A CITY in India last week elected the country’s first openly-trans* mayor.

Independent candidate Madhu Bai Kinnar, 35 (pictured above, centre), won the city of Raigarh’s mayoral election by over 4500 votes against Vharatiya Janata Party opponent Mahaveer Guruji.

Kinnar is a Dalit, the bottom of the Hindu caste system and formerly considered “untouchables”, who before running in the election earned a living by singing and dancing on trains.

She began campaigning after being called upon to run for office by her community.

“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,” Kinnar told reporters after winning.

TV reports depict Kinnar greeting her supporters, who placed marigold garlands around her neck in celebration.

The last two mayoral elections won by trans* people in India, first in 1999, then in 2009, were declared null and void by authorities as the seats were reserved for general category women, and the courts recognised them as men.

The result comes nine months after India’s highest court ruled that trans* people could be legally recognised as a third gender, or gender-neutral.

The first official census of the nation’s trans* population last year found 490,000 people identified as the third sex, or hijra, though trans* activists estimate the number reaches closer to two million.

Most hijras live on the outskirts of society and make meagre livings through dancing, begging, and sex work.

In September last year, the country’s first trans* news anchor was appointed on the Tamil-language Lotus TV.

Kinnar’s victory has been celebrated as the next step forward for India’s trans* people, as well as for changing public attitudes.

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