CHENNAI: My identity was marred by derogatory terminologies and this changed after Kalaignar honoured us by calling us as Thirunangai, said Saroja, a transwoman, clad in a black saree printed with large red polka dots, symbolising the DMK party flag.
Recalling her struggle as an adolescent, she said her family members ostracised her. To her, the name of Thirunangai made all the difference.
“When the government recognised me, when my gender comes with the word respect embedded in it, it changed my world,’’ she said.
“Beyond just being respected, we could enjoy government benefits because he gave us voting rights,” she said. Having a voter ID, with their gender on it facilitated them to apply for other ID proofs, she said.
A grateful Saroja, said she now lived in a settlement created for them by the late DMK leader.
“Without his inclusive welfare schemes, we would have lived in huts and other areas which made us vulnerable to exploitation,” she said, crying.
It was during Karunanidhi’s rule in 2008, Tamil Nadu established the country’s first-ever Transgender Persons Welfare Board.
The board gave recognition to the third-gender for the first time through the “Aravani identity card”, allowing them to apply for family cards, voter IDs, and other documents.