Setting a unique example for many in the state, B Arun Kumar and P Sreeja, a transwoman from Thoothukudi, tied the knot on Monday (May 20) to become the first transgender couple in Tamil Nadu. The couple that had a traditional wedding on October 31, 2018 after much opposition from their families, registered their marriage at the joint registrar’s office in Thoothukudi on Monday.
B Arun, a contractual labourer with the railways, met P Sreeja, who is pursuing her B A in English, at a temple function in their hometown. Sreeja, 20, underwent sex reassignment surgery at the age of 12 with the support of her mother.
First few dates
After staying in touch over phone and social media chats, it was Sreeja, who took the first step towards her relationship with Arun.
“After talking for several months, Sreeja expressed her love towards me. I was initially hesitant, but after a couple of months, I too fell in love with her,” says Arun.
However, the fear of social stigma stopped him from tying the knot with her. “I asked her to concentrate on her studies and myself explored the possibilities of a legal marriage with her,” Arun says.
While Arun’s efforts to convince his family went in vain, despite initial opposition to their relationship Sreeja’s mother finally gave consent for the marriage.
“My mother warned me that being a transwoman I was more vulnerable to being cheated by men,” Sreeja says. But, Arun won the heart of Sreeja’s mother by frequently speaking to her. “Now, she fondly calls him ‘thambi’ (brother), as he is very caring,” Sreeja adds.
Hiccups on the way
As news about their relationship spread like wildfire, the couple decided to get married according to traditional customs in October 2018. “People started planting unwanted things in our minds and it was creating problems in our family. So, we decided to get married,” Arun said.
Although the law permits a man to marry a transwoman and register it officially, the couple had to run from pillar to post to get their marriage an official seal. While the local registrar office at Thoothukudi refused to register our marriage, the police, reluctant to act, asked Arun to write to the Director General of Police. “As I couldn’t afford to travel to Chennai directly, we wrote a letter seeking a permission for a wedding. But, there was no reply,” Arun said.
Arun approached the local court at Thoothukudi, but the personnel there asked him to file a petition in the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court. Arun who didn’t have enough money to do the same filed a petition with the legal aid cell on the court premises. The legal aid cell couldn’t help him either.
Together, at last
Arun was finally helped by a senior lawyer who helped him file a petition in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. In an order on April 22, Justice GR Swaminathan ruled that a marriage solemnized between a male and a transwoman, both professing Hindu religion, is a valid marriage in terms of section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and said that the registrar of marriages is bound to register it.
Justice Swaminathan said the court is not breaking any new ground and is merely stating the obvious. “Sometimes to see the obvious, one needs not only physical vision in the eye but also love in the heart,” the order read.
The couple on Monday tied the knot officially in the presence of fellow transgender people in the city.