It must take undying conviction and courage to fight for what hasn’t been given to an entire community by the patriarchal society that we live in. Yet Akkai Padmashali and her husband Vasu’s unflinching activism for acceptance and inclusion has made them the first-ever transcouple to legally adopt their three-and-a-half-month old son recently. This may be the latest achievement as the first trans person ever to do so but for Padmashali this is certainly not her ‘first’ achievement.
Bangalore-based Padmashali, who tried to kill herself at the age of 12 because it became difficult for her to deal with the pressures of being called out a different gender than what she believed herself to be, has now been battling it out for the rights of the trans community for three decades now. In these 30 years of working with various organisations and the government she has a lot to show, Padmashali first had to fight for acceptance as a transgender person in Karnataka and then to get her marriage registered. Next she became the first transgender person in the country to get a driving license stating her gender as female and the first transperson to receive the Rajyotsava Prashasti, the second-highest civilian honour of the state of Karnataka.
Talking to SheThePeople.TV about the recent adoption of her son, she says she dreamt of adopting a child since the time she was unmarried. “After getting married, I and Vasu, we both felt that we need a child. The adoption of a baby was a long-held desire and a dream for me. But after marrying Vasu, the hope now seemed a reality. So, we approached a few orphanages but they refused to give us a child assuming that transgenders are mostly seen on the streets as sex workers and beggars. Their notion was that if they give us a child then by default the child will be forced into sex work or begging, but that’s not the case with us, I will let my child decide what he wants to do in life. It will be his decision entirely.
As a woman and a feminist, I need to see a child as a child. The assigned sex might be a boy or a male but let me not decide it for my child. I want him to grow as a child who can decide for himself what gender he wants to give himself,” says Padmashali who adopted her son from her sister’s relative.
On how can we as a society let children grow with people of all genders and if we have reached there yet, she is of the opinion that it would only be possible with people who have a progressive outlook. She recounts one incident from her life when she visited one of her friends’ houses where the friend’s mother shut the eyes of her 2.5-year-old grandson so he couldn’t see Padmashali, just because she is a transwoman.
“The society is at that point still where I am made to feel ashamed of myself. Do I not look beautiful? Why did the mother shut the baby’s eyes? It is a massive social phobia and a stigma against our community and to eradicate it is extremely challenging. One can’t make every change on the paper and one can’t go to the court every time and every day because people don’t like so many aspects of what makes us who we are. Society needs to take social responsibility,” Padmashali lets us peek into the difficulties the community has to go through on a daily basis.
However, one reference to her son makes her smile. “The child is really good. More than us, both the families (her and the people she adopted from) are really happy and my son is so joyous all the time. He stays with my entire family and the whole family is just taking care of him and loving him and that has brought us all close,” she chuckles.
“As a woman and a feminist, I need to see a child as a child. The assigned sex might be a boy or a male but let me not decide it for my child. I want him to grow as a child who can decide for himself what gender he wants to give himself”
Since she is the first transwoman to take on the legalities of adopting the child, Padmashali’s case also becomes a motivation for the larger community that can now have a chance at legally calling a child there own by adopting them. Padmashali’s legal advisor, Jayna Kothari helped her smoothen out the judicial journey for her. “She supports me in all my legal work and we have a very friendly relationship where we share a lot of other personal things so it was she who helped me out with all the legalities of adopting my son. I don’t think there were any complications as the authorities were also really supportive. Sometimes we need to think beyond the law because humanity is beyond the law,” she says.
“The current adoption system is not in favour of the transcommunity. It needs to be widened and inclusive,” Padmashali adds. She got married to her husband, a transman, on January 20, 2017. It took them a whole year to be able to register their marriage as Vasu had to get all the relevant documents.
Picture credit: Akkai Padmashali