NEW DELHI: There is a waiting list of five at central Delhi’s Lok Nayak Hospital. The number may not seem large for a surgical procedure but doctors say, compared with the past, it is nothing short of a surge. The procedure in question is a sex-change operation and its growing demand in the city suggests old taboos are beginning to melt away.
Two engineers and a medical student are among those in the queue. That’s not surprising, according to Dr P S Bhandari, who heads the hospital’s plastic surgery division. Most such patients come from middle-class backgrounds. “Ten years ago, we would get one or two such cases in a year. But now, we are getting three to four requests every month,” said Dr Rajiv Mehta, consultant psychiatrist.
Ila (name changed) was one such person Mehta recently examined. The 27-year-old from Noida was born a girl but detested dressing or behaving like one. “I hated wearing frocks and playing with dolls. When I was forced to conform, I would fight with my folks at home. My parents were not ready to accept things. They felt I was doing it deliberately,” Ila told TOI, adding that she slipped into depression due to the constant conflict.
Ila tried to commit suicide three years ago by overdosing on sleeping pills. Her parents rushed her to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital where a detailed evaluation revealed that she was suffering from severe depression with lots of anxiety, alcohol and nicotine dependence, said Mehta.
He added that Ila would consume more than half a bottle of whisky and 20 cigarettes a day. Ila said she felt like a boy trapped in a female body. Doctors diagnosed her with gender identity disorder (GID) — a conflict between a person’s physical gender and the gender he or she identifies with — and explained the condition to her parents. After her parents gave their consent, Ila was put on antidepressants and detoxified for drugs. She was encouraged to live in a malegender role and put on testosterone therapy for months. After that, she underwent surgeries at a Mumbai hospital to remove her breasts and vagina, and get a reconstructed penis. “A sex-change surgery is irreversible. So, we ask such patients to cross-dress and live like a man or a woman — as the case may be — for six months before undergoing surgery,” one of the psychiatrists said.
Increasing acceptance of GID, social support and the availability of sexchange surgeries have encouraged people to demand corrective measures.
A patient requires complete psychiatric evaluation before undergoing such an operation. Dr Sameer Malhotra, who heads the department of mental health and behavioural sciences at Max Hospital Saket, said he, too, had observed a rise in demand for such surgeries. Because sex-change surgery is costly in private hospitals, many patients also queue up at public hospitals, such as Lok Nayak.