Abinaya, the talented transgender artist gone too soon

Another transgender girl is gone. Gone too soon. Abinaya, a long term friend of me and a participant in many of our Sahodari Foundation workshops and programs died in Chennai under mysterious circumstances. She was a wonderful Bharatnatyam dancer, a talented painter and a henna artist. She was a pre op trans woman who had suffered from epilepsy for so many years. We all have been so supportive, caring and considered her as a family. She has extensively travelled with us for many programs and performances.

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A week ago, she was found dead in her room in Chennai. Blood was found and there was razor blade cuts in her genitals. It looked like suicide. She was also into pill addiction and substance abuse which from which we could never pull her out . We wanted to help her but she would always deny that she was not taking any pills. It is not clear how she died and we are unable to get details from her biological family, We do know that they were supportive to her too. She was in a love affair with a guy which they say might have broken her heart.

One thing is clear though. She was depressed. It could be the broken love, could be the stress of the pandemic situation in Chennai, may be an unfulfillment wish that she always desired, may be she could never be who she wanted to be. She trusted no one and was always keeping a distance though she was close to all. No one imagined she would die Another girl, another friend, another community member is gone. Couldn’t even imagine she would choose to end it all. It was sudden and she never showed any signs. We couldn’t meet her for the past 4 months because of the lockdown.

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The above is her artwork which she painted it in the first Transhearts art workshop. This was her very frist canvas artwork too. She was an enthusiastic participant. She had such flair for art and design. She created this artwork about a transgender person who is pushed to sex work for her basic needs and how in her life as a sexworker how she is exploited by many. The artwork sold at an exhibition and she was so happy to receive the money for her first artwork.

None of us in Chennai and other places could attend her funeral, it became a small ceremony done with a few family members and transgender community who lived closeby her. What now left to us is only her memories. We mourn deeply for our friend and sister who we will never be able to see again. Her voice still lingers me, She always said ‘akka’ or ‘Kalki akka’ and would give her 100 percent in learning.

Abhinaya with the Sahodari team in Kolkatta on our way to Nepal

In the above picture taken in 2011, she is seen happily in a white dress with our team stopping in Kolkatta at an NGO office on our way to Katmandu, Nepal for a performance.

While we work vigorously for an equal, unbiased, accepting world for transgender people, the suicides and deaths make all of us go into depression, despair and takes long time to come to terms.

It was so unfortunate that we could not reachout to her in person during her most difficult and stressful times. The pandemic situation has locked us and we were unable to travel. The entire transgender community was in such difficulty and despair. May be things would have been different if there was no Covid 19. May be she would have chosen life.

She did not die because of the virus itself, but she died because of the stressful and difficult situation which arose because of Covid 19, unable to hold herself to life’s mounting pressures and disappointments.

Our prayers and condolences to her family. Abinaya will always be remembered. We pay our tears from our broken hearts as tribute to you. Rest in peace amazing girl!

Kalki Subramaniam, trans activist and artist.


Kalki Subramaniam

Kalki Subramaniam is an activist, artist, author, actor and an inspirational speaker She is the founder of Sahodari Foundation which works for the social, economic and political empowerment of transgender persons in India. Kalki holds two Master’s degrees - Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication and Masters in International Relations. Being a transgender person, she grew up with stigma and insult when she pursued her studies, yet that had only made her a strong person and shaped her destiny. She fiercely campaigns for social, political, and economic equity and rights of transgender and intersex people. Kalki advocates nationally against discrimination and hatred against transgender and intersex people and voices for their inclusion at all levels. She has lectured in numerous prestigious institutions like IIT Madras, Jindal Global Law School, National Judicial Academy, Gauhati University, CET Trivandrum, SriRam college New Delhi and many more institutions across India. She has also represented India in seminars internationally. Her collection of poetry in Tamil titled 'Kuri Aruthean' was published by reputed publishing house Vikatan publishers. It has been hailed as an outstanding work of poetry. She is currently working two of her books, her first English book and her second Tamil book. She has received several awards for her contribution towards transgender rights, literature and art. Kalki was one of the major campaigners behind the Indian Supreme Court's verdict legalizing transgender identity in India. Know more visit www.kalkisubramaniam.com

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