos, the Tamil cable channel STAR Vijay started a talk show hosted by a trans woman named Rose. The programme is called "Ippadikku Rose", translated into Yours Truly, Rose.[26]

Karpaga, a transgender person born in Erode, performed a lead role in the Tamil movie Paal; the first trans gender in India to achieve such a milestone.[27] Kalki Subramaniam, a transgender person born in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu performs a lead role in a new Tamil movie "Narthagi".[28]

Transgender A. Revathi played a role as Transgender Chief in the 2008 Tamil film Thenavattu.[29]

Thirunangai's (transfeminine) meet in Koovagam, a village in the Ulundurpet taluk in Villupuram district, Tamil Nadu in the Tamil month of Chitrai (April/May) for an annual festival which takes place for fifteen days. They also meet in Coimbatore singanallur Koothandavar temple and Madurai reserve line Maariyamman Temple festival where they offer Mullapaari(sacred millets and grains) to mother goddess.[6]

In March 2017, 'Ladies And Gentle Women' was recorded in Tamil language and it became the first ‘lesbian anthem’ recorded in Tamil. The anthem was released along with a documentary sharing same name.[30][31]

Third Gender Literature and Studies

"Vaadamalli" by novelist Su.Samuthiram is the first Tamil novel about Aravaani community in Tamil Nadu published in the year 1994. Later Transgender activist A. Revathi is the first Hijra to write about Transgender issues and Gender politics in Tamil, her works have been translated in more than 8 languages and acting as a primary resources on Gender Studies in Asia. Her book is part of research project for more than 100 universities. She is the author of Unarvum Uruvamum (Feelings of the Entire Body); is the first of its kind in English from a member of the hijra community.[32][33][34] She also acted and directed several stage plays on Gender and Sexuality issues in Tamil and Kannada."The Truth about Me: A Hijra Life Story" by Transgender A. Revathi[35] is part of the syllabus for Final Year students of The American College in Madurai.[36] Later Naan Saravanan Alla” (2007) and Vidya's “I am Vidya” (2008) became first trans woman autobiography.[37][38]

Notable Tamil Trans and Queer People

See also


  1. ^ "One Who Fights For an Other". The New Indian Express. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Global Online Electronic International Interdisciplinary Research Journal (GOEIIRJ)
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Winter, Gopi Shankar (2014). Maraikkappatta Pakkangal: மறைக்கப்பட்ட பக்கங்கள். Srishti Madurai. ISBN 9781500380939. OCLC 703235508. 
  7. ^ A. Shrikumar (2013-10-18). "No more under siege". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Welfare board
  10. ^ Admission to colleges, The Hindu, 5 May 2008
  11. ^ census and ID card
  12. ^
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  15. ^ India's first lesbian phone helpline swamped with calls — from men
  16. ^ "Helpline for transgenders launched". The Hindu. 14 March 2009. 
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  22. ^ a b
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  26. ^ Rose in a Tamil talk show
  27. ^ Transgender to play lead in Tamil film
  28. ^ [1]
  29. ^
  30. ^ Listen to the world's first Tamil 'lesbian anthem'
  31. ^ This Lesbian Anthem sings a tune of change
  32. ^
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  36. ^ Making Gender Flexible, The Hindu. Retrieved 12 June 2016
  37. ^ a b
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