Tamil sexual minorities

Tamil sexual minorities are Tamil people who do not conform to heterosexual gender norms, although the term can be expanded to refer to women as well. They may identify as LGBTQIA.[citation needed] It has been estimated that India has a population of 2.5 million homosexuals,[1] though not all of them are Tamil, and not all Tamils live in India.

There are currently laws that criminalize homosexual sex implemented in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Mauritius, all of which have Tamil as an official or recognized language, and have referenced Section 377 of the British penal code as far back as colonial times[2] Sri Lanka and Mauritius have implemented anti-discrimination laws,[3] whereas Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu provide support for transsexual people. The law in Sri Lanka is legally dormant.[4][5]

The entire political spectrum of Tamil Nadu supports transsexual and third gender people. A Buddhist movement[6][7] and the INC[8] both openly support reforming the colonial law criminalizing gay sex, but the remaining parties have remained silent on the issue. Nevertheless, a number of politicians from across the spectrum have taken part in events to support the welfare of homosexuals and lesbians.


Kuvagam Kuttantavar

Tamil has a history of sexual minorities stretching back thousands of years to the arts of the Sangam period,[9] with an even longer history if former incarnations of the language and peoples are to be included; several archeological finds in Tamil Nadu have thrown weight behind the common theory that the Indus Valley Civilization was Dravidian and Pre-Tamil.[10]

While homosexuality has been criminalized for most of Tamil's recent history, a large amount of scholarly and artistic works confirms the liberties enjoyed by homosexuals and third genders prior to the advent of colonialism in around 1500 CE, such as the positive depictions of homosexual sex in the medical journal Kamasutra or in various literary works.


Though evidence of human habitation goes back millennia to various Paleolithic sites attributed to ancestors of people who reside in modern-day Tamilakam,[11] the definitive start of Tamil language history is usually thought to begin at the advent of Tamil-Brahmi becoming the lingua franca region - thought to be around 600 BCE.[12]

The Indus Valley Civilization is often thought to be a pre-Tamil (or pre-Dravidian) ancient settlement and has left its legacy on modern-day Tamil culture through the Dravidian scripts and Hinduism; it is often thought that the Indus Script[13] and the culture of the Harrapan Civilization[14] was a prototype for the Dravidian languages and Hinduism.[15]

The famed festival for the deity Aarvan, the deity worshiped by transgender and third gender people, is descended from folklore established prior to the advent of the Tamil-Brahmi script[16] and celebrated at Kuvagam.[17] The story behind the festival is often heard in modern times through the Hindu epic Mahabharata, but more commonly as a separate folklore in Tamil culture.[18]

The Sangam PeriodEdit

A depiction of sex (kama) at the Chola Era temple at Tanjore

The Sangam Period was an era of Tamil culture famed for its impact of the arts of Tamilakam. It is the era when Tamil language was thought to have been created. Ashoka, the famous Buddhist emperor, describes Tamilakam as having four kingdoms (Chera, Cholas, Pandya and Satyaputra) and this era also saw the island of Lanka as being under Tamil rule.of the prince Elara.[19]

The period has provided Tamil culture with many great pieces of homosexual literature arts that are considered to be intangible cultural aspects of Classical Tamil; a major one is the story about the love held between King Pari and poet Kabila, which has been celebrated many times through festivals in modern Tamil Nadu.

Hinduism and Tamil NaduEdit

The Sangam Period was witness to two major pieces of Hindu scholarly works being written, but there has been widespread awareness of homosexuality in Tamil Nadu with Hindu references to homosexuality going back as far as the 8th Century BCE text Satapathabrahmana's views on the third gender and homosexuals.[20]


The writings of Vatsyayana in the Kamasutra around the 2nd century BCE[21] shows that homosexuality was positively depicted, that knowledge of homosexual and transgender sex was common, and would have been taught students/children through gurukulas as part of sex education (classical schools). The depictions show a range of homosexual and transgender sexual behavior such as fellatio and anal sex.[22]

The writings also provide a scholarly insight into how third genders were viewed at the time, where it is referred to as trtiya prakrti (third nature).[20]


A number of Hindu medical journals also attest to the support and medical aid provided to homosexuals and third genders during this period. The two major works of Ayurveda, the Carakasamhita (Caraka) and Susrutasamhita (Susruta), both written in the 2nd Century CE, contain many references to homosexuality and transgenderism. Buddhist and Jain monks were full participants on Hindu medical journals.[20]

The Caraka lists eight types of sexual vikrti or 'abnormalities' (deviations):[23]

1. The true hermaphrodite, having both male and female genitalia. This condition is believed to result from the parents contributing equal portions of the male and female generative fluids, semen and blood, the predominance of which was held to determine the offspring's gender, as male or female, respectively

2. The man with a "windy organ" (that is, having no semen)

3. Those who employ special means such as aphrodisiacs for ob-taining sexual potency

4. The effeminate homosexual male

5. The masculine lesbian female

6. The man with a bent penis, which is believed to result either from the mother's lack of desire for intercourse or from the weakness of the father's seed

7. The voyeur

8. The man born without testicles and therefore sterile.

— The eight vikrti listed in the Caraka, Sanskrit: (1) dviretas; (2) pavanendrtya; (3) samskaravahin; (4) narasandha; (5) narisandha; (6) vakridhvaja; (7) irsyabhibbuta; and (8) vatikasandha.

Whereas the Susruta lists six types of sandhas:[23]

1. The fellator

2. The "olfactory erotic" that is, a man who is exclusively aroused by genital odors

3. The anal receptive male

4. The voyeur

5. The effeminate homosexual male

6. The masculine lesbian female

— The six sandhas listed in the Susruta, Sanskrit: (1) asekya purusa; (2) saughandika; (3) kumbhika; (4) irsyaka; (5) stricestikakara; and (6) narisandha.

