Perhaps the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything...maybe it is about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so that you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.’ – Paulo Coelho.
Suchitra Dey is a celebrity by her own rights. Born as a boy - Hironmoy Dey today the same person is known as Suchitra Dey having undergone sex transformation surgery. Professionally she is a school teacher and holds a double MA and a BEd degree. But more importantly she is an advocate of equal rights for her LGBT community. Her students love her for her charismatic personality. People who share similar history want to emulate from her and we all draw inspiration from her life. Obviously this journey was not a bed of roses; in fact it is not wrong to say it was strewn with thorns. And yet she chose to walk through the thorns and make a bed of roses for herself.
1. How difficult was it for you to decide that you want to be a woman completely, keeping in mind the challenges you would face once you get started with the process?
In the beginning of my transformation I had to face multiple challenges because I have chosen it. I had been suffering from gender dysphoria since my childhood because by biological and psychological sex were mismatching. Most people move with the flow of the tide, but the moment one moves against the tide, then one can face the actual difficulties. Since my journey was against the flow of the tide, I had to face multiple challenges - from my own self to my family and also the society. My family had a conservative mindset. Even today some family members have snapped off their ties with me. From the society too, I used to get lewd remarks. They tried to devalue my existence. I cried a lot. Then I realized I had to accept the challenge. Either you accept and adjust whatever state you are in or you fight. So I decided to fight. I was prepared to embrace whatever came my way. I wanted to embrace my true identity.
2. Can you describe the three fold process of your transformation - psychological, hormonal and physiological?
It was not an overnight transformation. There were different stages. It was a rigorous journey. The first step was psychiatrist counselling. After 7 or 8 counselling sessions, they gave a permission letter. When the psychiatrist understands that you are under acute gender dysphoria, he gives a permission letter to start the hormonal therapy for the endocrinologist. It takes about one or two years before surgery. At the same time I had to cross-dress to see if I was really suffering gender dysphoria or not. If one is a true transgender then one will not hesitate to wear the female outfit. I had to take medicines, injections. These changed my body shape and structure. Then was the surgery that brought about the physiological changes. The surgical process is irreversible i.e. after surgery one cannot go back to the previous gender. So before the surgical procedure again I had to go to the psychiatrist. Once the psychiatrist gave me the permission letter then I could go for the sex change operation. It is a risky operation but now with advancement of science this operation is quite precise. I had vaginoplasty and breast augmentation.
3. Do people who have witnessed your transformation treat you differently?
There are people who take it very positively but there are very few of them. Many discouraged and demoralized me. Many people said I was going against the will of God. After surgery many people did not talk to me. Some girls were very friendly with me in the beginning but the moment I transformed into a woman then they got jealous of me. They behaved very rudely with me. Some thought I have become a hijra. So they stopped talking to me. On the other side I have a celebrity status. People write about me in the media and invite me to give talks and seminars. Some people ask silly questions like can I give birth and they are insensitive to my feelings.
4. You were a man, now you are a woman. How different are your personal opinions now - from a male to a female?
This is a very good question. When I was a man, I was like an ordinary person. When I became a female I became a sort of a celebrity. As a man I was very sensitive, I used to get hurt a lot. But the moment I became a woman, I felt more enlightened. As a man I was filled with knowledge from the world, during my transformation I feel I have acquired wisdom and as a woman I am more insightful. With insight I have become detached from the ‘maya’ of the world. And I feel very good about it.
5. How important is it for you to be accepted by the society? Or are you comfortable being marginalized?
Everything has a cause and effect. Previously I used to respond and react a lot. When I changed my own mindset, society also changed. It is like if you have vermillion on your nose and you are standing in front of the mirror trying to rub out the vermillion from the mirror it won’t go. But if you rub it off your nose, it will disappear from the mirror also. If you are marginalized you will feel very lonely. But this is a time you can introspect and understand the divine plan in a better way. Before it used to bother me a lot but now-a-days it does not bother me. I am happy that my transformation could break the stereotype belief system. There is a slow change. People understand our plight and are more sensitive to us.
6. You nearly lost your life post surgery. Which is a stronger battle - battle against your body or battle against society?
Post surgery I was almost dying. I had to redo the reconstruction surgery. I got mental pain, physical pain and pain from the society. It is through this pain I got a higher consciousness. I remember a line by Rabindranath Tagore ‘Prabhu dao morey aro bedona jate pai aro chetona’ (Lord give me more pain so I get more insight). All philosophers and saints have gone through tremendous pain to uphold the values in their life and they understand the divine plan.
7. Finally are you at peace with yourself? Is the battle over?
Battle is never over. As long as you are alive you have to fight. Life is like a sea, the waves will keep coming. Previously I did not know how to surf the waves; now I know it. I do have peace of mind now. I have clarity of thought because I am not attached to anything now and I have a higher motivation in life.
8. What are your dreams as a woman?
To be successful one should dream. I am engaged in the educational sector. As a teacher I am enlightening the mind of my students. With education you can eradicate the prejudiced mindset of the people. As an educationist I want to bring about a change in the mindset of the people. This is my higher motivation.