September 16, 2020
I am Bonita.
I wish to be recognised for my work, my creativity, my opinions & my activism.
My past does not define me in any way.
Change is my only constant.
Read about the amazing life and times of a towering model and #transgirl Bonita Rajpurohit in From Feeble And Forlorn to Femme Fatale.
And the story continues…..
Whatever my journey, I think it’s all been for the best. It has given me hope and direction.
I’ve just officially begun working as the Creative Director and Digital Editor of DURT which is co-run by my sister Jyotsna. We aim to start something very radical, artistic, inclusive that becomes a rage among the youth.
Life is really looking up for me but people’s reactions with my identity are still sceptical at best. I’m shocked at how suddenly people change so drastically on learning about my identity. Their obsession and interest in me all of a sudden turns into a disappearing act. But I have learnt to ignore the negativity and live life on my own terms now.
Transformation is a long drawn bitter sweet journey and I have been considering it since my first interview with FSOG in 2016.
The Body Feminisation surgery itself (also known as body contouring), is a combination of surgical procedures to obtain more feminine curves. Voice feminisation is meant for voice modification to a higher pitch. Facial feminisation surgery is a combination of surgical procedures which reduces masculine facial features and gives a more femme look. These are the multitude of operations that most trans-women desire to undergo in an effort to gain a more feminine appearance.
When I began my transitioning, there was this very strange, curious, uncomfortable, hateful and humiliating reaction from every other person because I had a very transgressive, hyper-masculine featured, gender ambiguous appearance. And as I started to appear more feminine thanks to oestrogen and cosmetics, I began feeling safer and more easily accepted in society. The transitioning process even today is far from over but it continues to give me a glimpse of the hypocritical society we live in.
…And The Turmoil
Fortunately for me, I am blessed with caring & compassionate parents. My mom and dad love me to death and I’m extremely dependent on them for all my needs, be they educational, conventional, medical or surgical.
However, none of my old friends chose to remain in touch,but the people that I hold close to my heart, still retain the same significance in my life for which I shall remain heavily indebted all my life.
I’ve never really felt like giving up on my transitioning but I sure feel like giving up on my life, quite often. When emotional waters run deep and my ability to cope seems to be shattering; the only thing that keeps me motivated is the belief in my potential. The fact that I can serve as a shining example to many, who are undergoing similar ‘hells’ of their own.
I want to contribute through my visibility and want to create a safer environment where queer bodies would be seen as normal someday. Just like women before me have paved this path, I too desire being an inspiration to many.
(WORLD PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR TRANSGENDER HEALTH)
First and foremost, I’d like to state that a medical transition must be carried out strictly under the standards of care adopted by the WPATH , For any diagnosis and psychotherapy, one has to consult a mental health professional. A diagnosis of gender Identity dysphoria and a recommendation letter from the psychiatrist and psychologist permits a person to adopt the Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) regimen with a certified endocrinologist. That is usually followed by a period of living publicly as the gender you wish to identify as. This then, finally culminates into surgery for altering the sexual and reproductive organs.
The Physical Rigours Of The Process
Many Trans-women have had to suffer through terrible trials in order to transition, especially those who did so many years ago.Some have been luckier and had easier transitions in more recent times especially in the more enlightened western countries.
M to F trans-women are prescribed with Oestrogen and Testosterone Blockers to help change musculature, fat distribution, breast enhancement, skin softening, all of which will aimed at making us appear more feminine. Body hair also diminishes but it doesn’t have any significant effect on facial hair. For that you have to go for another expensive and gut-wrenching treatment called laser hair reduction therapy or electrolysis hair removal therapy. It takes 8 to ten sittings to achieve satisfying results over a 10 month period. The regular application of ointments, creams and ice ice de rigeur to help reduce skin inflammation and irritation.
The names of the surgeries performed on trans-women are; rhinoplasty, tracheal shave, ear pinning, eyebrow & lip lift, hair line adjustment, eye brow, forehead, jaw & chin contouring, cheek implants, breast and hip augmentation, liposculpturing.
The Gender Confirmation Surgeries are known as Penile Inversion and Rectosigmoid-colon vaginoplasty.
