Akkai Padmashali is the first transgender to be awarded the Rajyotsava award. She has received the award in the sector of social work. Akkai has had a difficult life. From not finding support from her family in her transformation, the lady has battled the society alone. She has been raped, forced into sex work and ostracised for just wanting to be who she is. But using the hate and harassment as fuel to burn her fire, Akkai has been fighting the patriarchal laws and customs of the society and helping those in need so they don’t have to go through what she did, alone. She is the founding member of Ondede, an NGO for the rights of children, women and minority sex, which aims to protect and start a dialogue for the most supressed section of the society. Priyanka Kalra from Woman’s Era exclusively interviewed Akkai to spread awareness and gain perspective from her inspiring journey.
WE- At what age did you realise that the gender identity conferred upon you wasn’t one you identified with? In what ways did the realisation occur?
I was born a male, with a so-called penis identity. From a very young age I had the feeling that I am a girl and not a boy. My mind was always confused. Instead of doing things that boys would that age, I would always be with my mother, help her in the kitchen, wear her clothes, bras, and shoes. I would make rangolis and behave like a woman. My parents were always worried about my behaviour and constantly told me to change. At the age of eight, I was certain that I am a girl in a boy’s body. My parents did not react well to this and took me to various mantravadis, psychiatrist in order to ‘cure’ my feminine character. They tried to cure something that was inherent to me and not a disease. They performed many rites and rituals to do away with who I am. Once I was playing with a friend who was a girl and my father just came out of nowhere and took me back home and poured boiling hot water on my legs so I don’t behave like a girl anymore. Then I was on a house arrest for three months, so I don’t behave like this anymore.But from a very young age I knew who I was. I would play with girls and even in school plays I was happy and eager to enact female characters. It put me closer to who I am and was.
WE- How did your school and peer group react to you?
School was very hard for me. Wherever I went people teased and taunted me. I didn’t have any friends who would support me or try to understand me. I used to wear light make-up to school like some kajal in my eyes and nail paint on my nails. I was abused and bullied for this. Once some kids put a upturned compass on my chair on which I sat and got badly hurt. I had to sit on all fours because the pain was so bad. I was raped and sexually abused in a training centre. I was with six of my male friends who had forceful sex with me. There was so much of semen on my face and body.
I went to my principal and asked him to see what has happened. “Why don’t you address this yourself ”, he said “You’re a man and act like a woman, you will face the same kind of situation”.
The bullying got really bad for me since my family was not very well off. I came from a middle, working class family and hence my peers who were from well to do families did not like me or talk to me. People had two reasons to not like me. One I was poor and two I was a feminine boy. My faculty too was not supportive since they didn’t understand me. I got completely demotivated and stopped studying, I did not complete my schooling. No one cared about my well being or studies, they just cared that I was an feminine boy. I still don’t blame my peers since they were not aware, I do blame the society for not opening up to the minority sex. continued