This Blog is for YOU...

If you are/were Gender Dysphoric - so as to know some from me and share some with me, and reaffirm that none of us is alone... To acknowledge that we have a treasure of insurmountable Courage, Strength and Hope in us. I have a feeling that we were given slightly higher quantities of those special gifts :-) [If you have a question to ask me, you could write it as a Comment to one of the posts, and either I would reply to it as a Comment itself, or probably, respond in one of the future posts on this blog]

If you have never been Gender Dysphoric - so as to understand what it means to have a Gender Identity Disorder. Of course, it primarily depends on whether you want to or not. If you don't, please do make a quiet exit and try not to be a nuisance.

If you're confused - so as to realize that everybody goes through a stage of confusion - the period could be short, or sometimes, very long. What is important is to acknowledge that being unsure until you're sure is as normal and as alright as night before day.


If you're a human being - so as to find out for yourself whether you want to try to make the world a better place to live in, for every fellow human being, irrespective of their health, wealth, colour, race, gender, religion and any and every other line of division you can think of.


And finally, this blog is for ME - so as to be able to make some difference somewhere by sharing my experiences, and along the way, slowly grow out of those anxieties and insecurities that have inhabited my life for over 2 decades. It is time to escort them to the door now!

Come, Join me on this journey!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who am I?

i⋅den⋅ti⋅ty [ahy-den-ti-tee, i-den-]
- noun

1. the state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under varying aspects or conditions.
2. the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another.

The world is so populated with labels and tags today that in the effort of simplifying the concept of identity, many times, we end up meddling with it, and confusing ourselves as well as others around us. To take my own example, from considering the label ‘gay’ for a long time to ‘pre-op transsexual’ further on to ‘post-op transsexual’ and then ‘transwoman’, all I have been doing over years is to try and fit myself in. Fitting oneself somewhere becomes an urgent need for survival when every waking moment of the day, one faces the hard truth – that one does not belong. Especially for persons with Gender Dysphoria or Gender Identity Disorder (GID), groping with self-identity constitutes a considerable part of their laborious struggle, and this, for the simple reason that people who suffer from it, for all practical purposes, remain invisible because of the fear of societal pressures. Since it is harder to find others like you who you can identify with, it becomes that much tougher to discover the true self that you can identify with.

So, yesterday, at dinner, when my dear friend Jerry asked me – “Do you place yourself in the ‘T’ of the LGBT? Is that who you are?”, I fumbled before I could answer. This was exactly the question I had been posing to myself for a while now. I’ve been getting increasingly aware of the ineptitude of that label in defining me as a person. Unlike L, G and B, T does not stand for one’s sexual orientation. It stands for one’s Gender Identity.

trans⋅sex⋅u⋅al [trans-sek-shoo-uhl]
- noun

1. a person having a strong desire to assume the physical characteristics and gender role of the opposite sex.
2. a person who has undergone hormone treatment and surgery to attain the physical characteristics of the opposite sex.

The word ‘transsexual’, by definition, talks merely about a change of sex – whether pre or post. Now, sex change is a medical process I have been through to live a physically and mentally healthy life. But can that medical process be my identity? Or can the fact that I struggled with Gender Dysphoria for 25 years in the past, be my identity? A medical process or a medical condition, by virtue of itself, cannot be somebody’s identity. For instance, a life-saving cancer surgery doesn’t become an identity of the cancer patient. In fact, even ‘cancer patient’ is not an identity, because going by the definition of identity, it is the state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under varying aspects or conditions. Extrapolating the same in the case of the medical condition GID, neither the disorder, nor the cure of it can be the identity of a person.

There, of course, are people who consciously choose ‘Transgender’ as their gender identity because they identify themselves with the third gender (e.g. some of the members of India’s hijra community). Laxmi Narayan Tripathi says in my film ‘To be… ME’ that she wants an identity separate from the binary-gender system. While I would completely stand for the demand and choice of that identity for her and others who choose it, the question I needed to answer for myself was whether or not I bracket myself in the community ‘transgender’ for the simple reason that I underwent a physical transformation to align my anatomy with my psycho-emotional gender, which was always, Woman?

wom⋅an [woom-uhn]
- noun

1. the female human being (distinguished from MAN).
2. the nature, characteristics, or feelings often attributed to women; womanliness.

If there has been one condition of being oneself or itself, and not another in my entire life, it is the absolute clarity in the private language of my mind that I am a woman. I might have stumbled on the choice of words to express it, but never have I once been in doubt about it inside. ‘Woman’ is the one ‘label’ I don’t need to even identify with, because it is not something external to me, it IS the essence of my entire being.

Jerry and I had a long discussion over this, through which, it came to become totally clear to me that I am not the ‘T’ in the LGBT spectrum, for the simple reason that that is not my sexual or gender identity. I suffered from Gender Dysphoria and I corrected it through SRS. The whole point of correcting it was that I do find myself fitting into the binary-gender setup and feel no personal need for a third space. (That, I reiterate, doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in someone else’s right to claim that space)

If that is so, why then do I need to repeatedly speak about my journey in the media or other platforms? Who am I standing for if I do not belong to the ‘transgender’ community. Who I am speaking for are the people who suffer from Gender Identity Disorder. I, as a woman, have a past of Gender Dysphoria, and being someone who went through a sex change surgery to correct that, I speak out merely to be able to be visible so that any others who might be dealing with the same conflict can know that there is Hope, that there is Happiness – out there, and within. Going with the same analogy of cancer patients, it is just like a person cured from cancer were to speak about their journey of fighting with it and coming out healthy and happy.

To bring my blog in harmony with this clarity of my mind’s expression, I have made changes to my Blogger profile and also, the description of this blog above.

