On Sunday, the state of Chhattisgarh, India elected Madhu Kinnar, a transgender woman. Kinnar came out victorious over Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Mahaveer Guruji, making her the first out Indian trans person to be elected mayor.
Kinnar, 35, had to overcome more than just her gender in order to get elected. She also happens to belong to the Dalit community, a socially and economically oppressed portion of the Indian caste system viewed frequently as “untouchable.” Prior to her foray into politics, Kinnar made money by singing and dancing aboard trains.
“People have shown faith in me. I consider this win as love and blessings of people for me,” Kinnar told local press. “I’ll put in my best efforts to accomplish their dreams. 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.”
Last April, an Indian Supreme Court ruling paved a path for legal recognition of a third gender, outside of male and female. These individuals, trans people known as hijras, celebrated their newly-found legal status.
This decision was based on Article 15 of India’s Constitution, which guarantees citizens freedom from state-sanctioned discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, race, or sex. Many lauded the court’s ruling, though advocates for LGBT rights noted that it was just months earlier that same court reinstated a ban on same-sex romantic relationships.
In the see-saw of LGBT progress in India, Kinnar’s electoral victory is, without a doubt, another step forward for the country, and we’re thrilled for that.