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Man turns into woman, for free

At a government-run hospital in Delhi, a complete sex-change surgery is helping many choose their preferred gender, reports Sanchita Sharma.

delhi Updated: Nov 28, 2009 22:48 IST
Sanchita Sharma

Anshu Kriplani, 31, is an attractive career woman with streaked hair, designer shades and stilettos. It’s hard to believe that she was born a man in 1978, and in 2002, she turned into a woman.

Equally hard to believe is that the ‘metamorphosis’ from a dissatisfied man to a beautiful woman was done at the government-run Lok Nayak Hospital in Central Delhi.

Kriplani is very comfortable in her femininity and does not have the exaggerated mannerisms popularly associated with cross-dressers. She has no regrets, not even after a string of broken relationships with men who cannot accept her past.

“Men are such a***h***s, I’ve had more than one breaking off the relationship when I tell them about myself?” she said.

Her innate honesty has let her down in the past as well. At 18, when she told her parents that ‘he’ wanted to live the life of a woman, they immediately put her under “house-arrest” for three months. “I decided to behave the way the wanted me to till I got a job and became independent,” said Kriplani, who refused to be photographed for this article.

Kriplani says she had no doubt about her identity. “As a child, I enjoyed wearing my sister’s clothes but you must realise that cross-dressing alone doesn’t make you a woman. By the time I was 15, I knew I was a woman inside,” said Kriplani, who works at the corporate office of an IT company in Bangalore.

So she started taking female hormones when she turned 15, and at 25, she got electrolysis to remove facial hair.

Right through college, she also read up on surgical options available in Thailand and India. “I opted for a government hospital because it made it easier for me to get the paperwork done — such as a passport and a driving licence — to support my new identity,” she said.

“Lok Nayak Hospital is the only government hospital in Delhi doing complete sex reassignment surgery, which involves changing genital organs from one gender to another,” said Dr Rajeev B. Ahuja, who performed the surgery. Since it’s a government hospital, the surgery is done absolutely free.

Dr Ahuja has done four sex reassignment surgeries at Lok Nayak Hospital over the past seven years. It costs Rs 2 lakh in private hospitals such as New Delhi’s Sitaram Bhartia Institute, which has a dedicated sex-reassignment surgery programme.

Since the surgery is meant only for people with diagnosed gender identity disorder, a psychological classification of persons who experience significant gender dysphoria (discontent with the biological gender they were born with), is done to ensure that the sex change is not done at a person’s ‘whim’.

So despite living like a woman for four years, Kriplani needed a certificate to get a go-ahead for the surgery.

“The patient has to undergo intensive counselling for two years and live in their chosen gender in society during the period to determine whether they can cope with the change,” said Dr Ahuja.