Identity, in some cases, is a matter of choice. For instance, I am a writer – is my identity too, and that I have chosen. On the other hand, some identities, one is born with. A human being, for instance. Gender falls in the latter category of identity. For non-Gender Dysphoric people, it is a non-issue, an identity taken for granted, because it so naturally fits into the apparent harmony of the world around. But for someone who has had expressed clarity missing on that most basic of identities, it can be a long torturous route to reach the place where I have reached today. But that said, each of the milestones on this route is significant too because it brings you that much closer to embracing yourself – with a sense of pride and love, worthy of yourself and your journey.


Photograph Copyright: Bombay Dost
Photographer: Paramita Nath
Hair styling: Bhavesh Karia
Post: Abhilash Augustine
Special thanks to: SM, NB, Vikram Phukan, Jerry Johnson]

Monday, December 7, 2009

To be... ME

If you have read about me, you would know that the turning point in my life came when I made a documentary on transsexuality, along with my friends. It is a 20-min documentary titled 'To be... ME' that we made in 2006. 'To be... ME' gave me the courage to go ahead with transition.

This film has been available for download on the left hand side links of this blog, right from the beginning. But now, thanks to a friend, it is also available on youtube. Here are the 3 links:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Hopefully, the film will continue to make a difference...

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Other Side

As I hastened to look presentable for a meeting this morning, running up and down from the bathroom to the closet and back, I involuntarily stopped upon noticing one of the front-page headlines of The Times of India lying hitherto unnoticed on the couch. It said – “EC gives transsexuals, eunuchs a distinct ID”. All else forgotten, I sat down and read the whole piece. And found myself face to face with the perennial question that anybody with a history of gender change has to confront, time and again.

So, the Election Commission of India has decided to give transsexuals and eunuchs an option of choosing “Others” as their gender instead of having to fit themselves in the archaic two-gender scenario. A welcome move, says the paper.

My initial reaction, to be frank, was – What the hell! Others? OTHERS?? Men, Women and those OTHERS! It sounded demeaning and exclusive. Through the day, however, I have come to think that it is probably a politically correct term for anybody and everybody who doesn’t identify with the ‘M’ and the ‘F’. Instead of calling it ‘The Third Gender’ or ‘Transsexual’ or ‘Eunuch’, ‘Others’ could be looked at as more of an umbrella term for all these.

My real worry, though, was something else. I wondered whether this new term would also be applied to, or forced upon people who have been through Sex Reassignment to actually fit themselves in the archaic two-gender system; which essentially, on a most personal level, boiled down to – What social identity are they going to give me, or if so be it, thrust upon me? A ‘Female’ or an ‘Other’? Are they going to consider the fact that I was always ‘Gender Dysphoric’, and hence, my mental gender always ‘Female’, not to forget, the present physical gender too? Or are they merely going to look at the technical aspects of my having been born a male child and choosing to forego that gender? Are they going to realize that I have been a woman all my life? Or would they snigger and hand me a piece of paper declaring that I need to go and stand in the ‘other’ queue? Is my gender going to be decided by who I declare myself to be? Or are they going to keep that power in their own hands?

Just to make my stand clear here, I acknowledge and respect an individual’s right to choose to not belong to either of the two mainstream genders, and hence, demand for a legal identity as the third gender. It is only fair that a human being be given the freedom to assert their own identity, and that there be a system to acknowledge that. But going by the same logic, a transsexual person or a eunuch must also be free to choose ‘Female’ or ‘Male’ as their gender if that’s who they are, surgery or no surgery. ‘Others’ should certainly be an option, not a compulsion.

Giving the Indian system its due credit, I have had very little, if any, trouble in getting my official identification documents altered as per my new physical gender. Driving license and Passport are through already, while PAN card is in the process of application. On a personal level, I have never felt a need for activism for any rights, because I haven’t felt that any rights are missing for me. I know of transpeople who are legally married in India, so clearly, marriage rights are not a problem either. All said and done, however taboo a sex change might be for the Indian society, at least the law doesn’t seem to have anything against it.

Which is why the EC move left me numb this morning. It was a feeling of helplessness, given by a fear that my right to choose my identity might be filched away. It is all fine and idealistic to think that whatever they do and say cannot affect my real self, but then, I cannot deny the feeling of unbridled joy when my surgeon gave me a certificate declaring me ‘Female’, nor the ecstasy of looking at my beautiful new Passport next to the old one stamped ‘Void’.

And so, I finished my meetings, rushed home and sat on the internet, looking for more information on the matter. And to my relief, what I gathered from the news stories was that ‘Others’ is a choice available to transpeople and eunuchs if they wish to use it, but ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ are just as much open as choices too! A couple of links:

Yes yes, I agree with you, The Times of India. A welcome move, indeed!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Discussion on Sexuality! - Why Not?

For a long time now, an idea of a talk show based exclusively on sexuality has been brewing in my mind. A few months back, I started approaching news channels with a concept for such a show. Finally, after repeated attempts and efforts, CNN-IBN responded and said that for now, they would be willing to let me host a 10-minute chat on an episode of their existing show ‘Y Not’! I thought it over and decided that I would give it a try. After all, it was, at least, a beginning.

So, on the coming Friday, i.e. Oct 30, at 8:30 pm, you can catch me hosting this chat on CNN-IBN. I will be in discussion with a few other friends, a few of whom identify themselves with the sexual minorities and a few who don’t.

