The Hindu Newspaper
Through her thoughts, actions and never-say-die attitude to life and the many adversaries that have come her way on account of her decision to live as a transwoman, Kalki has transformed herself into a role model for the transgender community, many of whom still live a marginalised existence on the fringes of society.
Kalki Subramaniam is an Indian transgender activist, queer artist, entrepreneur, poet, actor and inspirational speaker. Kalki is an expert in DEIB issues and is the founder of Sahodari Foundation, an organization that works for Indian transgender population through its powerful and innovative projects that bring social change and empowerment. She was born in Pollachi, a beautiful town in Tamilnadu, India.
Being a champion of transgender rights in India, Kalki has spoken over to a million students across universities and other academic institutions in India and is well known for her relentless activism. She was one of the prominent activists who lobbied for the recognition of legal rights for transgender people and was one among the activists responsible in the milestone victory in 2014 when the Supreme court of India finally recognized the transgender community’s civil rights in the country. Kalki has received several awards for her social work and contributions for the upliftment of the under privileged transgender persons.
Her collection of poetry in Tamil titled ‘Kuri Aruthean’ was published in 2014. Her poems challenge misogyny, oppression and patriarchy and is praised as a brilliant Tamil queer literature, Tamil poetry. Kalki’s debut in Indian film world happened with ‘Narthaki’, an offbeat film about the life journey of a transgender woman – her quest for happiness, love and embracing her true self and discovering true happiness. She became the first transgender actor in India to do a lead role in a major motion picture.
Kalki has received numerous awards for social work, art performances, entrepreneurship and her literary contribution. On March 8th, 2015, Facebook chose Kalki as one of the 12 inspiring women of the world who use Facebook as a community development platform for empowerment. In 2016, Kalki was nominated by L’Oreal Paris India as the ‘Woman of Worth’ under the arts category.
As an artist, Kalki’s paintings celebrate the diversity of humans and and that of nature. Her paintings are vibrant and colorful. She has toured across North America and Europe to speak, perform her through art and poetry telling the stories of the Indian transgender and queer lives.
As a diversity and inclusion champion, Kalki speaks to sensitize, train and educate the corporate world through sensitization sessions and workshops on the inclusion of LGBT, transgender, gender diverse and non-binary communities in India, Europe, and North America. She has spoken at a number of Fortune 500 companies. Visit this page to know more!
Through Sahodari Foundation, she has initiated the powerful RedWall project which is a community art project with participation from more than five hundred transgender and non binary people across India who are victims of sexual and physical abuse due to transgender expressions. The untold stories of the voiceless transgender and non binary people are documented with a red palm impressions of the victim themselves and exhibited across universities, colleges, education institutions, seminars and other public spaces. Kalki performs her poetry in these events.
She also found the Thoorikai art project through which she offers free workshops for transgender people and encourages them to express their life stories through art, promotes their artworks and supports their livelihood. More than 200 transgender people have attended the workshops. This entrepreneurship venture is first of its kind in South Asia. The project with a mission to reach out to 10,000 transgender people to encourage and train them to paint their untold stories on canvas.
Kalki Subramaniam has been very vocal about the impact of climate change on vulnerable transgender communities, particularly about those transgender persons who are poor and live on the banks of waterbeds and seashore slums. She has been voicing for appropriate actions to protect their livelihood during natural calamities.
In February 2017, Kalki Subramaniam was invited by the Harvard University to speak at the India Conference where she received a standing ovation for her speech. She also spoke at University of California during her U.S Visit. In June 2017, Kalki was awarded the honorary doctorate by International Tamil University USA in Madurai.
In 2018, Kalki was invited by Ministry of Global Affairs, Canada to participate at the Global Conference on lgbt human rights and Inclusive development which happened in Vancouver, Canada. She was also felicitated by Canada Tamil Sangam in Toronto. She was honored by MG Motors as one of the finest changemakers of India.
In November 2018, she was invited by Schwules Museum, Germany to present her poetry, art and activism to special audience. In June 2019, she was invited by Soundstone Artist Hannes Fessmann in Germany and by TransAmsterdam organisation, Netherlands. Her art exhibition titled ‘Maya by Kalki’ was opened at The Manor Hotel in Amsterdam. Kalki was also conferred the International Ambassador for TransAmsterdam organisation.
In 2021, she released her first English book ‘We Are Not The Others’ which is a collection of her poems, essays, monologue, art and conversations. The book is available in Amazon for purchase. Click here to buy the book.
In October 2022, Kalki was invited to speak at Out & Equal Work Summit in Las Vegas, USA. During her trip, she also spoke at Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Rutgers and UPenn which are some of the prestigious universities in USA and the world.