India, the world’s largest democracy, has a very prominent and elaborate political system; and has come a long way since the country’s independence from the British rule. One of the more recent developments in Indian politics is the inclusion of people from the LGBTQIA+ community. We are extremely lucky to see people from the community beginning to make their way into politics; and making a name for themselves and the entire community. We’re witnessing Indian politics and the LGBTQ+ community making some real progress.
Let’s look at a few such trailblazers from the LGBTQ+ community who have entered the political scene of India and taken the country by storm!
Shabnam Mausi was the very first transgender Indian to be elected to public office. She was elected as a member of the Madhya Pradesh State Legislative Assembly in 1998; and remained in office till 2003. She was elected from the Sohagpur constituency in Madhya Pradesh state’s Shahdol-Anuppur district.
Shabnam Mausi’s agenda, as a Legislative Assembly member, included fighting corruption, unemployment, poverty and hunger; along with talking about discriminations faced by the Transgender community, hijras, eunuchs and cross-dressers. She also aimed at raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.
“We brothers and sisters often face stigma and discrimination because of our sexual orientation. Talking openly about AIDS helps us understand each other!” – Shabnam Mausi
Shabnam Mausi was an inspiration to numerous Transgender people in India; encouraging trans people to explore a career in politics too; other than being involved in the traditional and stereotypical roles of dancers, prostitutes and beggars.
Madhu Bai Kinnar, the Mayor of Raigarh, Chhattisgarh; is presently, the only openly transgender mayor in India. She contested the 2015 Raigarh Municipal Corporation elections as an independent candidate; and won with a total of 33,168 votes.
Previously known as Naresh Chauhan, Madhu had a self-earned budget of around 60,000 to 70,000; when she first decided to contest the elections. Her main agenda was to tackle the sanitation issues of the area, due to which she had personally suffered in past.
“I only spent Rs. 60,000-70,000 from my earnings during my campaign. It was the public support that encouraged me to enter the poll fray for the first time and because of their support only, I emerged as the winner”, says Madhu
Her victory was indeed historical as it came just nine months after the Supreme court verdict which legally recognized Transgenders as a third gender.
Asha Devi had created history when she became the first ever Transgender mayor of Gorakhpur in 2001. It was a time when the reign of The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was at its peak and yet the public was unhappy and unsatisfied. This provided a golden opportunity for Asha Devi to contest for the upcoming Mayoral elections.
With her party symbol being a bangle; Asha Devi attempted to teach the major political parties of India, that the public will always choose their own representative; and the utmost power lies in the hands of the masses.
Right after getting elected; she chose to come to the Municipal Corporation on a rickshaw. She made a statement and was exemplified for all the political leaders of India.
Harish Iyer has become the first ever openly gay politician in India. The prominent LGBTQ+ activist joined the Indian National Congress in 2019. He felt that there is a lack of Gay representation in the Indian politics. Despite knowing that politics can be a ‘dirty game’; Harish found it essential for queer people to enter politics, or else, “we (the LGBTQ+ Community) will always have straight and cis gendered men taking all our life decisions.”
“I have officially joined the Congress and look forward to working with the Mumbai Congress team in weeding out homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia and the politics of hate,” Harish Iyer announced on Twitter.
He’s a person who wears his sexuality along with his party name on his sleeves, which is truly unprecedented!
Apsara Reddy made history by becoming the first ever Transgender office bearer for the Indian National Congress in 2018. Previously known as Ajay Reddy; Apsara is now the General Secretary of the All India Mahila Congress. She believes that her appointment is the first major step in bringing the transgender community to the mainstream. And making the world realize that sideling the trans community is a big mistake.
“You don’t have to be relegated to the sidelines, to the niche or to the fringe, but you can be mainstream.” – says Apsara
After completing her higher studies from Australia and England; Apsara became a journalist. She worked for platforms such as BBC World Service, The Hindu, Commonwealth Secretariat in London, New Indian Express and Deccan Chronicle. She also worked for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for a while. All this and Apsara’s dedication to bring about a change for the trans community is indeed inspiring.