Trans rights activist Kalki Subramaniam inspires IHG India
Hosted by Senior Talent Manager, Sneha Bhardwaj, and joined by hundreds of IHG colleagues from across the globe – our recent IHG India event proved to be one of our most popular and inspirational yet.
To close Pride Month, we were joined by leading transgender community artist, poet, actor and activist, Kalki Subramaniam, to discuss her remarkable journey of self-discovery and empowerment.
Born into a working-class family in the town of Tamil Nadu, Pollachi, Kalki has experienced the stigma and shame many of our transgender community have to overcome to live freely as their true selves.
After struggling with the conflicting physical and mental changes of puberty, Kalki found the bravery to come out to her family at 14 years of age. While the news initially devastated those closest to her – they stood by Kalki. Eventually accepting her decision to embrace who she really was and standing by her as she completed her schooling and further education in the face of bullying.
Unfortunately, many of her friends in the local transgender community were not as lucky. Often disowned by their families, many of Kalki’s friends were forced into a life of poverty, exploitation and danger. Something that inspired Kalki to take a stand.
“My gender is only one part of my identity. I am writer. Activist. Actor. How do I make society more beautiful and meaningful? That’s all that really matters. It’s my basic human right to live my life how I want to be.” – Kalki Subramaniam
Formed by Kalki in 2008, The Sahodari Foundation has become the leading voice of the transgender and gender non-binary community in India.
During our session, Kalki touched on how art and poetry became her only escape during her teenage years. It taught her just how powerful a tool self-expression could be. A discovery that has shaped Sahodari Foundation’s outreach work with disadvantaged members of the transgender community via three key projects:
- Trans/hearts Project – Giving underprivileged members of the transgender community the opportunity to learn self-expression through free art classes. Their work is then exhibited in galleries to raise vital awareness and funding for the project.
- The Red Wall Project – Shining a light on the sexual violence, physical assaults and mental torture often experienced by the transgender community – this striking exhibition empowers people to recount their own stories to raise awareness by adding their handwritten and hand stamped testimonial to The Red Wall.
- Walls of Kindness – As part of a visionary project from the Sahodari Foundation, a team of transgender artists visit remote and rural tribal villages to teach gender tolerance by renovating the walls of anganwadi schools with beautiful artworks, paintings and murals.
What was our most important take-away from the session?
Perhaps the most important topic covered by Kalki was the real difference we can all make as allies of the transgender community.
At IHG, we’re proud of giving our people Room to Belong, Grow and Make a Difference. Something that really resonated with Kalki’s message around building a working culture that does not discriminate. Everyone should feel empowered to bring their complete selves to work – and we can all make little changes that can make a huge difference. Even something as simple as being more inclusive in our language will go a long way to make members of the transgender community feel part of the team.
Let’s continue being kind, open-minded and friendly. Let’s Go Further Together.
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