Adapted from an International Planned Parenthood Federation Blog
Sakuni is 36-year-old transgender woman from Sri Lanka. A transgender activist, she speaks passionately about the situation facing transgender people in Sri Lanka and her work with the National Transgender Network of Sri Lanka (NTNSL).
Sakuni was born with both male and female genitalia, but as her mother and father already had four daughters, her parents decided to raise her as a boy. But, “at the age of eight or nine, I felt like I am a girl. At the age of 11 or 12 I started to be attracted to boys at school”, she says.
She ‘came out’ to her family, who accepted Sakuni for who she was. “My family didn’t hide me away when I came out as transgender, they accepted me. My father has passed away, but my sisters and mother like to come visit me and like going places with me.”
“I am happy as a transgender person because my family loves me, but the other transgender people face many problems from their family,’” she says. “They cut their hair and force them to change their clothes and cut their nails. They don’t allow them to wear makeup or shave.”
Most transgender persons in Sri Lanka face a huge obstacle, as their assigned gender at birth that is reflected on their National Identification Card does not match their real gender. If they queue up in the male line, the men shout at them. “So we just don’t vote”, she said.
In Sri Lanka, changes are coming slowly. Sakuni says that, besides changes in attitude needed in the general public, it is also important that the Government reflect the LGBTI community. “Can’t a transgender person be in the parliament to represent our community, so our voice is there? I would like to go to parliament one day for my transgender community. I would ensure all transgender people can get the National Identification Card and voting rights.”