“What sin have tirunangais committed? If, to be male and feel

female is a sin, it is nature’s creation.

What can we do about it?” (I am Vidya 88)

Vidya was a woman trapped in a man’s body. Though born as a boy named Saravanan, right from her childhood she always loved to dress up in her sisters’ pavadais (skirt) and saris and dance to film songs. In school and in college, she struggled to hide her female qualities but reached a point where she felt it was meaningless to lead a double life and was daring enough to undergo the painful and risky sex-change operation, unmindful of the dire consequences that lay in store for her.

Vidya was dissuaded by almost everyone she knew including fellow transgenders who lacked the courage to disclose their own sexualities. Unlike them, Vidya, was strong and determined to undergo the sex-change operation and finally became what she always longed to be – “a Woman.” Today, Vidya has no regrets. Actively involved in theatre and employed in a voluntary organization in Chennai, she hopes society will be more tolerant towards transgenders and offer them equal opportunities instead of taking to begging and prostitution.

Vidya’s biographical book deals with the plight of transgenders – right from the time they discover they are born in the wrong body, how they reveal this secret to family and friends, how the families refuse to accept them, how they suffer humiliation on account of being rejected by society, how some of them brave the odds and undergo the sex-change operation despite lack of professional medical expertise in the field.

That the book does not have a title is a clear indication that transgenders are denied identities and spaces in our societies. I have very often wondered at the lack of feeling towards transgender in our societies. After reading Vidya’s sad life-story, I long for a time when our societies will treat tirunangais with respect and dignity.



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