In a unique effort aimed at creating trans-inclusive spaces in the city, the Chennai Trans Kitchen, a restaurant run by a team of transgender persons, was inaugurated in Kolathur on Wednesday.
The initiative has brought together 10 transmen and transwomen to cook and manage the business operations of the unit. The kitchen will offer south Indian and Chinese, vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
“I have always liked to cook. We were trained in cooking for three months. This gave me confidence to take up the job. Our efforts will set an example for others,” said Sanjana, one of the team members.
An NGO, United Way of Chennai and Swasti, an organisation working for marginalised sections of the society along with the Transgender Rights Association, implemented the initiative to improve the socio-economic status of the transgender community and to generate reliable income opportunities. The organisations partnered with HSBC Global Service Centres to set up the unit.
R. Jeeva, the association’s founder and managing trustee and head of the Chennai Trans Kitchen said “This is the third unit being opened in Tamil Nadu, after Coimbatore and Madurai. Transpersons are now employed in many sectors. We wanted to create new opportunities in the food sector as well as provide secure jobs. We have 400 members in our Association. We chose 80 transpersons and shortlisted 10 of them who were interested in cooking and trained them. Each of them will earn ₹12,000 to 15,000 a month.” Ms. Jeeva wants to build a brand and open more branches across the city to create sustainable livelihood and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Transgender rights activist Priya Babu said food was the best way to connect people. This milestone effort would help mainstream the community, build conversations and change people’s perspective, she said. She also recalled the challenges encountered in finding space for the unit, as many were hesitant in renting out sites to members of the transgender community.
However, the organisations are now getting requests from other districts like Salem and Ramanathapuram. The goal is to have one kitchen unit in every district.
Meenakshi Ramesh, executive director, United Way of Chennai and K. Jeyaganesh, State director, Swasti, also spoke at the launch event.
The restaurant is located on 25th Street, GKM Colony, Kolathur.