Former US President, Barack Obama is in India, and just yesterday, he addressed a packed Town Hall in New Delhi. There were numerous interesting questions posed to him, however, one of the questions that stood out was the one posed by a transgender activist, Dr. Akkai Padmashali.


As per a NDTV report, this is what she asked the former US President –

“Mr President. I am a transgender woman. I was a sex worker, I was a beggar. I was rejected by all sections of the society, I have so many issues to bring before you as a social activist.” 

She mentioned about going through financial issues and the troubles she faced to reach Delhi from Bengaluru.

The activist talked about how state terror is against minorities – transgender, sexual minority, class, caste, religious, race minority.

Agitated, she wanted to take action against this unfair discrimination.

Talking further about the suppression they face, she went on to say that the government is not open to discuss openly about the transgender rights protection bill. 

Though Obama could not answer about Indian policies as he was not updated with the current scenario, he very beautifully answered her other question.

He says “finding your voice” is true for any group that is marginalised, stigmatised. When people find their voice and tell their story, it helps in breaking perceptions of disparity. People start relating and recognising the humanity within. 

The former President believes that this is one of the reasons why art is often a powerful tool in social change. It makes people recognise and relate to other’s situations.

“That moment of recognition is the basis around which you begin to build political movement.”

Being his usual encouraging self, Obama eggs her on by telling that when people have network and organisations and allies, more people join them.

“One of the things that I think is important in terms of any effort to bring about positive change is thinking about the allies that are available to you. Your issue maybe climate change or gender equality or public health but the question is ‘can you find the intersection between those issues?’.”

He says activists of public health and environment can work together as improving air quality is equally important to both.

After finding alliances, it’s a matter of applying political pressure and being able to mobilise public opinion, which is going to take some time.

“We get discouraged some time because progress takes time. You should take some measure of hope by seeing what has happened in other countries regarding LGBTQ issues.”

Obama goes on to say how the world has changed from when he was in college to now. People have become accepting towards LGBTQs and understand that it is wrong to discriminate between people on sexual preferences.

Lastly, he says:

“It requires a steady education of the public and then a polictical strategy that puts pressure on elected officials, but that’s gonna take some time.”

Dr Padmashali also requested Obama for a hug to which he kindly obliged and promised that it would be arranged for after the event.

Here’s the full video.