2014 was an exciting year for India’s LGBT community. The 2014 general election was the first in which both voters and candidates could define themselves as transgender. And as voting got underway, India’s Supreme Court ruled that third gender people have the same rights as men and women. Penal code 377 which criminalises gay sex is still very much in place but this draconian law continues to be debated in the courts and there is an increasing sense that it will soon be dispensed with, 150 years after the British introduced it.

Against this backdrop, in the south Indian temple-town of Madurai, transgender campaigner Bharathi Kannamma put herself forward as a candidate in the general election. In her home state of Tamil Nadu, the transgender – or Aravani –  community have seen particular gains. In 2009, the state government began providing sex-change surgery free of cost. Tamil Nadu also provides special third gender ration cards, passports and reserved seats in colleges.

None of these achievements have been bestowed upon the community. They are the result of a long and ongoing struggle by ordinary Indian LGBT people including Bharati Kannamma. Kannamma did not see victory in her campaign for election. When Madurai’s election results were announced on May 16 2014,  she polled 1,232 votes. R.Gopalakrishnan of the ADMK party was declared the winning candidate, securing over 450,000 votes.
Produced by Tom Pietrasik for The Guardian.