In a first, transgender woman completes Ayyappa darshan

On the way to and at the temple, Riyana was confronted by some devotees and priests for her young feminine looks.
The first-ever ‘transgender woman’ to complete the Sabarimala Ayyappa darshan, Riyana Raju. (Photo | Express)
The first-ever ‘transgender woman’ to complete the Sabarimala Ayyappa darshan, Riyana Raju. (Photo | Express)

BENGALURU : Claiming that she is the first-ever ‘transgender woman’ to complete the Sabarimala Ayyappa darshan, Riyana Raju, who has changed her gender from male to female years ago, said she succeeded after eight attempts.

Riyana, who kept applying through the Kerala government’s Devaswom Board website, said she has set a precedent among the transgender community by realising her dream of entering the temple, where only men and minor and elderly women are allowed, as a woman wearing a saree.

“Till now, transgenders could enter posing as male and by wearing pyjamas and dhotis. But I had declared myself as a transgender woman and took supporting documents, like an affidavit, letters from the Women and Child Department, the deputy chief minister’s office and also a recommendation from the National Legal Service Authority that recognises the rights of transgenders,” she said.

On the way to and at the temple, Riyana was confronted by some devotees and priests for her young feminine looks. She explained to them that she is a male to female transgender, cannot reproduce and can have the ‘darshan’.

“In a way, this temple visit allowed me to educate people about the rights of transgender women too,” she said. She praised the Kerala police for giving her protection and helping her get the darshan and also the devaswom board for not creating any hurdles.

“My parents were worried about my safety. I started my journey on January 4 morning and had the darshan on January 5 evening. I called informed my parents that I was safe and was returning home. Five others were with me, but they were scared to declare themselves as transgender women and change their dress. But I completed the holy trip in sarees and as a transgender woman. I am proud of it.”

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