Do watch it! And spread the word around!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Birthday Musings

So, I’m Two! Again! How many people in the world get to be Two twice in the span of one lifetime? Not many, methinks! :)

But then, come to think of it, was I really ever Two before yesterday? I mean, prior to October 19 2007, it wasn’t ME – the person who I know as myself, today! You could say that I have lived two lives, but have I, really? Sometimes when I stop and look back at the 25 years of my life which preceded the last two years, it actually feels as though it was a totally different person who lived those years in my name, or NOT in my name, really. It was some other person who painfully, quietly carried me in the womb of their soul for all those years, going through the ignominy of bearing me for decades at a stretch, until one fine day, I was ready to step out, open my eyes to this beautiful world and revel in my own glory, with an innocence possible only to a newborn.

A dear friend asked me yesterday – So, do you still find yourself getting to know new things about the world and about yourself? Or 2 years is a long enough time for you to have known everything there is to know? I’ve been thinking since then. It’s been TWO years! 365 x 2 = 730 + 1 (for 2008, leap year) = 731 days! It’s amazing that even after 731 days, every new day that comes my way brings along new discoveries about myself, new tips from old friends, new levels of self-confidence, new ways of doing my hair, new beauty products I want to possess, new reasons to live, laugh and love the sheer joy of being… ME!

I have figured that my life is a gift… by someone who loved me more than anyone else ever did or would, someone who chose to die so that I could live… happily ever after! What I'm living today is a fairy tale – every colour is bright, every flower fresh, every note is melodic, and every dream real! Thank you, Gunraj! We were One, once! Today, we’re Two! Thank you!


“Hi, I’m Two! Pleased to meet you!” :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Questions from a Student of Gender Studies and My Answers

1) When did you come out to your family? Did they have any idea of what was going on with you before you came out?

I came out to my brother when I was maybe 11-12 years old. I told my parents about my condition (although I didn’t have any name for it then) at about 14, when I was in my 9th (or 8th) standard, I think. If they ever had a clue about it beforehand, they never let it be known. But I’m really glad that I was open and honest to them that early in my life. Not only did I feel relieved, but also, it was great that they got almost 12 years to prepare themselves for what was coming (although I must say that they were understanding and sensitive all along). I should say that over all those years, my parents and I lived through my condition together and we all came out successful at the end of it all! :-)

2) I've heard from transmen/transwomen that transitioning period has been the toughest period in their lives. How did you manage to speed past it?

Honestly, it never looked like I sped past it. It seemed excruciatingly long, but now that I look back, I realize that however long it might seem to me, I’ve been blessed to have had a shorter transition period than what is considered the average. I can’t put a clear reason to it, except perhaps a feeling of wellness that my family created around me, in the past one year when I was staying with them. That helps a lot, psychologically, and one’s body tends to reflect one’s state of mind. Makes sense? :-)

3) Did you have any issues with your day-to-day life esp. in terms of housing, job hunting, and dealing with people in common places etc?

The transitioning period was certainly very tough. One of the toughest, I’d say. Not THE toughest, may be. I think what makes it so tough is an irony. The fact is that people are noticing the little little changes in us and are reacting the way one expects the entity called ‘people’ to react generally, but we ourselves, on the other hand, never feel that the change is good enough. Desperation gets almost each one of us. It did get me too, and only my family can tell you how badly. I was actually so desperate that I went for my surgery within just 9 months of having started the hormones (not a great plan!) Even though we start transition with the knowledge that it is almost a 3-year project, or at least 2, we still count in days. It’s of course understandable, because the reactions from left, right and centre make us feel like a bigger freak than we might have ever felt. And it becomes the worst when one is staying all alone, so even after an emotionally strenuous day outside, when one comes home, there is only that one person in the mirror to talk to, and that person isn’t exactly in the physical and mental shape that you’d like them to be.

Job hunt was actually never an issue for me. I was always very comfortable at the place where I was working. It’s very important to be honest and open to one’s immediate circle. That matters the most. I had shared with my colleagues and my boss about what I was intending to do even before I started it. So, there was a supportive ambience and a lot of comfort – very important in that period. Also, being in the media field, I think people have a slightly wider perspective on the world than the general world, otherwise, or at least, they’re inclined towards showing that they do. In either case, what matters is that one feels comfortable, and that’s priceless! [There was a period of about 8-9 months around my surgery – before + after, when I was not working, but that was out of choice]

Coming to my residential setup, the place where I was putting up during my pre-surgery transition was very comfortable and peaceful. Finding it was not a problem, thanks to a dear friend who owned it. But there were some 20-odd boys (teenagers and full-grown adults; even a couple of kids) who would gang up around the entrance and do all kinds of histrionics when I left for work and came back home. A couple of times, they did some very scary stunts as well, but let’s let that be. If I were who I am today, I’d have certainly spoken it out with them, but who I was then was a bundle of nerves, sometimes reveling in exhilaration, but sometimes scared to death. With time, I just learnt to turn deaf in those couple of minutes when I was passing the entrance of the building each day.

Dealing with people in public places was alright. Not a cakewalk, but alright. It was never a comfortable feeling, but then I had had people staring, laughing and passing comments at me even pre-transition… For decades, actually. Yes, there was an added fear of lonely late night traveling, but thankfully, nothing horrible ever happened.

4) Post-transition, has there been a marked change/difference you see in the society who only know you as a woman? (A lot of transwomen validate the existing gender discrimination against women)

Oh, the change around me is incredible! It’s like one extreme to the other. Literally. So much so, that nowadays, sometimes, I find lesbian women hitting on me (which is quite flattering, really) :-). So yes, I get a lot of respect, attention, sometimes privileges on account of being a girl! Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with any significant gender discrimination yet, and I somehow know that I won’t in future, as well. Yes, eve-teasing happens sometimes, but that’s a lot more in and around my tiny little hometown. Bombay is very comfortable even at midnight. Life is good! :-)

5) Any light-hearted/funny incidents that you experienced, that made you smirk/laugh? :)

Apart from the ones I have mentioned in the post below, something interesting happened recently. I won’t call it funny, but something that did make me laugh, out of joy.

