'Jobs for transgender people should be advertised widely and they should be motivated to join. There should be reservations for them.'
On March 24, 2022, six years after a sex change operation, Dakshayni, 30, was appointed secretary of the Kodiveli panchayat in Tiruvalluvar district, Tamil Nadu. She is the state's first transwoman panchayat secretary.
From 2010 to 2015, Dakshayni had been secretary of the district's Annambedu panchayat. At that time, she was a man and was called Chandanraj.
As she begins the interview, Dakshayni -- who has a diploma in computer application and has studied astrology -- tells A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com, "Please refer to me as the daughter of Kuppu Ammal."
Talking about her first job as the secretary of the Annambedu panchayat, she says, "In 2010, the panchayat selected me as their secretary. There were 15 applicants for the post. The then Block Development Officer Uma Devi supported me because she had seen how I helped in the local library."
As a young man, she felt unusual changes in her body. "My speech was different, my walking style had changed and I was nervous when I talked to people." The changes were different from what other young men experienced.
"I did not tell my family, friends or anyone in my office. My family would have been ashamed of me. In those days, there was less awareness about transgenders. Today, in Chennai and Tamil Nadu, there is more awareness."
She had been in touch with the transgender community since she was 16.
At one point in 2015, what she was going through overwhelmed her and she ran away from home with a transgender group. "I didn't know what I was doing. I just followed my instincts," she says.
She lived with the transgender community for five years.
"I worked in a temple in Chennai.
"I went with my group -- we were 600 members -- to Mumbai and Nepal. We concentrated all our activities in the many temples that we visited," she says.
Her work in the temples allowed her to support herself.
In 2016, she underwent a sex change operation at the Kilpauk Medical College, Chennai. The process takes a year and is grateful for the support she received from her community.
"The operation was difficult but I was determined to do it. I did not feel the pain,” she says.
The name Dakshayni was given to her by her group head. "As I like Goddess Kali, I accepted the name," she says.
Dakshayni's life changed in December 2019, when her mother's friend Manjula Murali's son Sugan saw her in Chennai.
He told her that her mother and brother were crying every time they thought of her and were still searching for her.
Sugan called her mother on the phone and made Dakshayani speak to her.
"We both cried a lot. When she said that she accepted me as I am, I went to meet them," she says.
Dakshayani decided to stay at home with her mother and brother and applied for her old job.
"I knew it would be difficult as I had been absent from work for five years and had not even informed them when I left," she says.
The first thing she did was write a letter to Chief Minister M K Stalin's cell (petitions to the chief minister are sent to the CM's cell).
In the letter, she related all that had happened to her. She also got recommendations from Tamil Nadu Minister for Milk and Dairy S M Nasar and Poonamallee MLA Krishnaswamy.
Thiruvalluvar District Collector Alby John Verghese supported her on compassionate grounds as she is a transwoman.
"Many others like Block Development Officer Rajeswari Madam helped me," she says. "Other transgender people should also get this help.
"Jobs for them should be advertised widely and they should be motivated to join. There should be reservations for transgender people and the government should help them.
"I will also try my best to help them in every way that I can."
As for the future, she hopes to open an orphanage for the poor.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com