BENGALURU: Social worker 30-year-old Akkai Padmashali, who will receive the Kannada Rajyotsava award on Sunday from the Chief Minister, is said to be the first transgender person to get the prestigious award.
Born and brought up in Bengaluru, Akkai was born a male to a middle-class family. “I used to live with my parents, elder sister and younger brother. People started making fun of feminine characteristics in me. This demotivated me and I failed in Class 10. I started working in smaller organisations, including as assistant at a ceramic shop. Wherever I went, people teased me. Some harassed me sexually. Unable to hide my identity, I quit working,” she said.
When she was 16 years old, Akkai met some transgender persons near Corporation Cicle. “That was a turning point in my life. I was happy to see some like-minded, who do not discriminate. Later, I became female and when I was 17 years old, I started begging and working as a sex worker at Hosur Road and Cubbon Park. One fine day, when I was around 20 years old, I realised, this should be put to an end. We need to live with dignity. That’s when in 2004, I joined Sangama, an organisation that works for transgenders, sexual minorities and others,” Akkai said.
Akkai said that she got a chance to meet people from various sections such as the judiciary, media, political establishments and others to whom she could express concern about transgenders. “Because of our approach to these people, our voices were heard. There was a public hearing too. Society is rigid about us,” she added. In 2013, Akkai quit Sangama and started Ondede, along with like-minded people.
When asked about the changes over the years, Akkai said that 15 years ago people used to beat us like onions and tomatoes. “Now, some of us are able to join evening colleges, work at better places and not have to practise sex work. It has not changed in a day or two. I will dedicate my award to the entire civil movement. I want to see a non-discriminating world where they treat transgenders like any human being,” she said.