I met this wonderful lady in a social group. We interacted quite a bit over a period of a few days, and on the last day, she told me that she had been evaluating me for the place of her daughter-in-law, and that she would be delighted if I met her son and we could like each other. I felt like somebody had put my heart on a soft warm pillow and caressed it with a lot of love. I hugged her and realized then that even though I was not going to consider this proposition, I owed her the truth. And then, I told her…

She was silent for a couple of minutes and then said, “Well, that doesn’t change what I said.” I was not surprised because somehow, I knew that she would say that, but I also WAS surprised, because under ordinary circumstances, nobody would expect her to say that. So, the part of me which is the society was amazed, but the part of me which is me simply laughed, hugged her again, and said, “Thank you!” :-)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's Amusing...

[Note: I wrote this more than a year ago... before I started this blog. Just a few interesting observations :-)]

~ when the guy you shared the hostel room with (for 2 years) – the guy who also happens to be your best friend – finds it necessary to tell you, “You can’t go out wearing THAT! The neck is too damn low!”

~ when the random guy in the bus who, one year ago, would have trod upon you to find his way in the crazy chaos, bows most courteously; and just when you’re wondering if he’s upto ‘something’, you realize that he’s only lifting your bag to place it on the bag carrier.

~ to see that exceptional look of disbelief on the visage of a man who is known to have seen the world, been-there-done-that; and just as you notice him stealing a furtive glance at you, to realize that he hadn’t after all, seen it all… that you’re a new Wonder to him!

~ to get to know that your friend’s girlfriend who had been so fond of you, now gets worked up whenever he talks to her about you.

~ when your mother asks you to not show up in the drawing room, in front of the guests who’re in India looking for a tall beautiful bride for their NRI son… “What if they see you and get interested? How will I explain?”

~ when a girl you’ve been introduced to, just an hour ago, drives you to the restroom desperately and asks you to check for her if ‘it is all fine’, and you’re trying hard to NOT make a mistake in checking.

~ when an old flame tells you that he has checked your latest orkut pictures a zillion times… because well… “you look pretty”! ;-)

~ that the interiors of your house are just as they always were, that the locality hasn’t changed either, yet the new paint outside has brought out a new shade in every other house in the locality.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yours truly, The Possibility of Acceptance

[Note: This is especially for those friends of mine who I just finished The Landmark Course with. I really wanted to share myself with you all, but couldn’t because there was little time. Since you would need to know from the very beginning, I’ll do my best to make this easy to understand. If anything is unclear, you’re most welcome to ask questions in the comments section here. Also, if you look to the left of this post, you will see the link from where you can download the film I mentioned on the last day of the Course. It's a 20-min documentary about the issue that I am going to share with you in this post.]

[For other readers: I just attended a worldwide acclaimed course called The Landmark Forum. All I can say is that it is life-altering. I’m a new person today, thanks to this course, and I strongly recommend it to everybody. You may visit their website and take a look at what they do: . The present post is my coming out to my group-mates from the course.]

Who I am is the possibility of Acceptance and Fulfillment, not just for myself, but for the whole world. And for this possibility to be really alive, I have to start with myself and you. It is important for me that I share my past with you because it will only help you and others to widen your limits of acceptance and fulfillment with the whole world.

As you must know, among all the babies that come into this world, a few newborns’ bodies or minds are not fully developed or they’re born with certain ailments which nobody has any control on. For example, some babies have a hole in their hearts when they’re born, or might have a missing limb.

A similar but vastly different ailment is something that is called “Gender Identity Dysphoria.” It is a disorder recognized in medical books wherein a person’s mental gender is not the same as his or her physical gender. That is, a male child has inner feelings of a girl, while a female child identifies with the male gender instead. This is not by choice. This is a disorder that they’re born with and have to struggle with, all their lives if they don’t take a step to correct it. They’re known as transsexual people.

I… was a transsexual child. When I was born, I came in the body of a boy. But ever since I gained consciousness, my feelings were a girl’s feelings, and I always felt I should have been a girl. This created such complex problems that you can probably just imagine. I had to live a double life, a fake life to be able to look ‘normal’ to people. I had to present myself as a male in front of others even though every bit of it was an act. I was playing the role of a boy every single moment of my existence, and yet, I was not a great actor, because most people would see how effeminate I was and for a lot of them, it was just a matter of mockery.

So, I grew up living an unreal life, and faking my identity for 25 years. When I was 25, I finally took the decision that I did not want to live that way any more, and with the support of my priceless parents and family, I underwent a whole process of physical transformation from a male body to a female one. I also had a sex change surgery in Bangkok in 2007, post which I was certified to be a Female.

But somehow, the surgery never freed me the way I had thought it would. You know why? Because it had become a way of life for me to live an act, and I’ve been trapped inside that act. My ACT, by the way, is “Please accept me.” Just because I could never like my own self, I always went out of the way to please others so that they would like me and accept me. Even when I didn’t want to, my whole agenda was to please others and make them say how nice I was. Now, this Act did not leave me after the surgery because it was a way of life for me. I didn’t know any other way of being.

Not until I actually SAW my Act in the Advanced Course [thanks to all of you and especially, Sunitha, Pratiksha and Rahil], and had an absolute breakthrough. I’ve also consistently lived with a thought that people judge me every moment, which is why, I could never really BE with people. But the exercise where we just learnt to BE with each other was another revelation for me. I saw my Act so clearly and it hit me so hard that I broke down thinking how all my life, I had not given myself a chance to feel free and open.