There is widespread discussion of homosexual behavior within the context of mainstream sexual behavior, such as discussing the enjoyment of gaining an erection whilst having semen ejected into one's mouth under a section discussing fellatio. The journals tend to provide emphasis on treating sexual behavior as something different from lifestyle, conveying the idea that men who have sex with other men can remain the male gender.[20]

Buddhism and Tamil NaduEdit

The dancer had a curly beard and dark hair!

Coral red mouth and pearl-white teeth!

Bright wide eyes with red lines!

And wearing garland made of white conch shell,

Dark low eyebrows and crescent moon forehead

Soft hand like kantal and upright tender breasts!

Wide alkul and fair lean hip!

Wearing a skirt! Drawings on his shoulders

He was enacting a kuttu

Performed by Kaman son of him who measured the earth

In the street of Conakar of Vanan-Asura king.

A "pedi koothu" described by 2nd Century CE Buddhist poet Sathanar

Buddhism was created during this period and it had considerable influence on Tamil Nadu during the closing centuries of the era. The philosophy brought with it more conservative views on sexual interactions and intoxicants, though no particular mention of homosexuals were made beyond how the Buddha felt that "pandakas" were untrustworthy of being monks due to what he felt was their history of sexual promiscuity.[24]

It was also during this period that the Tripitaka (the religious texts of Buddhism) were written, during the reign of King Walagambahu, in Sri Lanka in the first century CE. The definition of the "pandakas" mentioned in the Tripitaka has been subject to debate, with some scholars of the era considered them to be enunch, whereas others listed five types of men (pandaka) that would engage in further types of non-traditional sex: asittakapandaka (bottom), ussuyapandaka (voyuer), opakkamikapandaka (eunuchs), pakkhapandaka (aroused during full moon), napumsakapandaka (intersex).[25]

Jainism and Tamil NaduEdit

Jainism taught that brahmacharya was most important and felt that having sex for enjoyment would constitute bad karma, and therefore all monks were indirectly forbidden from having both heterosexual and homosexual sex, whereas commoners could only have heterosexual sex for non-enjoyment purposes when trying to have children.[26]

It also taught that napunsak, sexual inclination toward both men and women (known at the time as being sexually neutral), was a form of parigrahathat is excessive amounts could cause negative karma to accumulate to problematic levels, alongside teaching that purush or stree, sexual inclination of heterosexual nature, would also cause negative karma.[27]

Jainism gained a strong following in Tamil Nadu, alongside Buddhism, during the final centuries of the Sangam Period. The Manimekalai was a literary work, written by Buddhist poet Sathanar, that told the story of how Buddha would show compassion to people of a city, which included a man cross-dressing and a Jain monk as main characters.[28]

Age of EmpiresEdit

A depiction of Ardhanarishvara, a personification of transgender and third gender people, at Chola Era's Brihadeeswarar Temple.

Several religious statues created during this period, such as at Ranganathaswamy Temple,[29] Srirangam, some of which depict explicit homosexual acts, are attributed to the Chola era. The temple at Brihadisvara also has examples of religious references to transsexual people and third genders through depictions of Ardhanarishvara.[16]

European Colonialism (1500 CE)Edit

A number of artwork and records exist that can attest to the freedoms enjoyed by homosexuals prior to colonialism, including religious statues such as the ones at Tanjore.[30][31] Similarly Buddhism has no significant history of condemnation of homosexual acts.[32]

Homosexuals are catered for in the Kama Sutra and other Hindu medical books.[33] The Kamasutra was written around the 2nd century AD by Vātsyāyana, and it says that homosexual sex ""is to be engaged in and enjoyed for its own sake as one of the arts" and devotes a chapter to describing the acts of homosexual and third gender sex.[34]

Estado da ÍndiaEdit

Portuguese India had territorial control over only certain parts of modern-day India's western coast and the island of Lanka, with the remaining being settlements in Southern India (including Tamil Nadu), with these settlements and the island of Lanka being captured (or transferred) to the British later on.[35]

Upon arrival to the island of Sri Lanka, the Portuguese invaders painted the local population as "backwards" and "sinful", explaining that the "horror" of homosexuality was present on the island, characterizing the island's king as being frightening for allowing the act of sodomy on the island, and even accounting that the king himself partook in gay sex.[36]

British Empire and British East India CompanyEdit

"As modernity, nationalism, and colonial and bourgeois morality began to sweep definitively across India in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, performing arts changed radically"

Anna Morcom

It was during this era of British colonial rule that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was implemented by the British Raj. Ruth Vanita, a scholar and historian, firmly defines the nineteenth century as ‘a crucial period of transition when a minor strand of pre-colonial homophobia became the dominant voice in colonial and post-colonial mainstream discourses’, and the CERA explains that the set of laws were part of colonial efforts to impose its values on its colony’.[37]

The indigenous arts suffered during this era, as ethnomusicologist Anna Morcom points out, ‘As modernity, nationalism, and colonial and bourgeois morality began to sweep definitively across India in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, performing arts changed radically’ with anything considered morally 'repulsive' such as erotic dancing and gender fluidity being swept under the carpet.[37]

Établissements français dans l'IndeEdit

French establishments in Tamil Nadu included Pondichéry, Karikal and Yanaon on the Coromandel Coast.[38] The act of homosexual sex would have been decriminalized in the late 18th century as part of the Napoleonic Code's view on the privacy of people and state intervention,[39] which applied in the French colonies of India at the time.[40]

Recent historyEdit

Anjali Gopalan and Gopi Shankar Madurai at Asia's first genderqueer pride parade at Madurai

