Sudha, a transgender woman, received the Kalaimamani Award from the Tamil Nadu, alongside 200 other artistes.
On August 13, 46-year-old Sudha from Chennai received the award that has also been bagged by big names from the Tamil film industry like actor Vijay Sethupathi, actress Priyamani and actor-choreographer-filmmaker Prabhu Deva.
The awardees list for artistes and their work between 2011 and 2018, included Sudha for her compering for the year 2015, for her advocacy and awareness programmes to ensure acceptance of the community in society.
Talking to The Federal along the sidelines of the award, Sudha said, “I feel liberated and I am happy that this award will make many from my community to seek a better future, recognising their calling and step out with confidence.”
The awards given to artistes—actors, musicians, singers, lyricists—have been extended to her for the societal impact of her work.
“I have been hosting several such programmes for the last 27 years now, since I began working as a researcher with activist Sunil Menon’s Sahodaran that focusses on the welfare for the LGBTQ community. The programmes have those from the community reaching out to various stakeholders like government officials, corporates, social workers, etc. I have developed a nonchalant style of speaking in Tamil. It is natural and effective,” she adds.
She believes that being part of the 60-hour programme held in 2014, where the community conducted continuous programmes including performances and talk shows with over 65 transgenders participating in it, has made the government take notice of her contribution.
Her programmes have focused on putting an end to female infanticide in Namakkal, Salem, apart from promoting Swachch Bharat Abhiyan in Thoothukudi which has achieved 100 per cent toilet coverage.
Combining two of her passions — Tamil language and the cause of the community’s welfare — Sudha gets a little pensive when she talks about her journey. “In 1985, I came out in the open about my identity, when such things were unheard of. There was no scope of acceptance from your own family, leave alone society. Many like me had to leave our homes and live on the streets. I struggled to pursue education and I dropped out of school after failing in class 10,” she says.
Sudha remembers a time, when even boarding an auto was unthinkable for people like her. However, she reckons that the state has witnessed a sea change over a decade or more from 2000.
“Tamil Nadu is a frontrunner with several welfare programmes for us and the Transgender Welfare Board, which has been a model for other states that followed suit. People like me are stepping out of the boundaries that were set and are entering fields that were out of bounds for us, as lawyers, police personal in government jobs. Yet, we need to continuously work on awareness and advocacy and I want to play a part in it,” she says.