The Advanced course was magical. I feel so free and child-like… it’s like living with no burden and absolute clarity. Honestly, I hadn’t accepted myself fully even after my surgery and physical transformation. Today, I thank you from the bottom of my heart… because the biggest thing I have realized and truly felt is that…

I am whole, complete and perfect. :-)

Now that you know my story briefly, you can take a look at the other posts in this blog (preferably start from the first one which will be at the end) and know me more, if you’d like to, of course. But I must urge you for something. Please broaden your horizons of acceptance. It is very easy and common to mock and reject those people who somewhere fall out of the boundaries of ‘normality’ (and I do not mean only transsexual people) – the normality that WE have created just for the sake of our comfort. We may laugh at those who seem ‘abnormal’ but believe me, the inner struggle they have to go through is massive anyway, without the world making it even tougher. All they need is acceptance and a sense of being loved, because in all probability, their self-worth and self-love is terribly low. Please learn to ACCEPT a person – even though you may not identify with or understand their way of being. I can actually expect this as my right from each one of you, because you have finished the Advanced Course. If there is any bunch of people in the world who can take on this request whole-heartedly, it is you. Let’s accept… ourselves and everybody else because like somebody said (not the exact words), “Show a little compassion to everybody you meet, because each one is undergoing a little struggle of their own.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Transition Train!

It is almost surreal when one fine day, you sit and write out the details of how you went about what once seemed like a mammoth excruciating never-ending task – Transition. It is also soothing when you look back and you realize that it has been three years worth of learning, three years worth of experiences, three years worth of knowing yourself and loving yourself, and three years worth of life…

So Anonymous, I owe you one… because until you popped the question about my transition timetable, I wouldn’t have thought of putting it out on my own. But now that you have made me stop and think, I have realized that it is high time I told myself that I’m done with the transition. Yes, the truth is that all this while, I had been thinking that I’m still transitioning.

But today is a new day. I have turned a new leaf. Today, I choose to acknowledge that I am on the other bank of the river called transition. Yes, my body and I will still keep changing in many beautiful ways but so does the body of everyone in the world. I may still need a few laser sessions but so do millions of women – genetic or trans – across the world. I may still need my hormone pills for many more beautiful changes, but what the hell? I will always need them. If they were to be a criterion for me to believe that I had finished the MTF transition, then I’d never finish it anyway :-).

So yes, people! I have finished Transition from one end of the gender spectrum to the other! It’s been a fascinating journey in more ways than one. In fact, this journey has taken me through an entire spectrum of emotions, letting me experience the clouds as well as the deep waters, and helping me to turn out to be a much fuller person than I ever was. And I don’t seem to have done too bad, eh? ;-)

Below, I give a map of how my physical journey went. Please note that this map, in no way, implies that what I did was the ideal way to do those things. Different people take different routes because what suits them and their circumstances is different, and that’s totally fair. So, don’t treat these details as a benchmark in any way. I made mistakes during my transition too, so just take a look at how mine went, but do devise your own timetable (or your own natural flow) as per your convenience, circumstances and of course, the professionals’ (doctors etc) advice.

My Transition Roadmap

May-June 2006

I underwent psychiatric evaluation.
I went to two different psychiatrists in Mumbai, and with both of them, it took me about 3 sittings (over a period of about a month) before they gave me a certificate of Gender Dysphoria and a recommendation of Sex Reassignment. It may not always be over in 3 sittings and just a month. For some people, the process is longer.

June 2006 – Jan 2007

I spent this time researching about other transpeople and about the various procedures and professionals whom I should consider. I also tried one laser session but the guy happened to be a quack (BEWARE of them when it comes to lasers!) who left me with severe burnt marks, and I decided to steer clear of lasers. But otherwise, this was a very important phase since the research helped me meet a lot of people who gave me substantial hope and courage needed to take the plunge. Even if you don’t spend half a year researching, do make sure that you have some kind of a sensible plan in your head when you take the first step into physical transition.

Feb 2007 onwards

I have been on hormones. Like someone else I know says, hormones are not magic pills. Don’t expect them to show you miracles. But they’re more like your mother’s care. They do beautiful things to you slowly, without you even noticing or acknowledging. They take their own sweet time but they know their job well. [Talking in terms of MTF transition] It starts with thinning and slowing of body hair growth, followed by your skin becoming suppler, the body developing the feminine curves (very slowly sometimes) and even your facial features becoming softer. I was surprised recently when someone who used to know me earlier saw me and said that the shape of my nose had changed. It has become sleek and beautiful, they said. I would have never imagined that the shape of my nose could change, but lo and behold! It has! :-)

July 2007 – Apr 2008

This is when I underwent electrolysis for facial hair removal – about 10 sessions and 120 hours of it. Now, the thing with electrolysis is that it is a very painful and painstakingly long procedure, but according to experts, it is the only permanent hair REMOVAL method as against laser which is a permanent hair REDUCTION method. So believing that, I went for electrolysis. But the complication that happened with me was that I realized a little later that electrolysis was leaving some marks on my skin, which were not fading away. When I consulted my dermatologist, she told me that my skin was of a hypersensitive variety and it was not taking to electrolysis well [Now, this is not the case usually with most people, just to let you know, lest you should panic]. And so, she suggested that I move to laser, which I did eventually, and that was a wise decision. [My advice on what one should ideally do, follows a little later]

Oct 19, 2007

I underwent the Sex Reassignment Surgery at Bangkok.
I actually went for it quite soon in my transition. I could have waited for another year, brought my facial hair to a more manageable level and then gone for it, which is what I would advise you to do. Do NOT rush into the surgery. I did not look passable when I went for the surgery, and it was in a way, a mistake, although it worked for me on some other personal levels, so I do not regret it. But the ideal scenario would be to go for surgery after about 1.5-2 years on hormones and when your facial hair is not much of a trouble anymore.

