People who are selfless enough to fight for those around them are the ones who leave their mark on society. Few epitomise this belief more than Akkai Padmashali.
She resisted marriage for eight years, instead choosing to live with her partner. When the resistance she faced from her family and community finally got to her, she gave in.
Akkai has always had a challenging yet inspiring life, fighting for her rights and for acceptance in society. Being born into an Air Force family, she had a confused childhood. Despite trying very hard to feel like a boy, she finally gave in at 16 and disclosed what she felt to her brother, who was the first to accept her. She never felt lonely. The acceptance and struggles of her community motivated her to start working for an NGO that works with sexual minorities.
A lot of years were spent educating the policy makers and the judiciary about the struggles faced by sexual minorities. When the Supreme Court of India acknowledged ‘transgender’ as a third gender in all forms and legal documents, Akkai became the first transgender person in the country to get a driving license. She, though, never forgets the struggle she faced to obtain a passport and license stating the gender of her choice.
Akkai believes being a woman is, in her words, “just awesome”. Whether the genders are bifurcated on the basis of the emotions of sex, stereotypes, religion or sex, identifying as a woman is the most important thing in her opinion. That is why International Women’s Day means a lot to her. For one day, she enjoys the adulation that the world shows her chosen gender.
“No matter what background or circumstances they come from, all women are born equal” is her response, when asked about the struggle for equal rights faced by women the world over. On the topic of progress, she is of the opinion that even today, the resistance towards choosing your own gender exists. It is this resistance that she has made her life-goal to change, through education and dialogue. While she has had a long journey, the road ahead is long and Akkai Padmashali is more motivated than ever to #pressforprogress.