Chennai born Anjali Gopalan, whose father was a Tamil Hindu and mother was a Sikh, was one of South Asia's pioneers in providing support for sexual minorities. She established the Naz Foundation in the early 1990s in order to help sufferers deal with HIV, and also to act as a vehicle to lobby for sexual minorities. The organization would later go on to become a major force in Indian politics, persuading the Supreme Court of India to decriminalize gay sex.[41]

Transsexual people had long been afforded acceptance in Tamil Nadu and by 2008 both transsexual people and third genders had been recognized by the State.[42] The majority of dominant political parties in Tamil Nadu have contested elections with transgender politicians.[43]

The Tamil Nadu High Court has complained to the Centre that sexual minorities are not being provided their basic rights, suggesting that the law criminalizing gay sex should be reformed and that sexual minorities should be a reserved group.[44] There have also been several politicians from the Tamil BJP and RSS attending and supporting the welfare of sexual minorities.[45]

Key eventsEdit

  • 1862: the current colonial law criminalizing homosexual sex is implemented by Lord Thomas Macaulay through the Indian Penal Code in British India and the Straits Settlements.
  • 1990: Tamil Nadu government forcibly tested several hundred sex workers and then locked up 800 infected women for several months.[46]
  • 2008: a transgender welfare board is established by the Government of Tamil Nadu.[47]
  • 2009: a gay wedding is held in South Africa according to Hindu rites.[48]
  • 2009: the High Court of Delhi removed the colonial-era law banning homosexuality
  • 2009: the Hindu Council of Britain announced that Hinduism did not condemn homosexuality.[30]
  • 2013: the Supreme Court of India rules that constitutional law relating to a ban on gay sex should be required to be subject to a constitutional reform procedures unless superseded by higher law, and restores the colonial era law banned gay sex.[49]
  • Gopi Shankar Madurai, a 25 years old gender activist made a bid to contest as one of the youngest candidates in the Tamil Nadu Assembly election and also the first openly intersex and genderqueer person to do so. Ze secured 14th place out of 21 candidates by securing 1% vote.[50][51][52][53]
  • A Hindu gay wedding in Bali, Indonesia, is investigated by Indonesian police.[54]
  • 2017 Autumn: The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka proclaims that it would be inappropriate to impose custodial sentences in a situation where two parties have consensual sex even went criminalized by law.[55]
  • 2018: The Supreme Court of India proclaims that Section 377A should not cover homosexual sex between two consenting adults.[56]
  • 2019: On 22 April 2019 the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) passed a landmark judgment upheld the marriage rights of Transwomen & Intersex women under Hindu Marriage Law[57] and issued direction to ban Sex-Selective Surgeries on Intersex Infants[58]

note: bold typeface indicates that the event is widely considered to be most significant and landmark.


In his presence, not only the sun, but also the stars lose their luster He is all male, female and ali and also different from all these.

The great saivite saint Manickavachagar of the 9th century CE in his Thiruvembavai written in praise of Lord Annamalai

The terms ali and pedu are widely used in the Tamil language. The term "ali" refers to third gender people, whereas the term "pedu" refers to homosexuals.[59] Kothi (see also: Kothi (gender)) refers to 'effeminate/transgender homosexuals' and is similar to the more famous term Kathoey used in Thailand.

According to Ottilingam Somasundaram, in pre-colonial Tamil culture, "The male pedus were described to have many effeminate features such as gait, other bodily movements, high-pitched voice, prudery, lacking virility, beauty and fine feelings. The female pedus were said to have prominent secondary sexual characters of females along with marked hirsutism, with the features of completely feminine stride, pestering, murmuring music, being fed-up, blessing, or cursing."[59]

The term aravaani is also used widely as a catch-all term for sexual minorities, but it can also include those which would be labelled as leaning towards disabled in western lexicon.[59] The term is officially used to describe the community of transgender and third gender people.

Table of rightsEdit

Sri Aravan is a Tamil deity revered by sexual minorities
Country Tamil Nadu Malaysia Sri Lanka Singapore Canada UK South Africa
Number of Tamils 55,000,000 1,800,000 2,270,924 250,000 300,000[60] 300,000[61] 200,000
Sex  Y  N  *  N  Y  Y  Y
Anti-Discrimination Laws  Y  N  Y  N  Y  Y  Y
Transsexuals  Y  N  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
Military Service  Y  N  N  Y  Y  Y  Y
Third Gender  Y  N  N  Y  N  N  N
Blood Donations  Y  N  N  N  Y  Y  Y

The High Court of Madras has proclaimed that sexual minorities are not being protected as required by the constitution - something that signals its displeasure at the laws discriminating against homosexuals in Tamil Nadu, whereas the Government of Sri Lanka is looking at allowing homosexuals to serve in the military and donate blood.

Transgender rights in Tamil NaduEdit

There are an estimated 30,000 transgender people in Tamil Nadu.[62] Aravaani were historically discriminated against in employment in Indian culture, forcing them into begging or prostitution.[63]

The government has been implementing reforms to legal and governmental institutions in order to integrate and support this transgender population, including providing legal rights and welfare schemes. It has been accompanied by a large increase in presence for transsexual and third gender people in the highly self-sufficient Tamil media industry.[64] It is regarded as the leader of transgender welfare in Tamil Nadu.[65]

Aravaani can access Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS), accommodation, various identity documents, education, social security, and support for job/income seeking, and the state was also the first in India to introduce a Welfare Board with participants from the transgender community.[66]

Recent Developments in Sri LankaEdit

In November 2017, General Nerin Pulle, the Deputy Solicitor of Sri Lanka, has stated that the government 'remains committed to law reform and guaranteeing non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity', and that the government has vowed to repel the colonial era law criminalizing homosexual sex during its periodic review of governmental affairs.[citation needed]