May 2008 onwards

I have been undergoing laser sessions for my face, and it has worked quite well.
The trick with laser is to find the right people to do it for you (which is with almost any service in the world, actually, but this is critical since it is your face). I have had 9 laser sessions and my estimate is about 2-3 more to reach a stage where I would start needing only one laser session every 6 months or a year or so. And I am ready to settle with that need. But if you are someone who would rather choose to never undergo anything else for your face, then, I would advise you to start the facial hair removal with laser and bring it to a point where the hair is very thin. Thereafter, shift to electrolysis and get them totally out of the way!


Talking of when I started to look passable, well, the thing is that even when I was traveling for surgery, I was believed to be a girl at the airports etc, so for a lot of people, I was passable in about 9-10 months of having started my hormones. But we, being who we are, always tend to be over-critical of ourselves. So in my own opinion, the absolute absence of strange stares from people started happening around July-August 2008 [about 1.5 years since I started the hormones] and absence of strange stares from myself in the mirror started happening sometime around Feb-Mar 2009 [about 2 years since I started the hormones]. So there! :-)

My hair

I had started growing my hair ever since 2005 itself, but I was never made to feel uncomfortable because of that, since I was in a place like Bombay and I was studying and working in the media. Simply put, the hair was the least of my issues except for that it was falling a lot at one point in time, which the hormones helped me a lot with.

That, according to me, should address all the areas, as far as I can think right now. If, however, there are more questions in your mind, then they are, as always, welcome! :-)

Try to think of transition as an opportunity to bring a beautiful change in yourself, and hence, in the world around you. You’re blessed to be able to have this opportunity. It may be very hard, very many times, but trust me, at the end of it all, it’s all going to be more than worth it!

Happy Transitioning! Live it up! :-)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

"So Long, Love!"

We live to love and we love to live. It’s impossible to imagine life without the exhilaration, the joy, the pain, the excitement, the complete spectrum of emotions that love takes us through. We all ache for it and we all wait for it, especially so, if we’ve spent a large part of our lives believing that we can’t find love, because we do not ‘fit in’ with the rest of the world, if somewhere, we’ve made ourselves believe that we’re not worthy of being loved. [I don’t speak for everybody here, but I do for many]

So, when the slightest of indications points out towards the possibility of love somewhere, we make a run for it, instantly believing that this is what we were always looking for. And who knows? It just might be. But who knows? It might not be.

I know I sound vague. I do, to myself too. Being somebody who has always had a clear perspective on what is right and what is not, for once, I have lost that perspective. And I am choosing to accept it here, because I think all of you out there, who seek to know something from this blog, must also know this part of me, since I believe that if you have really got something to learn from this space, you must get this another really important lesson from me too, even if it is at the cost of my privacy.

The wrong-est time to fall in love and to start a relationship is… when you are in the pits. When the sun has turned its back on you, when the doors have shut without a window being open anywhere, when there is no light at the end of the tunnel, that is not even close to being an ideal time to hold another’s hand. That, in fact, is the time to hold your own hand, face your demons on your own, find your courage, and emerge from the darkness alone.

Friendship, even companionship could be alright. But committing to a relationship may not be the best of ideas, because what you’re really seeking in that relationship is a balm for your current pain, not the love of your life. The love of your life might just come out of it, yes, but on the other hand, it may not, and you may realize it too late in the day that it was a mistake, and that would be not only unfair to you, but much more so to the other person, in case they’re too deeply involved as well.

A rough sea is an opportunity for us to learn to swim on our own. If we try to get on to a boat, it might be temporary relief, but what if the tide topples the boat and you’re left to fend for yourself again? Or what if you realize that this boat is not strong enough to beat the tide itself?

Only when you love Yourself in totality can you truly be in a position to give and receive true eternal love. And loving yourself in totality doesn’t mean loving your hair, your skin, your hands, your feet. It means accepting yourself for who you are within, to not be harsh on yourself for the mistakes you might have made or even those that others might have made, to be able to say to yourself that you’re a wonderful person and you love yourself. You will obviously have to make changes in yourself to be able to say that to yourself. Make those changes, keep trying, you might fall into the old patterns of depression and self-loathing sometimes, but keep trying, stay at it, and do it on your own. Don’t look for life-guards because they can’t guard you for life. Sooner or later, time will again bring you to a spot where you’ll have to face your demons all over again. So, face them now, and learn to love yourself… NOW!

Only a whole person, a person happy from within can find another whole happy person, because what we see and get in the universe is merely a reflection of our own selves.

Talking specifically in terms of transpeople, my advice would be to try and not venture into love and relationship during the transition period. I had read this somewhere myself, before my transition, but I forgot, and I have never cursed myself more for forgetting something.

Transition is a period of extreme emotional upheaval and most of the times, we can really not trust our own emotions (in terms of love), because let’s face it; the hormones introduce us to emotions that we have never known before. We’re going through them for the first time ever. We have no experience of them and we’re mentally and emotionally not strong enough and not prepared enough to check ourselves on the basis of logic. Transition is a highly emotionally charged phase of one’s life. Any spark of inclination or interest shown towards us, and our battered self-esteems rush to grab it without stopping to think of the consequences in the future. We tend to jump on to this one opportunity thinking that this is perfect without even giving it time to prove itself to be perfect. And a graver mistake in starting a relationship cannot be made, because with time, as you grow, if you realize that it wasn’t perfect, you’re down in the pits again – pits of guilt, helplessness, frustration, self-hatred and loneliness, all over again.

