The waiting list of five at central Delhi's Lok Nayak Hospital may not seem to be a very large number, but it is a surge considering the nature of the procedure and the past records the surgery being talked about is a sex-change operation and seeing its growing demand in the city it is suggestive of the fact that old prohibitions are beginning to die away.
The queue includes two engineers and a medical student. That’s not surprising, according to Dr P S Bhandari, who heads the hospital's plastic surgery division. Many of such patients are 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 scrutinised the 27-year-old from Noida was born a girl but hated 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 said, adding that she fell into a deep depression because of the continuous inner battle.
Ila attempted suicide three years back by overdosing on sleeping pills. She was hurried to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital by her parents where a detailed appraisal was done and the doctors discovered that she was suffering from deep depression with severe anxiety, alcohol and nicotine dependence, said Mehta.
He further said that Ila would drink more than half a bottle of whisky and smoke 20 cigarettes a day. Ila said she felt like a male imprisoned in a female body. Doctors said she suffered from gender identity disorder (GID) — a clash between a person's physical gender and the gender he or she identifies with — and elucidated the disorder to her parents. After her parents’ consent, Ila was prescribed antidepressants and detoxified for drugs. She was urged to live as a male and was administered testosterone therapy for months. Subsequently she surgeries were performed at a Mumbai hospital to detach 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.
Growing acceptance of GID, social support and the option of sex change surgeries have inspired people to go in for corrective measures.
A patient needs complete psychiatric assessment before going through such an operation. Dr Sameer Malhotra, who heads the department of mental health and behavioural sciences at Max Hospital Saket, said he, too, has seen an increase in demand for such surgeries. As sex-change surgery is an expensive process in private hospitals, many patients are lining up at public hospitals, such as Lok Nayak.