Sanitation Changemaker

From Community Acceptance to Community Caretaking

Yakkoppu was assigned male at birth 40 years back, but growing up they felt captivated by clothes, makeup and ornaments worn by women. They were also drawn to the activity of people applying manjal (turmeric) on their face and body. Through their childhood years, Yakkoppu struggled to unpack their gender identity and their family’s lack of understanding around this made things worse for him. The only person who accepted them for who they were was their mother. Eventually as the conflict in the family became worse, Yakkoppu decided to leave home at the age of 15 and their mother accompanied them. Over time, Yakkoppu identified themselves as thirunambi – 'a trans person’'

Since childhood, Yakkoppu was always keen to be involved in social work and contribute towards the society. As they grew up, they dedicated their time towards helping people in different ways and recently they took on the role of a community toilet caretaker with the same intention.

In 2020, while a community toilet was under construction near their rented home, Yakkoppu and their mother used to safeguard the construction materials. Impressed by their dedication and help, the Sanitary Inspector asked Yakkoppu if they would be interested to work as a caretaker for the community toilet upon its completion. During this time, Yakkoppu’s mother expired, and they immersed themselves with the caretaker duty. Eventually they also came to know about the Thendral Transgender Self-Help Group (SHG) where they truly felt accepted. They also supported other trans persons in their area and helped them join the SHG too, demonstrating how effective the transgender SHG model is effective in the sector.

As the caretaker, Yakkoppu starts their day as early as 4:30 am. They open the community toilet after cleaning it thoroughly and put traditional Tamil art, Kolam in front of the door. They are the busiest in the morning till noon and they stop working at 8 pm. With a lot of dedication, they keep the toilet clean and manage the stock books to ensure the community toilet is financially sustainable. Their only request to the society is to support the trans community and not alienate them. Yakkoppu strongly believes that trans people are capable of exceling in all professions including sanitation if only they are given the opportunity to lead respectful and dignified lives.

Learn more about Yakkoppu’s journey: