The Central Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram was buzzing with activity on the morning of 28 April. There was excitement in the air as people warmed up for the competition.
The sports meet was specially organised for transgender persons by the Sexual and Gender Minority Federation (SGMF) and the Kerala government
The atmosphere was thick with anticipation as 132 trans persons turned up from various districts of the state to participate in the four events which were held: 100m, 200m and 400m sprints, 100x4m relay, long jump and shot putt.
"Apart from the participants, 200 people were also present at the stadium to cheer for the athletes. And like any other sporting event, the audience played an active part in applauding and cheering."
Sreekutty, President of the SGMF and a trans woman, said that they did not have enough time to organise the meet with age-wise sub-categories this time around. “But from next year, we will have junior, sub-junior and senior categories for participants,” she said.
Noting the state government’s support to the sports meet, Sreekutty added that this was a proud moment for Kerala’s transgender community. Back in 2016 when the LDF came to power, SGMF had submitted a memorandum with suggestions to promote the well-being of the transgender community in the state. The sports meet was one of the suggestions made.
“We are proud that SGMF was one of the reasons this event happened,” Sreekutty said, with a smile. For many transgender persons who participated, it wasn’t victory or loss that mattered.
For Sakheena, a trans woman from Beemapalli, participating in the 100m race was exhilarating enough in itself. “I’m extremely happy that I could participate, I don’t care about the prizes,” said the 32-year-old. Sakheena works with an NGO and also performs mimicry and stage shows.
For other athletes, it was the feeling of being accepted which was most overwhelming. Poornima, who finished fifth in the 100m race, found herself short of words when asked how participating in the event felt.
“It’s difficult to express my happiness in words. In fact, I want to train better and participate next year too. The best part was that everyone encouraged and supported us. No one said anything bad or abusive,” she said.
Sreekutty and Poornima both observed that while the audience had transgender persons, others were present too. They said that this was an important step in integrating the transgender community into the mainstream society.
(This article has been published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)