Yes, I know that it is easy to warn, but very difficult to follow this, but I would urge you to take my advice, because I have made every mistake that I ask you to beware of, and thanks to my mistakes, I’m still far from being the whole person that I had set out to be, besides being the cause of pain to another person who was caught unawares. So, friendship is a great idea, but don’t rush into anything more intense until you’re more stable emotionally...

Transition is an amazing opportunity for you to know yourself, to nourish yourself, to love yourself. Don’t wait or look for someone else to do it for you. Do it for your own self. Come out radiant and ready for the world, because once you know how to be your own lover, you won’t look for love because you NEED it. You’ll find love because it’ll BELONG to you.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Questions about a trip that ends with "Hello..."... "Life!"

1. Dr. Chettawut’s website (www. says one needs to wire transfer (a way to send money internationally) 10% of the total surgery cost initially to block the date and the remaining has to be paid by the date of the surgery. Is it safe to do this wire transfer? And the rest of the amount – should it be carried along in cash?

From my experience with wire transfer, it is totally safe and reliable, if you choose a reputed bank to handle it for you, of course. I used ICICI and didn’t have much problem besides a slight hiccup when they rejected my form the first time and asked me to submit in written the reason for this transfer. After I did that, within a day (or two, perhaps) the transaction went through. You must keep a copy of the form/receipt/official confirmation from the bank’s side to email it to Dr. Chettawut, who is easily one of the most responsive doctors you will find, despite being more than fully occupied with making people come alive!

Coming to the second part of this money-and-life transaction, carrying the money in cash is an option as are a few others (explained on his website). My father and I, however, did not feel too comfortable with me carrying money worries along, that too, when it was probably the biggest amount we had ever spent in one go! The whole point of this trip was – to be free! And so, having faith, for no reason except faith, we had sent the rest of the money by wire transfer too (a few days before the surgery). And there were absolutely no hiccups this time! The integrity in Dr. Chettawut’s and his entire staff’s character is something I can personally vouch for…

2. What about food there? The person accompanying me is vegetarian while I am not. I don’t think either of us would be able to cook. What would you suggest?

Again, I’ll tell you what my mother, Bua and I did, and I guess you’ll be able to take a call for yourself. Firstly, Bangkok is only slightly more expensive than India is (okay, I can’t be sure about now, but going by the situation about 1.5 years back, it won’t burn your pocket), and you can easily find the most basic daily use stuff right next door to the Baan Siri Rama Hotel where most of the doctor’s patients stay (unless they’re 1st Class patients :-)). I mean, milk, yoghurt (in the widest range of flavours), bread, butter et al will be at an arm’s length from you.

And yes, we cooked – if you want to call putting Maggi noodles into boiling water, or placing sealed packs of MTR’s pre-cooked veggies into boiling water, or mixing Knorr soup powders with boiling water – cooking. Well, my mother and Bua, being expert cooks, did make dal and rice sometimes (and I have a faint memory of them preparing some vegetable on a one-off day), but that was not a regular thing. They took it easy, and I am so glad they did.

Being non-vegetarian, buying cooked food won’t be much of a struggle for you, although I am not sure how you would take to the flavour of their preparations. Give it a go, but considering that there would be a lot your body would be dealing with in any case, try not being too experimental. And as far as your companion is concerned, just make them believe that Maggi noodles, Knorr soups (or Maggi again) and MTR’s food items are amongst the choicest delicacies of the world… and you should be fine. :-)

3. How many clothes should I carry with myself?

Not too many. You will be in the hospital gown for 5 days of your stay. For the stay afterwards, you can keep a few (3-4) night gowns / loose skirts which you can keep getting laundered. It is not advisable to wear anything that is not roomy enough, since the posture you’d need to lay in, won’t endorse them. Keep a couple of dresses for your travel and one or two for the days before the surgery, if any.

4. My name was A (which is what my passport carries) but now, I have adopted the name B. What do I need to tell the doctor? Is there anything in particular that I need to take care of?

Since your passport bears ‘A’, you will have to travel both ways as ‘A’ and you must inform Dr. Chettawut to prepare all your documents (including letter for Visa application and Gender Change certificate) in the name of ‘A’. You can request him to not specify a social title (‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’) against the name if you so want.

Once you’re back from Bangkok, holding a priceless piece of paper that bestows you with the right to be officially recognized as a woman, you will go for the official name change and alterations in various documents (bank accounts, passport, voter ID, PAN card etc.) Everything, in due time! But right now, focus, just on the change that will effect this entire chain of changes… and brace yourself to meet LIFE!

5. How many days is the Thai VISA valid for?

Even though Thailand is one of the few countries in the world which allow you to get a Visa-on-Arrival, you will not be able to make use of this blessing because Visa-on-Arrival is given for merely 15 days, while you will need to be there for at least 3 weeks (I have this suspicion that this VISA has been crafted especially keeping in mind the bored men from across the world who wake up on a mundane morning to realize that one more day of that life and they would kill somebody… and hence, take the first flight to Bangkok to sprinkle their lives with a dash of ‘garam masala’ for a few days).

So, apply for a VISA to the Thai Embassy in India. It normally takes 3 working days to come through, and if I remember correctly, it is valid for over a month, which is more than good enough for you anyway.

I hope you have a safe journey, a pleasant trip and delightful baby steps thereafter! Take care… :-)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

'O' Really!