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has stated that consensual sex between adults should not be policed by the state and that "imposing custodial sentences would be inappropriate in cases where the impugned acts were between consenting adults" even when mandated by the law, thereby legally setting the law dormant.[55]

Supreme Court of India's verdict on Section 377Edit

After making homosexuality illegal in 2013, the Supreme Court proclaimed by a 5-0 unanimous verdict homosexual sex between consenting adults should not be covered under Section 377. It said that the law violated the LGBT community's right to equality, dignity and privacy, under the Constitution of India.[67]

Full text of Supreme Court JudgementEdit



An erotic carving on the Mennakshi Temple in Madurai

Tamil Nadu is one of the few states in India where activists have been seeking to attack anti-homosexuality laws at a state level. This is due to the nationalist climate of Tamil Nadu, the State's history of supporting reformation in favor of sexual minorities, and its diverging interpretation of the Hindu Marriage Act. But movement has yet to have been made in Tamil Nadu as of yet.[68]

Major partiesEdit

The AIADMK and DMK have both held back from openly speaking out in favor of reforming colonial laws criminalizing homosexual sex, but several politicians from both parties have attended meetings and events in support of homosexuals, and neither party has formally voiced support for the law in the manner that many federal parties have.

The two parties have also successfully contested transsexual people at elections, and have appointed transsexual people to higher levels of their political parties and to government.[69]


BJP (India)Edit

In July 2018 the BJP government announced on that it won't oppose the decriminalization of homosexuality.[70] This marks the first time that GoI has actually taken such a decision in the case. In all previous hearings, the opposition to binning Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. An affidavit filed to the Supreme Court in July 2018 is the most official publication from the BJP on the matter:

"I state and submit that so far as the constitutional validity Section 377 to the extent it applies to "consensual acts of adults in private" is concerned, the Union of India would leave the said question to the wisdom of the Honourable Court."

The parent organization of BJP Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its head Mohan Bhagwat stated All including LGBTI people are an integral part of society. How they are - they are, accept people for what they are. Society has changed. It is important that society prepares itself so people do not feel isolated.[71][72]

UNP (Sri Lanka)Edit

It's widely held that the homosexuality of the party's leader is an open secret. Ranil Wickremesinghe was the victim of accusations that he abused his power to seduce younger party members into having homosexual sex with him, which they allege is driving parents to keep their children away from the party's promotional activities. This might reflect the ethos of the party and its voter base as a whole.[73]

Mangala Samaraweera is an openly gay politician serving as the country's Ministry of External Affairs on behalf of the UNP.[74]

Being gay is totally fine. Even in Sri Lanka, you can be gay, as long as you marry a woman. I think this is horrible (girls I know have married gay guys in arranged marriages and it was predictably terrible and short-lived). What I mean is that being homosexual is fine even if it’s not accepted by some cultures. Sexual harassment and assault is not fine in any abstraction.

— Indi Samarajiva, Colombo Telegraph


INC (India)Edit

The INC had vocally opposed the repeal of Section 377 whilst it was in power in the late 2000s and early 2010s.[75]

UPFA (Sri Lanka)Edit

The party had used prejudiced slurs in parliament against the UNP whilst openly gay Mangala Samaraweera was speaking.[74]

Minor partiesEdit

The Buddhist movement (known in India as the Ambedkar Movement) has formally supported the reformation of colonial laws as part of its humanistic approach to governance. The BJP has formally voices support for the colonial law, but their Tamil office has members who attended various pro-LGBT events in Chennai, whereas the INC has said it wants to decriminalize homosexual sex.

Though these political parties have minor presence in Tamil political culture, support for reformation also came from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Janata Dal (S) and the Aam Aadmi Party.[76] The Chief Minister of neighboring state of Kerela, Pinarayi Vijayan of the Communist Party, has actively voiced support for decriminalizing gay sex.[68]


The Government of Tamil Nadu funds a transgender welfare board which supports the transgender community with health related issues and other social problems, and it has scheduled the community as a reserved group which is entitled to receive special benefits.[60]

The Aravani Welfare Board is a social support organizations that's headquartered in the outskirts of Chennai, focusing on supporting the transgender community of Tamil Nadu. It plays an influential role in the organizations behind the Koovagam Festival. The name Aravani is a namesake of Krishna.[60]

One of Tamil Nadu's most senior BJP politician, Pon Radhakrishnan, launched a website for sexual minorities called Shrishti, with the aid of several volunteers from RSS.[45]

Dating PreferencesEdit

An informal survey found that the majority of sexual minorities in Sri Lanka found westerners sexually desirable, finding them more 'sensual and sexually adept' than the locals; only around a quarter had had sex with a westerner. None of those surveys had issues with dating someone from the opposite ethnolingustic group, either Tamil or Sinhalese, But apart from one person, the majority expressed dislike for Muslims (inlc Moors) and did not like them as friends or sexual partners.[77]

There is a preference for youth among the community, though social respect for the elderly can mean older people are also able to find sex.[78]

A survey found that the locals considered their own ethnicities "to be the most beautiful men in the world" placing them above westerners, the latter who were viewed as more 'sensual and sexually adept' than the locals.[79]


Community development may be traced back to Sunil Menon's mapping of sexual networks among MSM and TG in the early 1990s[80] and subsequent formation of Sahodaran, the oldest group of its kind in the city and state to provide spaces for community support and sexual health, primarily for working-class MSM who visit public cruising spots.

There are currently over 15 groups in Chennai that work on LGBTQIA+ issues.[81] Most of them are community-run initiatives, and some are NGOs.

Most of these groups are part of the informal Chennai Rainbow Coalition, formed in 2009, to jointly work towards visibility and advocacy.[82] The group was expanded in 2014 to constitute the Tamil Nadu Rainbow Coalition, with membership from groups around the state.

