Transgender in poll fray for first time

S. JesiliyaPhoto: S.S. Kumar  

In the Union Territory, which has never had a single third gender representative, one transgender is breaking the glass ceiling this Assembly election.

Of the 9,41,398 voters, there are 79 transgenders and among the 344 candidates contesting the elections, there is only one transgender from Puducherry.

Entering the poll fray from Orleanpet constituency, 37-year-old Jesiliya.S, who has been fielded by the Naam Tamilar Katchi, wants to focus on fulfilling the needs of the common people. Hailing from an impoverished family, she runs a tea shop opposite Civil Supplies Department on Thattanchavady Road.

With political party banners covering the roof, the tea shop is a secured by a wooden gate made of crudely tied pieces of tree branches. “It is to keep away miscreants who use this space to consume alcohol in the night,” says Jesiliya. She has been running the shop for the past 15 years. “It has been 10 years since I became a transgender,” she says.

There have been people who stopped buying tea from Jesiliya’s shop after her transformation. “But, there are still customers who come to have tea in my shop. My family has accepted me. There have been difficult times but there is also silver lining in everyone’s lives,” she says.

Her entry into politics was also through the customers who come to her teashop. “I was thinking of entering politics though a few people from my community opposed it. One of the leaders of Naam Tamilar Katchi came to the teashop when they staged a protest at the Civil Supplies. While talking to the party cadres, they encouraged me to contest this election,” says Jesiliya.

She gained her confidence to enter politics from the organisational skill acquired while working in a non-governmental organisation. Over four years, Jesiliya has worked among the transgender community, creating awareness on AIDS and addressing their problems.

“Transgenders face difficulties in accessing the most basic amenities. No one is willing to provide them house for rent in Puducherry. Hence, I want to ensure that these basic amenities, including housing problems, are resolved if I win the elections,” said Jesiliya.

Born in Puducherry, the hardship she faced has not stopped her from adopting a child. Empathetic by nature, Jesiliya is keen to listen to the people and meet their demands. Besides, of course, continuing to rally for the rights of transgenders.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 2:06:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/Transgender-in-poll-fray-for-first-time/article14308291.ece

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