I bet this would be a pertinent question in the minds of most transpeople who are yet to undergo their surgeries, as well as other curious folk around us. Interestingly, even though it was a concern for me prior to my transition, now, it seems as though orgasm is one of the least important things in this new life I’m living.

Sadly, because of the term ‘transsexual’ having the word ‘sex’ in it, a lot of people associate ‘transsexuality’ with merely the desire to sleep around as a person of the gender opposite to the one he/she was born with. I have often heard it being said, “Oh ‘he’ changed ‘his’ sex so that ‘he’ can sleep with men” in context of transwomen. Really, nothing could be farther from truth!

Sexual orientation and gender identity are two completely different things. Let me explain this with examples. Let’s say Ajay is a gay man who is in love with another man Eric. Now, Ajay is happy being a man and he identifies with the male gender, so his gender orientation is definitely ‘Male’ but at the same time, his sexual orientation is homosexual. On the other hand, we have Vineet who also loves Eric, but the difference here is that Vineet does not identify with his birth gender. He’d rather be living as a woman and be in a straight relationship with Eric. Hence, ‘his’ gender identity is ‘Female’ and considering that, ‘his’ sexual orientation is ‘heterosexual’. Ajay is a gay man, Vineet is a transwoman.

Sometimes, things can get more complex. There are people who are troubled on both the sides. Not only is their sexual orientation socially unacceptable, but so is their gender orientation. For instance, in the above scenario, Vineet, who is a transwoman, if she were to be attracted to girls, then she would be a lesbian transwoman. Now, you might ask – if she was attracted to women anyway, then why did she have to get her sex changed from Male to Female? But then again, you’re missing out on the important differentiating line. Her changing her sex is based on her gender identity, not her sexual orientation! In romantic relationships as a ‘male’, she could have been finding it difficult to relate with straight women. And besides that, gender identity is a much larger concept than just ‘who you are attracted to’.

The whole idea behind taking you through this entire explanation is to bring to light the fact that only a fool would CHANGE their sex just so that they could sleep around in a ‘heterosexual relationship’. The biggest thing for any transperson is GENDER, not SEX.

And now, coming to the question asked to me in one of the recent comments – “What about orgasm and sexual satisfaction post surgery?” Well, my answer won’t be based on first-hand experience, yet I can say with sufficient conviction that if you go to an experienced surgeon, you won’t have much to complain about. I have friends who went to the same surgeon as I did – Dr. Chettawut – and have experienced absolute consummation in their romantic relationships. I can certainly give testimony that the genitals my doctor has given me are very sensitive and I have no reason to doubt what my friends tell me.

But like I said right in the beginning, life has become so beautiful by itself that the O-word is close to the last thing on my mind. It’s like I’ve got the moon in my hand and somebody asks me – do you have a candle? Well, I think a candle is beautiful and I’d be delighted to have it too, but I am not incomplete without it… I have the moon!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Few Questions and My Answers

1. What are the long term effects of SRS?

Well, the primary and most important long-term effect of SRS is Happiness – an absolute sense of freedom that can only be felt and experienced by the one who has been captivated within his/her own flesh for decades. Besides that, as far as my knowledge goes, there are no long term effects that are worthy of deciding to not undergo SRS if one IS Gender Dysphoric.

The hormonal drugs are known to affect the liver (very) mildly, but I look at it like this. Even if those drugs make my liver’s life and hence mine shorter by 5 years, at least as long as I am alive, I would be LIVING, instead of dying every second of my life.

But yes, SRS should be performed by an expert surgeon. I have heard of women who underwent surgery in local government hospitals and had to face problems like incontinence. The decision about the surgeon is critical. In my 1.5 years post SRS, I have not faced a single problem as far as my surgery is concerned.

Besides this, a good endocrinologist would be the best person to analyze and come to a conclusion as to what drugs can be administered to you, or if you have any other medical conditions that the drugs might complicate.

2. How long should a person continue hormones after SRS?

As per theory… forever. However, I have heard that several transwomen stop taking hormones 3-5 years post surgery and have no problems. But still, personally, I think one should carry on with the hormones at least till the age around which genetic women reach menopause.

3. Did you have any augmentation mammoplasty?

As of now, no. Many transwomen are able to get satisfactory breast growth with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Those who don’t, might choose to go for artificial augmentation. However, it is advisable that one takes a call about mammoplasty after at least 3 years of HRT. It has been only 2 years since I started hormones.

4. What is the ideal age to start hormones? My brother (MTF) seems to be suffering from GID (Gender Identity Disorder). He is just 12. How can we help him?

I would have referred to your brother in the Female gender if he had already been diagnosed with GID. But apparently, that is not the case yet.

See, I would suggest – give him about 3-4 more years to figure out his self and his identity. Don’t try to push him on either side. Let his mind and his thoughts take their own course and inclination with time. If he and you feel he is Gender Dysphoric even after 3-4 years, then take him to 2-3 good psychiatrists and let them diagnose his problem independently.

If he is able to start his HRT before 16 years of age, the transition process would be much less taxing for him – both physically and emotionally, because till then, whatever signs of masculinity have started developing in his body would not be very deep-rooted and will be easily reversed with HRT in a short span of time, unlike later, when it would take much longer (minimum 2-3 years) for the hormones to have satisfactory results, or worse, even less-than-satisfactory results.

I highly appreciate your sensitivity towards your brother’s problem and your courage to face it and accept it. He is a lucky person unlike most other transpersons. Your support will mean a lot to him in the face of the hard life he is probably living. So, keep the strength – yours and his… and I’m positive that several years down the line, you’ll be proud of yourself. My Best Wishes to you, your brother and your family!