A Trans Woman and Cis Man Get Married in TN with the help of a Trans Woman Priest

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Nov 1, 2018

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Photo courtesy of @ramnellai (Twitter)

Sreeja and Arun Kumar are in love, and on Wednesday, they got married. But, like any good fairy tale, it wasn’t easy: When their friend went to the Shivan temple in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, to collect a marriage receipt that would allow Arun Kumar to receive the thali from the priest, the temple’s management refused. The friend says it’s because Sreeja is a transgender woman, an identity recorded on her Aadhar card, but the form the temple required only offered two gender options, and simply selecting ‘woman’ wasn’t, apparently, acceptable to management.

“We have been running from pillar to post to help our friends get married. The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department said there should be no problems with our friends getting married at the temple, when we checked with them in person. But the Brahmin priests at the temple would not budge. They kept hiding from us when we asked questions. They returned our Rs 600 and the details we submitted. They told us that, legally, they cannot get married,” the friend told The News Minute.

But in a deus ex machina-move, someone stepped in to save the day. Sreeja and Arun Kumar’s friends “realised that Bharani, a trans woman and a friend, used to work as a priest in the same temple. With Bharani taking over the reins of the ritual, Sreeja’s uncle handed the thaali over in the temple premises,” The News Minute reports.

There are so many layers to the story: The couple say they only got the nerve to marry since the overturn of Section 377; Arun Kumar’s lament that his parents didn’t attend the wedding because they don’t understand or support his choice of wife — proving the decriminalizing of non-heterosexual sex is only the first step in a long battle for acceptance of non-traditional love. Yet, the couple say the marriage registration process went smoothly, giving hope to all other couples who are redefining what society sees as normal.

“We even cut a cake outside the temple and shared the celebrations with the police and the media!” the friend said.

Best wishes to Sreeja and Arun Kumar, and the good people they have around them.

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Written By Liesl Goecker

Liesl Goecker is The Swaddle’s managing editor and has been living and writing in Mumbai since 2010. She is passionate about women’s rights, everyone’s health, and caffeine.

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