Right to Choose: Sex reassignment surgery (SRS)

The transgender people should have the option for sex reassignment surgery (SRS). “Not all transgender people might want sex reassignment surgery. So the option should be there for those who want it” said Dr Venkatesan Chakrapani, Policy and Research Adviser, Indian Network of People living with HIV (INP+) at a skill building workshop session on SRS at the recently held State Consultation for MSM and Transgender in Science City, Kolkata (18-19 March 2010). This consultation was organized by MANAS Bangla with support from Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) India and West Bengal State AIDS Prevention & Control Society (WBSAP&CS). Read more

“Current medical definition of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is of people who are born of particular sex and feel like the other sex. GID is a broad spectrum term. Transsexualism is when people change sex” said Dr Chakrapani.

“There have been many studies on transsexualism and general consensus is to make transsexualism as a medical condition and not as a GID” said Dr Chakrapani.

“There are two kinds of transsexual people, operative transsexual people are those who go for SRS and non-operative transsexual people are those who don’t go for SRS” said Dr Chakrapani.

The entire process of changing one’s sex can take about one and a half year therapy or more. Apart from other steps, before the actual surgery can take place to remove the sexual organ and perform vaginoplasty, the person goes through female hormone therapy during which female hormones are administered.

“There are many procedures a transgender person may like to go through from head to toe – like some people want to remove facial hair, or want changes in vocal cord, some may want to reduce the face bones, some want to go for breast implants (silicon implants), some want to go for bone correction in the hip area” says Dr Chakrapani. There are many other invasive and non-invasive procedures” said he.

Currently only in Tamil Nadu, free SRS is available in select government hospitals. Only operation and vaginoplasty is covered under this programme in Tamil Nadu.

There is a compelling need to have more competent healthcare staff to provide SRS related services to transgender people. Effectively engaging transgender communities in reducing stigma and discrimination at healthcare settings is another enormous challenge confronting public health system in India.

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