SN Takes Pride: Celebrating & taking pride in trailblazers who fearlessly embrace their true selves.

We believe in celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and recognizing their contributions, struggles, and achievements all year round. Pride Month is just another way to highlight these inspirational stories and bring them to you. One remarkable story that stands out is that of Madhu Bai Kinnar. Being a Dalit transgender woman, she created history by becoming the first openly transgender person in India to be elected as a Mayor.

Just read that sentence again. The power it holds. Rising up from varying levels of the minority to a position of respect in this society is beyond applause-worthy. At 35, Madhu Bai was elected to serve as mayor of Raigarh in Chhattisgarh. “People have shown faith in me. I consider this win as love and blessings of people for me. I’ll put in my best efforts to accomplish their dreams,” said Madhu Bai.

Madhu Bai Kinnar first transgender mayor Raipur India Pride Month SNTakesPride LGBTQ+ queer community

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Let’s take you through her remarkable journey:

Early Journey

Born to a Dalit family in Chhattisgarh, India, Madhu Bai Kinnar used to be Naresh Chauhan. Her family expelled her for not conforming to gender norms. After studying till the eighth grade, she left her home as a teenager to join the local transgender community. Madhu Bai’s early life was fraught with challenges, growing up in a society that often ostracized and discriminated against transgender individuals.

The Road to Politics

Madhu Bai Kinnar’s entry into politics was unconventional. She earned a living by taking up odd jobs like performing street plays, singing and dancing on the streets of Raigarh and in trains going on the Howrah-Mumbai route. Despite facing discrimination and social exclusion, she remained resilient and committed to making a difference in her community.

Her popularity and the respect she garnered within her community laid the groundwork for her political career. She decided to contest for the mayor’s office upon the insistence of a few aggrieved citizens. And she did it by staying within campaign finance limits, spending barely Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 70,000 of her own money.

Madhu Bai Kinnar first transgender mayor Raipur India Pride Month SNTakesPride LGBTQ+ queer community elections

However, politics wasn’t necessarily something she had planned to enter. She chanced upon a form inviting applications for the Mayor’s office when she was once at the Municipality office for her weekly collections. Encouraged by her well-wishers to give herself a chance, she went for it and the rest is history.

Her Agenda

Madhu Bai wanted to put an end to transgenders begging in trains, ensure ration cards were issued, and work for the poor. It was her clarity of thought that connected well with the people who, much like her, were tired of political inaction and yearned for change. Improving sanitation facilities in Raigarh was part of her core agenda. For this, she and her team would go on early morning rounds every day, and urge city workers to fix clogged wells, pipes, and gutters.

She states that, “There were no proper sidewalks. The alleys were dirty and piled high with garbage. Poor people, abandoned in their old age, slept in the streets with nothing to keep them warm. We decided to do something – by running for this election.” As a result of this hard work, in 2019, Raigarh won the Swachhata Excellence Award. Some of her constituents have also suggested that she take up tasks such as:

-Cleaning and filling up of lakes and ponds,

-Creating small parks and gardens, and

-Re-routing truck traffic to the outer roads of the city.

Election and Victory

In a 10-day election campaign, Madhu walked door-to-door with her friends, telling people about her ambitions for the city, and they listened. On January 4, 2015, Madhu Bai Kinnar etched her name in the history books by winning the mayoral election in Raigarh. Running as an independent candidate, she secured 33,168 votes, in the central Indian state’s municipal election defeating ruling party BJP’s Mahaveer Guruji, by 4,537 votes.

As she says, “it was the public support that encouraged me to enter the poll fray for the first time, and because of their support only, I emerged as the winner”. Before Madhu Bai, Kamla Jan was elected the first transgender mayor of India in Katni. Her candidacy was declared “void” because she contested in the female category. Madhu’s victory was not just a personal triumph but a groundbreaking moment for the transgender community in India.

Madhu Bai Kinnar first transgender mayor elect Raipur India Pride Month SNTakesPride LGBTQ+ community

Mayor Madhu Bai Kinnar

9 months after the Supreme Court’s legal ruling, Madhu Bai emerged victorious in the mayoral elections. As mayor, Madhu Bai focused on issues that directly impacted her constituents, including sanitation, infrastructure, and social welfare programs. Her inclusive and empathetic leadership style reflects her deep understanding of the struggles faced by marginalized communities.

Her election as mayor brought visibility to the transgender community. It highlighted their potential to contribute meaningfully to society beyond traditional roles. It also underscored the importance of political representation and the need for inclusive governance.

When she assumed responsibility as Mayor, she set another precedent by rejecting the big office that the Mayor-elect is supposed to occupy. She wanted to be accessible to people, so their grievances reached her first-hand. That’s why she built an open cabin where people could approach her directly. She even refused to travel in the state-provided car and instead travelled in an auto. 

The Supreme Court Ruling

In April 2014, the Supreme Court of India recognized transgender people as the legal third gender. “It is the right of every human being to choose their gender,” the court said. The decision ordered the government to institute quotas for transgender people in jobs, education, and other amenities. This landmark judgment changed the lives of people like Madhu. It allowed her to contest elections, a right the transgender community did not previously have.

Challenges and Overcoming Adversity

Despite her groundbreaking achievement, Madhu Bai Kinnar faced numerous challenges in office. She dealt with resistance from various political factions and societal prejudices that questioned her capability based on her gender identity. However, she remained steadfast in her commitment to serve her community. Madhu used her platform to advocate for acceptance and equality for transgender people.

Madhu Bai Kinnar first transgender mayor Raipur India Pride Month SNTakesPride LGBTQ+ community elections

An Inspirational Force

Madhu Bai Kinnar’s legacy extends beyond her tenure as mayor. She has become a symbol of hope and inspiration for many in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. Her story encourages individuals to pursue their dreams despite societal obstacles and reminds us of the importance of creating inclusive spaces where everyone can thrive.

Madhu Bai Kinnar’s journey from a marginalized community to a position of political power is an inspiring testament to resilience, courage, and the transformative power of inclusion. Stay tuned for more such stories under #SNTakesPride under Pride Month.