In India, Sex Reassignment Surgery can be a grueling experience because it is done illegally and unprofessionally.
Castration is illegal in India, and Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) is legally ambiguous. Therefore, those who wish to undergo a sex change operation have to go to private clinics, and sometimes suffer physical and mental trauma because the process is often incomplete. The cost of the operation is very high there (around 45 lakhs). As an alternative, the hijra community has devised ‘nirvana’, a process of castration done in the traditional way. The physical completion of one’s sexual identity is one of the most critical aspects of a transgender’s experience. Christy Raj, our Community Correspondent in Bangalore, is intimately acquainted with the sufferings and difficulties attached to SRS procedures which led to complications. Numerous friends of his have been through it, and he himself hopes to be able to undergo the surgery one day, albeit under better circumstances.
The transgender community is still discriminated against massively in India, and there is total ignorance amongst the public of their needs. Legalisation of SRS would provide this surgery and its accompanying counseling at subsidized rates for the working class community. A proper SRS not only consists of a surgical operation. It also includes counseling, before and after the operation, hormonal treatment to enhance the physical changes, and a medical follow-up, to prevent the risks attached to the surgical intervention. But when the intervention is carried out in private clinics, transgender patients hardly receive any of these, and are left vulnerable to various infections, medical complications, and post-intervention psychological distress.
To improve his community’s situation, Christy Raj is engaged in Sangama, an NGO that provides support for the counselling process. He also belongs to an activist network that lobbies the government to susbsidise the surgery, as is the case in Tamil Nadu. He has numerous friends who have undergone SRS and now lead happy lives, utlimately at peace with their gender identity. He hopes that his video will help improve the situation of the transgender community, and eventually grant them the right to fully choose their sexual identity.