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Sex change: ‘I saw myself in the mirror and met Sunahi for the first time... I have found peace’

Sunahi, who has just undergone a sex-reassignment surgery, talks about her transformational journey.

punjab Updated: Sep 03, 2018 12:14 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
sex-reassignment surgery,PGI,Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and research
Ankur Kaushal, 24, underwent sex reassignment surgery in July, a year after starting the hormonal treatment. Now identifying herself as Sunahi, her transformational process is continuing. (HT Photo)

A young woman is sitting at a table, hair flowing down her back, her gown swirling about her. Then there is a man with a trimmed beard, long hair tied in a high-bun, deep set eyes brimmed with kohl.

Two sketches drawn a couple of years ago by Ankur Kaushal, a 24-year-old from Chandigarh, eloquently express a man’s desire to transform into a woman. He names her Sunahi.

Lying in bed at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and research (PGIMER), Sunahi, who has just undergone a sex-reassignment surgery, talks about her transformational journey.

“My oldest memory tells me, without a fragment of doubt, that I was a girl,” says Sunahi.

As a child, Kaushal used to love wearing frocks.

“As I attained puberty I was attracted to boys, but they ran away from me. They would call me gay,” she says.

The years the friendless Kaushal sat alone on the first bench in school, an easy prey to bullies. At home he would lock his room and cry.

“Once I pleaded to the principal for help but he scolded me and advised to visit religious places,” she says.

Then Kaushal decided to come out of the closet and talk to his parents. “I felt relaxed that now the burden had shifted to my parents, but they were visibly depressed,” says Sunahi. Kaushal’s father, however, stood by him.

“It was July 2017, when questions about my gender and sexuality started giving me panic attacks, I told my father to either kill me or help me. He asked me what I wanted and I said I wanted to be a girl,” says Sunahi.

Together, father and son explored the pros and cons of gender change and today he sits next to his daughter on the hospital bed, listening to her story. Sunahi’s hormonal treatment started in July 2017.

“I was in heaven and hell. So many changes were happening in one go: Physical, psychological and hormonal. I was afraid, I would feel a rush in my veins and unbearable pain.”

On July 30, Kaushal had surgery. “A few days later, I saw myself in the mirror and met Sunahi for the first time,” she smiles. The transformational process is continuing, but “I have found peace,” she says.

When Shekhar met Simran

“Even in the most blurred images of my childhood, I remember myself as a girl who had got a boy’s body by mistake, ” says Simran.

For the 38 year-old dentist who used to be known as Shekhar (both names have been changed to protect her identity), “Life isn’t that easy. You learn to bear the pain with time.”

The bullies troubled Shekhar too in school. “You act all the time, trying to hide so that the bullies don’t find you,” says Simran.

In 2015, after seeing film writer and a part of the LBGTQIA+ movement Gazal Dhaliwal on TV, talking about how she changed her gender. “I found the solution to all my problems,” Simran adds.

During July-August 2017, when he started treatment in Delhi, Shekhar told the doctor, “I need a vagina.”

“It has been a year and the change is visible. I feel confident and happy. I will go for surgery soon, embrace my new life,” she says.

For others uneasy or dissatisfied with who they are (gender dysphoria), Simran says, “Give others time to accept you. Even if they don’t, accept them for not accepting you. They will come back.”

Doctors’ take

“Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a person experiences distress because of a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity,” says Dr Santosh Kumar from PGIMER’s urology department.

A number of such cases are reported at PGIMER’s endocrinology department every month, says department head Dr Anil Bhansali.

“The process of converting from male to female takes six months to one year. A person gets hormonal therapy to suppress male gonadal and testicular functions. Then estrogens are given.”

When changes are visible, doctors ask the person to wear feminine clothes to determine if this is what they really want. “Medical treatment is reversible but surgery is not,” says Dr Bhansali.

Within a year the breasts grow, voices and behaviour change, and facial hair and libido reduces.

“After a year we go for a surgery and the penis is surgically modified to a vagina and testes are excised,” says Dr Santosh Kumar, who has performed five to six such surgeries so far.

First Published: Sep 03, 2018 11:29 IST