WOMEN'S DAY SPECIAL
confused identity. A quest to find herself. A woman trapped
inside a man’s body. It has taken incredible courage for Hirak
Subhra alias Sohini Bagchi to be what she has always desired
to be... a woman. She tells us her story.
Even as a child, I preferred playing with dolls and
kitchen toys rather than being outdoors. My father was a
vigilance officer and my mother taught psychology at Victoria
College in Kolkata.
At the time, they brushed aside
fears of my effeminate behaviour as harmless. It was only in
the seventh standard that I became further aware of my
confused sexuality, when I preferred to have girls as friends,
instead of boys, and my female mannerisms made me the butt of
quite a few jokes.
You know, I feel happy for those
who say that their days at school were their best years,
because for me it was sheer torment, fear and mental agony. I
dreaded going to school and many times my parents intervened
and complained to the principal, so that boys wouldn’t tease
me or rag me, but the complaints only made it worse. They
would come after me more fiercely after each complaint.
The First Signs
I was in class six when I first
wore my mother’s sari. I also frequented the neighbour’s house
to smear lipstick and kohl and to colour my nails. Our
neighbours overlooked the whole thing as they treated it as a
My mother, who was my best friend, did
not gauge the extent of my confused sexuality, where I felt
like a woman, but had to live life as a man. She would react
strongly when relatives introduced me as the only girl in our
clan, or egged me to dance like a woman at get-togethers. She
felt they were trying to make fun of my effeminate ways. She
would even ask me to behave like a boy.
Coming Out Of
During my college years at the Maulana Azad
College and the Government Arts College in Kolkata, I made a
tremendous effort to be a man. I stayed away from the canteen
and other hang-outs at colleges to save myself from all the
jeering I had experienced in school.
girlfriends at the art college were very protective of me and
made sure that I was never harassed. It was here that I became
physically and emotionally involved with a male student. But
the affair was short-lived and when I broke up, it left me
depressed and suicidal.
It was out of frustration, then,
that I told my parents the truth about my sexuality, my
transsexual life and my continuous effort to keep up
pretences. I urged them to take me for a sex-change treatment
that I had read about in a magazine. We met quite a few
doctors and psychologists to identify my problem so they could
determine if I was a passive gay or a transsexual.
went to several psychologists, many of whom refused to
recommend me for a sex-change operation as one of their
earlier patients, unable to cope with the change, committed
The Battle Begins
Once my parents passed
away, I was left to fight my own battle. I found a soulmate in
the manager at the textile-printing firm, where I was employed
as a textile designer. In sharp contrast to my youth, I faced
no harassment here. People were friendly and the staff,
co-operative. In fact, they stood by me during the
Surprisingly, help also came
from the illiterate household help, Malati Giri, who instead
of fleeing the scene, stood by me throughout, encouraging me
to go through whatever was necessary to realise my true
sexuality and self-identity.
Finally, I met Dr Sheila
Rohatgi, a plastic surgeon, who, on the basis of my past
medical and psychological records, and in consulatation with
another psychologist, finally agreed that I was not a man, but
a transsexual and recommended the sex-change operation as a
began with hormonal injections in Kolkata and laser treatment
for facial hair removal in Delhi. Let me tell you that the
supposedly ‘painless’ laser treatment was unbearably painful.
But I went through it keeping the end in mind. It
meant I had to travel 13 times between the two cities and
ignore the stares of fellow passengers. I knew they were
curious about me, but I continued to be reserved and
At the first sex-change operation, breasts
were implanted. I had my reservations about this at first, but
Dr Rohatgi pointed out that without breasts I would never be
able to feel like a woman. Then, after a gap of 15 days, the
second operation was performed, where a vagina was created.
The previous night, as I lay alone in the nursing home
bed, it did cross my mind to run away from it all. Not because
I was afraid of the operation, but I was suddenly confused,
about whether I actually wanted to see myself as a woman. But
then, I realised it was, in fact, all I wanted from life and
went for it.
The first time I urinated after the
operation, I was really happy. It seemed to me that a foreign
body was removed and I had finally found my true identity —
that of a woman.
Life Goes On...
Well, the man who
had fought my battle with me disappeared, afraid to marry the
transformed ‘man’. The factory where I worked became
unbearable without him, so I quit and took on jobs at two
different factories as a freelancer.
I now earn a cool
Rs 30,000 per month and repay the loan I incurred for the
operation. The sum of Rs 4,50,000 came from my savings and an
Today, life is a lot different; looking
at men is like a legal right, the done thing. Earlier,
whenever I looked at men, my interest in them was misread and
women with whom I became too friendly thought I was making a
pass at them. Really, if only they knew!” As told to Jeena Mitra-Banik
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