Of Expectations and Truth: Life after Sex Reassignment Surgery

Urmila Chanam
Posted November 8, 2020 from India
Transwoman Shanthi Muniswamy and her story of aspirations and going after them!
In a puja before undergoing SRS (1/2)

Note: This article was published on Deccan Herald in my column " Half the Sky" today, 8th November 2020.

At one point or the other, a transgender individual aspires to have a body belonging to the gender they identify with. For many Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS), a medical intervention available for both Male-to-Female (transgender woman) and Female-to-Male (transgender man) transgender persons is an answer to their prayers. The specialised operation conducted by Urologists and Gynaecologists is free of cost in states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu while in Karnataka it comes with a subsidised cost in select hospitals. Access to this gender affirming surgery is not an isolate aspect from transgender movement for their identity, rights and entitlements. Mural artist and blogger Shanthi Muniswamy, 38, a transwoman from Bengaluru shared her personal experience and insight on what the expectations from SRS are and how much of these are fulfilled.

When did Sex Reassignment Surgery become an aspiration for you and why? How many from the trans community opt for SRS?

Wanting SRS did not come to me all of a sudden rather it was a journey of self-discovery, reflection, confrontation and resolution over a span of 21 years which culminated to disclosure about my gender identity to my family amongst stiff resistance and denial. Right from the time I was a child, I used to hide my penis behind my thighs, stand in front of a mirror and think to myself that I am a girl. With passing time, the difficulty to connect with the body I was born with only grew and SRS became a means to change all of that.

SRS is a very important part of a transgender person’s life because it settles the internal conflict and gives us a body that we are comfortable with. The decision to undergo this surgery is entirely personal and varies from individual to individual but to my knowledge, most transgender persons would like to go for SRS.

What is the cost of SRS in Bengaluru and what are the processes involved?

SRS should be done in authorised government and select private hospitals which have the expertise and infrastructure and not through quacks or crude methods of sex reassignment where hygiene and life may be put to risk.

While SRS for male to female transgender persons costed about Rs 60,000 in 2017 when I underwent the surgery, SRS for female to male transgender persons is costlier and recovery period for the patient longer.

The entire process which takes close to three months begins with referral to a psychiatrist for psychological evaluation through counselling to ascertain whether the person is prepared to live the life they have chosen after surgery. This is necessary before beginning formal preparations for the surgery like meeting the doctor, getting the date of the operation fixed, undergoing surgery, healing in the hospital under medical observation, getting discharged to return just for the dressings and getting monitored for any infections or complication.

Please share your personal experience and suggestions for the government and aspirants.

When I underwent SRS in a private hospital in Bengaluru, my apprehension was put to rest by friendly doctors and staff. There was a separate ward for transgender persons, something that other hospitals should follow.

The surgery took about 2-3 hours. I was discharged on the sixth day but had to go for dressing every fourth day. I developed a bad case of infection on the tenth day but with timely attention from doctors, it was treated. Eventually I managed to get my dressing done in a hospital closer to my house to minimise the agony from travelling in autorickshaws on bad roads over potholes.

SRS should be made free for transgender community in Karnataka because affordability is the biggest barrier, we experience with only few of us employed in mainstream professions and majority reliant on either begging or sex work for survival. An ambulance dropping facility will be useful.

My advice to those who are contemplating SRS is to ensure they have someone to take care of them because it takes 1-2 months to regain mobility and strength. Also, summer months are the best time as opposed to monsoons when infections are more likely.

How do you feel about yourself and life in general after SRS?

When I saw my body for the first time after surgery, the profound happiness I felt made me weep. I love who I am now. What God forgot to create; doctors created it. To be able to experience complete womanhood I will wait for that to happen in my next life.

(The author is a journalist and social entrepreneur in the field of women empowerment, women’s health, menstrual hygiene management and digital literacy.)

Link to the original article:

https://www.deccanherald.com/sunday-herald/sunday-herald-articulations/s...

 

 

Comments 11

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Marie Abanga
Nov 08, 2020
Nov 08, 2020

Wow Urmila,

Thank you for sharing this here and really helping me understand who a transgender is and what they go through or can go through if they want such a surgery.
I wish them all the best

Urmila Chanam
Dec 02, 2020
Dec 02, 2020

Dearest Marie Abanga,
I am overjoyed to hear my article helped you understand the third gender better which is the first step in making efforts to support and include them in our work and lives. Thank you, sister for the warm wishes.
Love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam,
India

Adriana Leigh G.
Nov 08, 2020
Nov 08, 2020

Hi Urmila,
Thank you for sharing this important information for us! I look forward to hearing more about this issue, so keep on sharing! So crucial to learn about the journey so many trans women go through around the world, and build more unity and inclusion for all women to thrive.

Hugs from Montreal, Canada!
Adriana

Urmila Chanam
Dec 02, 2020
Dec 02, 2020

Dearest Adriana Greenblatt,
Happy that we are discussing transgender women, sister and in my opinion, we should redefine who a woman is and include any individual which self identifies herself as a woman that would include transwomen. This paradigm shift would truly lead to inclusion in all the development programs and attention given from policy and practice both. Thanks a lot sister for cheering me up from Canada.
Love and prayers,
Urmila Chanam,
India

Nini Mappo
Nov 10, 2020
Nov 10, 2020

Hello Urmila,
I had no idea that SRS is such a risky process prone to infections and a long road to recovery. All the best for your friend.

Urmila Chanam
Dec 02, 2020
Dec 02, 2020

Dearest Nini Mappo,

In a good hospital SRS is not a risky operation but due to ignorance and tradition, many transpersons resort to sex change through quacks and novice leading to health complications later. People are still struggling to get awareness on different sexual identities so SRS and other problems of the trans community are not known much. I believe if we discuss about the entire spectrum of existence, we understand the issue better. Thanks for the wishes for Shanthi.

Much love,
Urmila Chanam,
India

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Nov 20, 2020
Nov 20, 2020

Hello, sis Urmila,

Thank you for sharing this story about SRS with us. Shanthi's journey is similar to the transwomen and transmen's stories that I hear. It's when they look into the mirror and see themselves in the wrong gender that's why it is a must for them to undergo surgery. Until they do so, they feel incomplete.

Urmila Chanam
Dec 02, 2020
Dec 02, 2020

Sister Karen, I know transgender sex change surgeries are very common in Asia Pacific and there is lot of acceptance, facilities and support for them from people which is very good and something the rest of the world has to learn from. Thanks for reading sister. Hope you are doing well and so is your lovely family.
Love and hugs,
Urmila Chanam,
India

Beth Lacey
Dec 10, 2020
Dec 10, 2020

What a glorious interview, my sister!

Urmila Chanam
Dec 15, 2020
Dec 15, 2020

Dearest sister, Beth,
This is a wonderful, expressive, creative and eloquent person, Shanthi. If you ever come to Bengaluru I will arrange you to meet her. Thanks sister for reading. I hope to do more stories next year :) :)
Much love always,
Urmila Chanam

Sayfty
Mar 26
Mar 26

Shanthi's story helped me understand the transgender community a little more. Thank you for sharing their story. I wish them all the best!