Other progressive groups such as Nirmukta (Chennai Free Thinkers), Prajnya, the Save Tamils movement, and the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Association are also strong supporters of gender/sexuality rights.


Chennai has two research institutes that partner with community groups to conduct social science and biomedical research on LGBTQIA+ issues. The Centre for Sexuality and Health Research and Policy has published extensively on issues such as stigma and discrimination faced within the healthcare system by MSM and transwomen, legal recognition of transgender identity, and other issues. The National Institute for Research on Tuberculosis (NIRT), in partnership with the community group Sahodaran and Harvard University School of Public Health carries out studies of mental health and HIV prevention] among men who have sex with men.

Workplace symposiumEdit

In May 2017, Chennai saw an event that brought together employers, employees and activists to discuss the challenges faced by the queer (LGBTIQ) community at workplaces. This LGBT workplace symposium, titled LGBT Workplace — Expanding the Dialogue in India, was hosted by RELX in association with the Amsterdam-based Workplace Pride Foundation and the Bengaluru-based Solidarity Foundation, with Orinam and Community Business as community partners.[83]

Some of the panellists were Michiel Kolman, a senior vice president at Elsevier, Parmesh Shahani, head of Godrej India Culture Labs, Sunil Menon, founder of NGO Sahodaran, lawyer Poongkhulali Balasubramanian, Mahesh Natarajan, form InnerSight, Ritesh Rajani, an openly gay HR diversity professional, and journalist Lavanya Narayan.[84][85][86]

Charitable organizationsEdit


A Chola era statue of Ardhanareshwarar - the personification of transgender people

A major problem with discrimination, namely racism and colorism, against South Indians remains commonplace throughout the Tamil world, with issues of casteism also playing a role in India.[87] Tamils discriminate against those from Islamic backgrounds.[88]


Kollywood is based on traditional entertainment in Hindu temples, where dances would perform a ballet to a story accompanied by musical instruments and singers. There has been very few musicals produced in Tamil Nadu containing sexual minorities, though a few about transsexual people have been produced.

A religious ceremony being performed by hijras in the City of Kuvagam

The classical dance form Bharatanatyam is frequently considered to be a venue where non-heterosexual sexual minorities are able to express themselves strongly as the dance utilizes gender fluid concepts, and the dancers of the Bharatanatyam are predominantly women, gay men, and transgender people.[60]

Partial list of musicals with sexual minoritiesEdit

  • i by Shankar depicts a transgender stylist who is in love with the protagonist, although many members of the transgender community felt that the role was comical.[60]
  • Goa by Venkat Prabhu is a 2010 movie about a group of friends who take a holiday to Goa where they befriend a gay couple.[89]
  • Appu (2000) is about third genders.[90]
  • Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu (2006) has a narrative about a killer molesting/raping men, though the depiction is considered to be negative by many due to the link between homosexuality and psychopathy.[91]
  • Murattu Kaalai is a movie with a narrative dealing with social issues affecting the transsexual community.[90]
  • Bombay (1995) by Mani Ratnam is about a transgender person who nurses two children while the city around them riots.[92]
  • Vaanam (2011) Radhakrishna Jagarlamudi is a story told from the viewpoint of a transgender sex worker.[92]
  • Kanchana (2011) is a horror movie in which Sarathkumar plays the role of a transgender person.[92]


One of Tamil's most famous literary works involving sexual minorities was composed around 600 BCE. The ancient folklore about Aravan tells the story about Krishna's transformation to a female manifestation in order to marry the deity Aravan, all of which takes place during the context of the Mahābhārata.[18]

The following Sangam period also gave birth to many famous literature works about sexual minorities, a famous story is the one about the deep love and attachment between the King Pari and poet Kabila. Other works such as the one between Koperunchozhan and Pisuranthaiyar also exist though are less famous.[9]

Manimekalai was composed during the closing centuries of the Sangam period (or after depending on the definition used) by the Tamil Buddhist poet Sathanar, which tells the tale of how Buddha gave compassion to various people of a city, including a monk, a drunk man, and a cross-dressing boy.[28]


The most famous festival involving sexual minorities is the Koovagam Festival in the Tamil city of Villupuram based on the folklore of Aravani. The celebration is dedicated to the deity Aravani, the groom (and later husband) of the transgender manifestation of Sri Krishna. The festival involves religious rituals, blessings, parades, re-enactments of scenes from the folklore, political protests, and sexual intercourse under the full moon, among other things. It is frequented my many non-transgender sexual minorities and has become a staple of Tamil culture, not only for the sexual minority community, but also to the wider general population of Tamil Nadu.

An annual LGBT Film Festival is also held at the Gothe Institute in Chennai, an institution of the German Federal Government, organizaed by Alliance-Francaise, an institution of the French Republic Government, and SAATHII.[93] This has frequently be joined by one-off movie events organized by other foreign institutions and NGOs.

