On January 4th, in the state of Chhattisgarh, 35-year-old Madhu Bai Kinnar was elected mayor, making history in India as their first ever openly transgender mayor. Kinnar beat her opponent, Mahaveer Guruji, whom governed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by over four thousand votes.
Transgenders, transsexuals, cross-dressers, and other non-conforming individuals in South Asia are often classified as “hijras”, people who have had sex change operations or who regard themselves different than their born gender. They mostly live on the fringes of India, some entering prostitution and begging. Some have said that many live in poverty and even refused medical care when needed.
Nine months after a court ruled that transgenders will be recognized as a legal third gender, Kinnar ran for her position. However, the court’s reinstatement of a gay sex ban has resulted in an spike in the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, forcing many to shun their identity.
Kinnar is actually not the first transgender mayor to serve, as there were two other successful candidates before her that were disqualified because of their non-conforming views.
“People have shown faith in me. I consider this win as love and blessings of people for me. I’ll put in my best efforts to accomplish their dreams,” said Kinnar after her victory.
"I have seen that the roads of this city are in deplorable condition. There are many poor people also who don't have a place to live. I want to fulfill their demands. I would make sure that people of my community don't do anything that causes shame to us and I would like to give them some opportunities so that they become economically independent," she stated. Kinnar mentioned that cleanliness and the construction of drains were her priorities. “The poor stood by me, but I will have to take care of all in Raigarh. I will restore ration cards of poor, which were canceled,” she said.
On the other hand, not everyone is celebrating the former dancer’s win. “There was no Modi wave in Raigarh this time. People of Raigarh were fed up with the corruption of BJP, hence they voted for Madhu. It is not Madhu Kinnar's victory, but it's a loss of BJP," President Narendra Negi of Raigarh district’s Congress snarled.
"We accept the decision of people and we will review it," said BJP district president Rajesh Sharma.
A milestone for the LGBT community in India, Kinnar’s electoral victory will forever be marked as a historic moment for Raigarh.