Kalki Subramaniam, transgender activist and founder of the organization Sahodari is not a new name when it comes to LGBTQ+. She has been the face of transgender in India. In an article in CNN, Kalki Subramaniam has spoken about her life woes and how she moved on from the dark times when she was transitioning.
Kalki wrote about her childhood memory that she still cherishes today. She thought that being born as a male she had more privileges than her sisters; but always longed to show her true self. Kalki said that she felt uncomfortable at all time when she was referred to as a he and that she was a constant target for all the bullies in school. She wrote, “After I started losing interest in school, certain teachers became aggressive and would punish me with a cane. I could never tell my parents. Amid painful episodes of shame and self-doubt, I considered ending my own life, though my family’s love stopped me from doing so.
I cut class and would go to parks and forests to get away from everyone. Under the trees, I wrote poetry and imagined my future life in drawings, which helped me heal my inner wounds.” Kalki shared her experience when she told her parents that she was a trans. She said that she was immediately taken to a psychiatrist. She said that the doctor asked her to draw how she saw herself in future. “I drew a beautiful girl with a long skirt, hat and a big smile,” she wrote. She also mentioned that the psychiatrist helped her and her family to come on terms with her gender identity.
Kalki in her piece also spoke about the lost souls who are demotivated and dejected when their families do not accept them for who they are. “I have lost a lot of transgender friends to suicide as their families did not accept them,” she said. Kalki explained how she got of all the trauma she faced and art was something that helped her through. Kalki wrote, “I used photographs, art and text to educate people about mental health, transitioning and their right to dignity. Within a few years, I had founded the Sahodari Foundation and trained our team in visual storytelling.”
Kalki explains that art has proved her self-worth more than anything and that it has been a constant for her to express all her emotions whether it is joy or anger or desires or struggles. She wrote that she has incorporated all the augmented reality in her art work. Kalki explained about her project ‘Transhearts’. She has been on a tour through several small towns in South India and offered a number of free workshops on expressive painting. She said that the transgender community has many artists and creative minds but they rarely get an opportunity. “When they are making art, they forget time,” she said. Kalki Subramaniam mentioned that a numerous number of art exhibits have been held in schools, universities and photo galleries that tell the story of the transgender community.
Kalki Subramaniam has launched her new project this pride month. It is called One painted palm at a time. With the idea to empower India’s transgender community, she is on a mission collecting trans stories from all over the country.
Kalki with consent from the one who made the art bring their stories out in public in form of exhibitions. She said, “The red palm prints can be interpreted in many ways. Firstly, I see each one as a slap against abusers and a sign of resistance. Secondly, when the palms are together on the wall, I see them as a unified and powerful statement from victims seeking justice for the crimes committed against them. During the interviews, my teammates and I broke down many times. It is traumatizing, yet we are determined to do it. If we don’t tell our community’s stories, who will?”