Other events include the Chennai Rainbow Pride.[94]


A number of transgender people have taken offense at what they perceive to be comical and/or negative depictions of their community, with the depictions often stereotyping the community as being promiscuous.[95]

Public healthEdit

HIV remains a serious problem in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. As the majority of transmissions of HIV in India are through heterosexual sex, the majority of support networks have focused on declining transmission rates among heterosexuals, and while this has worked in reducing transmission rates among heterosexuals, transmission rates among homosexuals have been increasing. The LGBTQIA remains the only high-risk HIV group in India.[96]

The YR Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education (YRGCARE) conducted rapid study of homosexuals in Tamil Nadu around 2008 across 18 cities, towns, and villages. The study found that prevalence of HIV among homosexual sexual minorities in major urban areas stood at around 10%, and was compounded by a lack of education.[96]

Colorism and racismEdit

Sri Lankans resemble (and are part of the stock of) South Indians in terms of body build, face shapes and anthropology;[97] most islanders have a brown skin tone,[98] and often light skinned people are considered to be foreign by the islanders.[99][100][101]

Indian cinema industries are viewed as being discriminatory against browner skin tones,[102] but the island's cinemas are dominated by island-produced movies,[103] and South Asian cinemas are disliked by younger people.[104]

A survey found that the locals considered their own ethnicities "to be the most beautiful men in the world" placing them above westerners, the latter who were viewed as more 'sensual and sexually adept' than the locals.[105]


Rose Venkatesan hosts a talk show called Ippadikku Rose and has also hosted beauty contests in Tamil Nadu.[60]

Swapna.S is the first transwoman to clear the state civil services exam. One of the key figures in the modern Trans educational rights movement in India.

Grace Banu is a transgender activist who was the transgender person to be admitted to an engineering college in India. She has also been working against what she perceives as discrimination against lower castes too.[106]

Gopi Shankar Madurai is a human rights activist, first openly Intersex and Genderqueer candidate to contest in Tamil Nadu State Assembly Election 2016. A monk during their youth, He quit in order to become more politically active and has become a leader in Tamil activism. Shankar is a practitioner and teacher of traditional philosophies.[107]

Living Smile Vidya is a transgender actor whose biography "I am Vidya" has been made into a movie in the neighboring state of Karnataka.[108]

Shyam Selvadurai is a gay fiction author who lives in Canada. He is of Sri Lankan Tamil origin.[109]

Bharathi Kannamma is a transgender lawmaker who tried to represent an electoral district in Madurai at the Parliament of India.[110]

note: several personalities listed in this section are mixed-ethnicity, but are included because they either speak Tamil or reside in a Tamil area

