5 cool things about India’s first transgender mayor

1. “Politics is theater. It doesn’t matter if you win. You make a statement. You say, ‘I’m here, pay attention to me.’” Madhu Bai Kinnar was living American politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk’s words as she ran a low-budget campaign for the mayor’s post in Raigarh, Chattisgarh. Some say she won because the Modi wave skipped this part of the country. But this campaign was not just about winning, it was about saying, ‘We’re here, pay attention to us.’

2. This is not the first time a transgender contested mayoral elections. It’s not even the first time a transgender has won. But in the past, before the Supreme Court passed a law in 2014 that recognised them as equal citizens of a third gender, these victories were declared void. Madhu Bai Kinnar will take her seat with pride as she represents two very marginalised communities: Dalits and transgenders.

3. Kinnar was excommunicated from her family, the fate of many hijras who come out about their identity. Part of what makes an Indian transgender so vulnerable is their rejection by the support system they grew up in. Kinnar’s victory — she won by over 4500 votes over the BJP candidate — has brought a full reconciliation with her family a little closer.

4. Her biological family may not have been around, but Madhu Bai Kinnar had support from the sisterhood, ie her adopted family from the hijra community. She said to Indian Express, “Maine apni behno ke sath ghar-ghar jakar prachar kiya (I did door-to-door campaign with my sisters). People have rejected both BJP and Congress and chosen me.”

5. The new mayor has big plans. But first, as the Indian Express reports, she’s going to make Raigarh a more inclusive place for others like her. Transgenders, she promises, will be given jobs in the municipal corporation and won’t have to beg for a living. Until recently, Kinnar herself made a living dancing and singing in trains.

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