In a historic first, Padmashree Narthaki Nataraj has become the first transgender member of the Tamil Nadu State Development Policy Committee. Chief Minister MK Stalin revamped the committee and formed a 10-member team headed by the Chief Minister himself. Industrialist Mallika Srinivasan is also on the committee.
Narthaki Natraj, a Bharatanatyam dancer, received Padma Shri in 2019, making her the first transgender to be awarded the fourth highest civilian award in the country. On her appointment in the state development committee, she told ThePrint, "The selection was a big honour not just as a representative of the LGBTQ+ community, but also as an artist who has made a significant contribution to art and culture in the state."
Natraj said that her work as the development policy committee member would focus on Job opportunity and the lack of medical facilities for the transgender community.
"Many transgender women have lost their lives owing to the lack of proper medical facilities and even more so amid this Covid-19 pandemic. This is because most of them are unemployed and couldn't afford timely medical treatment at hospitals," Nataraj told ThePrint.
"We need to normalise transgender women working, teaching, and dancing; we need to normalise them pursuing their goals," said the Padma Shri awardee. She has always been an advocate of an inclusive society that gives a chance to a good life to even the marginalized communities.
Early Life Struggle
Natraj was forced to run away from her home after her family disowned her for her gender identity. She then ran to Thanjavur with her friend Shakhti Baskar where she learnt Bharatanatyam under Guru Kittappa Pillai. Guru Pillai gave her the name Narthaki, from whom she would learn and practice for over 15 years.
Natraj completed her higher studies with the money she collected from her dance performances. She then wanted to study law but was denied admission to the college because of her gender identity.
She was awarded Padma Shri in the year 2019 for her achievement as an artist of the dance form Bharatanatyam. She has received several other honors as well, including the prestigious Kalaimamani award in 2007.