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Govt. submits data on gay population". The Hindu. PTI. 2012-03-13. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2017-11-07.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ "Here are all the countries where it's still illegal to be gay". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  3. ^ "Anti-Discrimination Laws" (PDF). ILO.
  4. ^ "Financial Status Eases Burden for Transgender People in Sri Lanka". Global Press Journal. 2014-12-03. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  5. ^ "The battle against homophobia in Sri Lanka". Sunday Observer. 2018-09-22. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  6. ^ Gautam, Manish. "Caste and LGBT". Round Table India. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  7. ^ "Over 80 convert to Buddhism, cite caste bias". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2019-01-19.
  8. ^ Dhume, Sadanand (2015-07-02). "The Politics of Gay Rights in India". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  9. ^ a b H. VENKATACHALAM, HARI (Spring 2016). "Same-Sex Marriage and Hinduism". Hinduism Today. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  10. ^ "Significance of Mayiladuthurai find". The Hindu. 2006-05-01. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  11. ^ "Antiquity Journal". www.antiquity.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  12. ^ Coningham, R. a. E.; Allchin, F. R.; Batt, C. M.; Lucy, D. (1996). "Passage to India? Anuradhapura and the Early Use of the Brahmi Script". Cambridge Archaeological Journal. 6 (1): 73–97. doi:10.1017/S0959774300001608. ISSN 1474-0540.
  13. ^ "Indus script early form of Dravidian". The Hindu. Special Correspondent. 2014-11-15. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2017-12-08.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ "Symbols akin to Indus valley culture discovered in Kerala". The Hindu. PTI. 2009-09-29. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2017-12-08.CS1 maint: others (link)
  15. ^ "Pallava Grantha Inscriptions of South East Asia - (c.7th century onwards)". tamilnation.co. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  16. ^ a b "Ardhanarishvara - A Composite form of Shiva and Parvati - TemplePurohit - Your Spiritual Destination | Bhakti, Shraddha Aur Ashirwad". TemplePurohit - Your Spiritual Destination | Bhakti, Shraddha Aur Ashirwad. 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  17. ^ "Transgender people throng Koovagam village in Tamil Nadu to attend Koothandavar temple fest - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  18. ^ a b "Story of Aravan – Iravan". www.hindu-blog.com. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  19. ^ "The Five Kings - MAHASIVA, SURATISSA, ELARA, ASELA, SENA and GUTTIKA". mahavamsa.org. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  20. ^ a b c d J. Sweet, Michael; Zwilling, Leonard (April 1993). "The First Medicalization: The Taxonomy and Etiology of Queerness in Classical Indian Medicine" (PDF). Journal of the History of Sexuality. 3 (4): 590–607. PMID 11623132.
  21. ^ "The many positions on Kamasutra | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". dna. 2014-10-26. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  22. ^ "We bet you did not know these things about Kamasutra... - 7 lesser known sex lessons from Kamasutra | The Times of India". The Times of India. 2017-10-03. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  23. ^ a b J. Sweet, Michael; Zwilling, Leonard (April 1993). "The First Medicalization: The Taxonomy and Etiology of Queerness in Classical Indian Medicine" (PDF). Journal of the History of Sexuality. 3 (4): 590–607. PMID 11623132.
  24. ^ "Letters | Homosexuality and the original meaning of Pandaka". www.buddhistchannel.tv. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  25. ^ "Letters | Homosexuality and the original meaning of Pandaka". www.buddhistchannel.tv. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  26. ^ "Brahmacharya | World Hindu Parisad". www.worldhinduparisad.org. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  27. ^ "Chapter 20: Shrävakächär (Code Of Conduct For Householders)". www.jainbelief.com. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  28. ^ a b Somasundaram O, Tejus Murthy A G. Manimekalai: The ancient Buddhist Tamil epic, its relevance to psychiatry. Indian J Psychiatry 2016;58:229-32
  29. ^ "Tamil Nadu | The coloured world of the Tamil temples". ImperatorTravel. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  30. ^ a b "'Hinduism does not condemn homosexuality' - Rediff.com India News". news.rediff.com. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  31. ^ "Did Homosexuality exist in ancient India? | Devdutt". devdutt.com. 2009-06-30. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  32. ^ "Homosexuality in Buddhist Cultures – Bhante Dhammika". www.bhantedhammika.net. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  33. ^ O'Neil, Lorena. "The Country that Brought You the Kama Sutra is Now Making Gay Sex a Crime". OZY. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  34. ^ "Ancient India didn't think homosexuality was against nature - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  35. ^ Pirani, Cenan (December 2015). Biedermann Zoltán. The Portuguese in Sri Lanka and South India: Studies in the History of Diplomacy, Empire and Trade, 1500–1650. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014. 205 pp. €56.00. Itinerario. 39. pp. 538–539. doi:10.1017/S016511531500073X. ISBN 9783447100625. ISSN 0165-1153.
  36. ^ "Sri Lanka News | The Sinhala King of Kotte was so GAY. In 1547, the Portuguese wrote a letter to the Governor of Goa to express the fear of living among the Sinhalese, it says the homosexuality is so prevalent in this kingdom of Cota that it almost frightens us to live here". www.lankanewspapers.com. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  37. ^ a b Azzarelli, Sara (2015). "Queering My Mudra: An Exploration on the Role of Bharatanatyam in the Activism of an Indian Queer Group" (PDF). Motio Journal. 1: 16–31 – via Postgraduate Journal for Dance Practice and Research.
  38. ^ Zuili, Guillaume; Boyé, Jérôme (1992). Pondichéry, Chandernagor, Karikal, Mahé, Yanaon: les anciens comptoirs français de l'Inde (in French). France?: Editions C & D. ISBN 978-2950698506. OCLC 29222899.
  39. ^ "The History of Homosexuality: The Napoleonic Code | Kate Aaron". Kate Aaron. 2015-09-10. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  40. ^ Malangin, Raphale. "How India's political 'goonda raj' was foreshadowed in French Pondicherry". Scroll.in. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  41. ^ Mehta, Suketu (2012-04-18). "Anjali Gopalan - The World's 100 Most Influential People: 2012 - TIME". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  42. ^ "Southern Indian State to Conduct First Ever Census of Transgenders". Medindia. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  43. ^ "TN's first transgender candidate is standing against Jayalalithaa". The News Minute. 2016-04-05. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  44. ^ "Shouldn't LGBT people's rights and privacy be protected, Madras HC asks Centre - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  45. ^ a b "RSS flip-flop on homosexuality indicates gay men in India remain in exile, writes Ashok Row Kavi". Firstpost. 2016-03-19. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  46. ^ Kole, Subir K. (2007-07-11). "Globalizing queer? AIDS, homophobia and the politics of sexual identity in India". Globalization and Health. 3: 8. doi:10.1186/1744-8603-3-8. ISSN 1744-8603. PMC 2018684. PMID 17623106.
  47. ^ Hamid, Zubeda (2015-10-15). "TN's Transgender Welfare Board in limbo". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  48. ^ "Gay wedding irks South African Hindus". NDTV.com. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  49. ^ "India's Supreme Court upholds colonial-era anti-gay sex law". Fox News. 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  50. ^ Reporter, Staff (2016-04-30). "Intersex person to contest from Madurai North - TAMIL NADU". The Hindu. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  51. ^ Priya Menon (2016-04-22). "3rd gender gets a new champion in Tamil Nadu poll ring - Times of India". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  52. ^ Priya Menon (2016-05-10). "Intersex candidate alleges harassment - Times of India". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  53. ^ "This intersex person is contesting TN polls, 'ze' wants to change your mind on sexual minorities". The News Minute. 2018-01-03. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  54. ^ Post, The Jakarta. "Bali gay wedding gets mixed reaction". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 2017-11-07.
