Which I did.” On a desperate lookout for medical miracles that salvage identities suppressed thus, Sohini came across a piece on Dr. Sheila Rohatgi. A meeting later, ‘it was perhaps the first time that Sohini hoped for another tomorrow. “I was sent to psycho-analysts. On basis of their reports and medical tests, Dr Rohatgi accepted that I was a transsexual and sex-change was the only cure.” Grateful towards her co-workers, Malati and a manager in office (with whom she had a brief affair), for their support in her confused state of existence, it became a do-or-die battle. The process was a long drawn out one and frightfully expensive (Rs 5,00,000). Hormonal injections to lower the male testosterone cost Rs 10,000 for each shot. Six weeks later, she was shuttling between Kolkata and Delhi for the laser treatment to remove facial hair.
1 year later, on a cold January morning in 2002, the second operation (to create a vagina) finally took place. It took two beds (to accommodate the tall case), six-and-a-half-hours and the skilled hands of Dr. Rohatgi to transform Hirak into Sohini. “There was no feeling at first, except relief that a foreign body was removed. Later, the joy set in. Today, when asked about my age, I say one-and-a-half years old,” she says. Save conceiving, Sohini’s womanhood is now a reality. An avid music buff and a die-hard fan of Lata Mangeshkar, the name Sohini was suggested by a friend. “It is also the name of a raga. Later I learnt that Sohini also meant someone who has borne a lot,” she explains the choice of name.
Never one to have fallen for crushes on a hero, Hrithik’s entry, however, changed her stance. “My favourites have been, Sridevi and Shabana Azmi. There was no hero I ever like. Hrithik has something I soft and yet is so manly that he towers as~ nature’s perfect handiwork.” The resident of a middle-class locality, the change was surprisingly well received. Perhaps all did discern the man.
Nerisms and carriage earlier. But stepped back when it came to annulling the facade” to realise the inner truth. Relatives, she’ says, were never in the frame. As for new bonds, well there is good news. “After my feature in Femina, my phone did not stop ringing. Some, of course, were crank-callers. Some genuinely appreciated my guts. But when the editors called me to say that a Chennai-based businessman would like to solicit a matrimonial alliance with me, it was unbelievable. Ever since we spoke on the phone till he came this month to meet me. We vibe well and May sees us tie the knot,” says Sohini, blushing.
Come May and Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, it seems, will be the toast of the town. Marriages, as they say, are made in heaven.
Lines cross. And fate has its way parity of morphology and psychology, where the former must be altered in order to align with the latter. Long before the terminology of “Gender Identity Syndrome’ crept into common jargon, Dr. Sheila Rohatgi was performing sex change operations in Kolkata.
Her surgeries, though represented before the medical community, was conducted away from the media spotlight that is now focussing on her last case – conversion of male Hirak Bagchi into female Sohini. The sex change operation has not only generated its share of social awareness but also thrown up. uncomfortable questions about legal, religious and ethical rights.
Medically termed as sex reassignment surgery, the procedure involves changing genital organs from one sex to another. “A male patient suffering” from Gender Identity Syndrome has normal masculine morphology complete with beard and an Adam’s Apple. Only his mind is that of a woman’s, leading her to exhibit feminine affinity for cosmetics or women’s clothing. Most reported cases are of girls with a man’s mind, feeling trapped in their body. Such girls will have to be changed into boys, through a procedure that – is more complex than boy to a girl,” says Dr. Rohatgi. Patients displaying this syndrome are termed “transsexuals.” Though Harry Benjamin first tackled the subject, it was Cauldwell who coined the term “transsexualism”. In 1970 Money and Gaskin identified the disease which we today know as Gender Identity Syndrome. A study put the proportion of transsexualism in America as one in every 50,000 people. Dr. Rohatgi is wary of putting a number to the magnitude of the problem in India.’
Social conditioning since childhood is often responsible for giving rise to transsexualism Dr. Rohatgi cites the example of a patient – the youngest sister among her siblings, all girls – being raised by parents as a boy. “When her menstrual cycle began the patient was confronted with a gender crisis. She was suddenly expected to behave as a girl. This dictate was impossible to obey since her psychology had developed as that of a boy,” says Dr. Rohatgi. She was surgically transformed into a boy and as Dr. Rohatgi attests, “She and her family have been happy ever since”. Not all cases, however, are so readily accepted. High in Dr. Rohatgi’s roster is the case of a boy whose parents ate divided over the issue of his gender incompatibility. “The father abandoned his family, after holding the mother responsible for their son’s Gender Identity Syndrome,” she says. “Sex change surgery is non-reversible, there is no room for regret after the operation.”
Though transsexualism should not be confused with inter-sexualism, the lane seldom results in disparities in gender. Inter-sexualism is the condition when a person’s genital’ organs are not well formed, resulting in mistaken gender. “Sometimes the testes do not descend into the scrotum or the penis is not well developed leading to the boy child being wrongly registered as a girl. In the case of girls, an enlarged clitoris may be mistaken for a penis,” says Dr. Rohatgi. Both cases require only slight operations to rectify the malformed genital organ.