Earlier this year, in a TV interview, Bruce Jenner — now Caitlyn Jenner — revealed that he was undergoing a sex change. But it was only when Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair last week, that the former Olympian drove the message home. Caitlyn made a first public appearance dressed in a white bustier. Simultaneously, reports revealed that Jenner’s family was dealing with his transformation in their own way. Apparently, while speaking about their father’s journey, daughters Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner even broke down.
Closer home, last month, a city tabloid reported the story of a man from Assam who had to ask the Bombay High Court to intervene in a matter involving his sex change. Bidhan Barua — now Swati — alleged that his father wanted to sue the doctors who would perform the Sex Realignment Surgery (SRS) on him.
While reports say that Caitlyn has settled into her new life, in India, coming to terms with an individual’s decision to change his or her gender is a concept that many are new to. In a bid to understand what it takes to return to the rut once the transformation is complete, we reached out to four individuals –– two of whom were also happy to pose for pictures –– from Mumbai who have had their sex changed. Here is what they had to say.
First-person accounts of four people from Mumbai who have had their sex changed:
1 ‘I tried to kill myself thrice’
While growing up, I never had gay friends. I was very effeminate. In 2005, I started dating the man who I am now married to. He fell in love with me long before I got the sex change operation done. We started living together in Goregaon. In 2008, I had my sex change operation, and then shifted to Mira Road. We got married the same year. I changed my name legally. Later, we shifted to Nala Sopara. This is when all the troubles in my life started. People started calling me names. They would laugh and pass cheap comments. I even tried to kill myself thrice because of the humiliation I faced. They made my life a living hell. They would taunt me on a daily basis. People in my building didn’t even let me start my own business. I wanted to start astrology classes, but they didn’t let me do that. I would have sold my house, and left this locality a long time back, but I plan to clear my name and then leave.
2 ‘My relatives tried to convince me to not get the operation done’
I always felt like I was a man trapped inside a woman’s body. My parents and friends have always supported me, but getting their nod for this operation took a lot of convincing. My relatives tried to convince me to not get the operation done, saying there was a risk. But I went ahead with it. All my friends in college knew about my sexual orientation, and were very supportive of my decision. But there were many others in society who were critical. I had many female friends in college. One of them even proposed to me. But I didn’t get into a relationship with her. Currently, no one in my neighbourhood knows about my sex change operation. My family and I plan to shift to a different area in the city, some where I can live with my new identity as a man. I have also changed my name.
3 ‘Some people have accepted me, some haven’t’
When I was in the seventh grade, I used to work as a compounder because my family’s financial situation was weak. I always believed I was a woman stuck in a man's body. But I waited till my graduation to get the operation done. The surgery was conducted in a hospital in Pune. I only told my parents about it after I got it done. By the grace of God, my parents supported me and understood my decision. Whether the world accepted me or not, being accepted by my family became the backbone of my existence. After the sex change, some people have accepted me, some haven’t.
4 'I want to get married and start a family'
In the seventh grade, when I was 12 years old, I had my first girlfriend. At that time, I wondered whether it was normal for a girl to date a girl. So l started doing some research online, and found out that there was something called lesbianism. That’s when I decided that I will change my gender. I decided to start a new life after I completed my graduation. So, I told my family about my plans to get the sex change operation done. My family, as well as that of my girlfriend, knew about our relationship. But, when my parents learnt about my plans, they went into depression. It took some time, but eventually, they changed their mind and accompanied me to the hospital where I got the surgery done in December 2013. My parents, family members and friends have all given me positive feedback for my decision. I have dated three girls so far. The first two relationships lasted for four years each. The most recent one went on for about a year. I want to get married and start a family. But all that depends on whether someone is ready to accept me the way I am.