  55. ^ a b "SL committed to non-discrimination based on sexual orientation: Nerin Pulle". Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  56. ^ "Section 377 Verdict: History Owes An Apology To The LGBT Community, Says Supreme Court". Bloomberg Quint. Retrieved 2018-09-07.
  57. ^ ""Transwoman A 'Bride' Under Hindu Marriage Act": Madras HC; Also Bans Sex Re-Assignment Surgeries On Intersex Children [Read Judgment]". Retrieved 2019-04-24.
  58. ^ "Ruling on intersex infants: Madurai activist comes in for praise by High Court". Retrieved 2019-04-24.
  59. ^ a b c Somasundaram, Ottilingam; Tejus Murthy, A. G. (2016). "Homosexuality – leaves from antiquity: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population: A Tamil perspective". Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 58 (3): 336–338. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.192019. ISSN 0019-5545. PMC 5100129. PMID 28066015.
  60. ^ a b c d e f "Tamil Nadu's Third Sex". www.outlookindia.com/. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  61. ^ "Tamil Population | Tamil Nadu | Tamils". Scribd. Retrieved 2017-11-08.
  62. ^ "Over 30,000 transgenders in TN, yet only 2,996 are voters". Zee News. 2014-02-28. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  63. ^ "Joyita Mondal's journey: From begging to National Lok Adalat bench - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  64. ^ "Know Padmini Prakash, India's first transgender TV anchor". Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  65. ^ "Tamil Nadu, once a pioneering state for welfare of transgenders, now shuns the third gender". Firstpost. 2017-05-25. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  66. ^ "The Case of the Tamil Nadu Transgender Welfare Board" (PDF). United Nations Development Program. Insights for Developing Practical Models of Social Protection Programmes for Transgender People in India: 1–38. 2012.
  67. ^ "Section 377: Supreme Court Legalises Consensual Sex Between Homosexual Adults". BloombergQuint. Retrieved 2018-09-07.
  68. ^ a b "As Kerala marches forward, LGBTQ community in Tamil Nadu can only envy the progress next door". The News Minute. 2017-03-29. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  69. ^ "Election Manifestos: AIADMK vs DMK | Puram". puram.in. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  70. ^ "Section 377: Why the 'conservative government' changed its stance". The Economic Times. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  71. ^ ""LGBTQ Community Part Of Society": Mohan Bhagwat Keeps Up With Times". NDTV. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  72. ^ "MS Golwalkar, Hindutva and LGBT: Mohan Bhagwat demolishes 'demonic' image of RSS, shows organisation as inclusive, modern". First Post. Retrieved 2018-02-10.
  73. ^ "Is Ranil Gay?". Colombo Telegraph. 2012-09-01. Retrieved 2018-09-07.
  74. ^ a b "Standing Up For The Gay Politician: Mangala Samaraweera On Right Track?". Colombo Telegraph. 2017-05-08. Retrieved 2018-09-07.
  75. ^ "Decriminalising homosexuality will send wrong signals". DNA India. 2009-07-08. Retrieved 2019-06-04.
  76. ^ "Sexuality in India: Ambedkar's fight still remains the battle of our time". www.dailyo.in. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  77. ^ "Gay Sri Lanka News & Reports 2008-11". archive.globalgayz.com. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  78. ^ "Gay Sri Lanka News & Reports 2008-11". archive.globalgayz.com. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  79. ^ "Gay Sri Lanka News & Reports 2008-11". archive.globalgayz.com. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  80. ^ "The world through the eyes of a gay person". Rediff. February 26, 2008. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  81. ^ "Chennai Pride Organizations". www.orinam.net. 2010-05-18. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  82. ^ Menon, Sunil (2012-06-09). "Gay pride month is here". The Hindu. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  83. ^ "LGBT community symposium seeks a level playing field at workplace".
  84. ^ Caraccio, Camilla (19 June 2017). "Pride at Work". The Hindu.
  85. ^ "'Coming out' and excluded".
  86. ^ Caraccio, Camilla (2017-06-06). "Pride at Work". The Hindu. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  87. ^ ""Casteism Very Much Exists Among Trans* People": Video Interview With Grace Banu". Feminism in India. 2016-07-19. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  88. ^ "Gay Sri Lanka News & Reports 2008-11". archive.globalgayz.com. Retrieved 2019-06-04.
  89. ^ "LGBT themes mere add-on to Kollywood's ribaldry - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  90. ^ a b "LGBT Characters In Tamil Cinema: It's High Time The Community Is Given Its Due Dignity". Silverscreen.in. 2017-09-06. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  91. ^ "Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu – Filmiholic". filmiholic.com. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  92. ^ a b c "Does Kollywood have a place for the 'rainbow'?". Sify. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  93. ^ "LGBT Film Festival On July 24–26 In Chennai". Silverscreen.in. 2015-07-22. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  94. ^ "Chennaipride". Chennaipride. Retrieved 2018-09-07.
  95. ^ "Tamil Nadu's Third Sex". www.outlookindia.com/. Retrieved 2017-12-08.
  96. ^ a b Solomon, Sunil Suhas; Srikrishnan, Aylur K.; Sifakis, Frangiscos; Mehta, Shruti H.; Vasudevan, Canjeevaram K.; Balakrishnan, Pachamuthu; Mayer, Kenneth H.; Solomon, Suniti; Celentano, David D. (2010-10-01). "The Emerging HIV Epidemic among Men Who have Sex with Men in Tamil Nadu, India: Geographic Diffusion and Bisexual Concurrency". AIDS and Behavior. 14 (5): 1001–1010. doi:10.1007/s10461-010-9711-2. ISSN 1090-7165. PMC 4890540. PMID 20467890.
  97. ^ "Are The Tamils And The Sinhalese, Same Or Different?". Colombo Telegraph. 2013-09-28. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  98. ^ "Skin-Colour Discrimination In Sri Lanka". Colombo Telegraph. 2012-11-20. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  99. ^ Publishing, Pariyatti (2017-12-01). Collected Bodhi Leaves Publications - Volume V: Numbers 122 to 157. Pariyatti Publishing. ISBN 9781681720883.
  100. ^ Weisman, Steven R. (1987-12-13). "Sri Lanka: A Nation Disintegrates". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  101. ^ Kirk, R. L. (1976-07-01). "The legend of Prince Vijaya — a study of Sinhalese origins". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 45 (1): 91–99. doi:10.1002/ajpa.1330450112. ISSN 1096-8644.
  102. ^ "The ugly side of beauty: Politics of the dark skin". archives.sundayobserver.lk. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  103. ^ "Find a cinema: Colombo's movie theatres". Time Out Sri Lanka. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  104. ^ Kashyap, Archita (2018-05-30). "How the Indian movie-goer's tastes are changing". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  105. ^ "Gay Sri Lanka News & Reports 2008-11". archive.globalgayz.com. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  106. ^ Krishnan, Madhuvanti S. (2017-03-12). "Shamed on campus". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  107. ^ "This intersex person is contesting TN polls, 'ze' wants to change your mind on sexual minorities". The News Minute. 2016-04-24. Retrieved 2017-10-30.
  108. ^ Rao, Subha J. (2015-10-31). "Her life on screen". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  109. ^ "Shyam Selvadurai | Asian Heritage in Canada". library.ryerson.ca. Retrieved 2017-12-04.
  110. ^ "A Transgender Candidate Is Running for Parliament In India For the First Time". Time. Retrieved 2017-12-08.

External linksEdit

  • Orinam (Tamil Nadu sexual minorities NGO)