Potentially unsafe risks surrounding these cosmetic surgeries are: Blood loss: (even riskier in the case of anaemic people), vision impairment, blood clotting, pneumonia, infection, paralysis, necrosis, & certain allergic reactions. There are even some psychological risks when the end results are not what were expected as the person now has live with a less than ‘perfect’ result.
Serious risks with being on hormones are: blood clotting, reduced liver & kidney infection, periodic blood tests by the endocrinologist to monitor your overall health and well-being. All these are mandatory parts of HRT. The other usual side effects associated with HRT are bloating, hot flashes, mood swings, depression & anxiety, dizziness, breast tenderness, nausea, headaches…and no kidding these are for REAL!
Surgery itself, can last from four to eight hours. After the surgery, one needs to use a vaginal dilator for a couple of months. This is because the vagina starts shrinking as it heals. One also needs to take the oestrogen hormone for the rest of their life to prevent osteoporosis and other health issues.
Post-surgeries are awfully painful too. One deals with bleeding, numbness, bruising, sore throat, weakness & fatigue, nausea, hypersensitivity, throat and bed sores.
Lack of Medical Awareness in India
Personally, I strongly feel that there’s an extreme necessity of trained medical staff in the field of G.D.(Gender Dysphoria). Finding an expert psychiatrist, psychologist, endocrinologist and the prescribed pills and injections is quite a struggle in most parts of the country. The government needs to pay more attention towards trans gendered people seeking medical help. There’s a requirement for trained counsellors in schools and institutes because that’s when times are the hardest for transgendered adolescents.
The Psychological Rigours Of The Process
Many young trans-kids attempt suicide but news media and reports never covered them. Most such cases go unresolved, because most didn’t even know what’s wrong with them due to lack of literacy and awareness towards human sexology. Even assuming they did know, there are a million obstacles between them and their happiness such as family rejection, social non-acceptance and humiliation, stigmatisation and bullying, abusive or physical violence, insensitivity from medical professionals, etc.
Trans-identity carries with it an irrational stigma, like the stigma attached to rape victims. No one openly blames you. But you will be alienated and treated like a non-ordinary person.
Making the hard choice to undergo the final gender reversal process is life-changing. The ultimate stage in the medical transition process, it is a largely invasive & very expensive operation.
Also, one needs to be ridiculously rich and educated in order to follow a successful transition. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to afford all the expensive drugs. And the number of sessions with the psycotherapist, regular monthly checkups with the endocrinologist. More over, traveling to and accommodation in metros is very expensive. The laser treatment, the high-costs of surgeries, health insurance etc are enough to take a massive toll on the individual and his/her supporters.
GCS entails the removal of penile muscles and tissues and construction of a neo-vagina. The surgeon always needs to make sure the candidate is ready psychologically as well as physically. S/he also ensures that all lab work and HIV tests are in order. The patient needs to donate two units of our their own blood. This is for three months after the cessation of HRT prior to the operation. Done in order to avoid the risk of blood clotting.
When we lose sight of our well-being and take needless risks, we have more than our dignity to pay. ‘Silicone Parties’ have rendered too many of our community with varying degrees of medical complications. A lifetime full of consequences and has even resulted in numerous deaths.
My Future And The Change I Wish to Be
Currently all my focus and energies lie on making a mark as a model in the world of fashion. This industry offers the maximum tolerance in terms of diversity and individuality. I feel very passionate and confident about my work. It inspires me to live life on my own terms, unabashedly.
It is indeed thrilling to feel sought after, for a change, by photographers and modelling agencies. My upcoming projects get me excited and keep the adrenaline pumping.
Furthermore, my laser therapy and hormone regimen are working well.
I’m slowly but surely inching towards the woman I’ve always dreamt of being.
I remain eternally grateful to all the activists and visionaries. They work so hard to share awareness about LGBT+ community and the issues we deal with in regular life. Even though, I might not be as strong & powerful as them but I want to work for my community(#GirlsLikeUs) by being visible to the world. Representing my brothers & sisters in mainstream media and gaining popularity would be a fitting vindication and legitimate validation of our existence.
A majority of trans-gender individuals want so desperately just to ‘pass’. To help reduce that suffocating feeling of self abhorrence and avoid unwanted transphobic attention. With Gender Dysphoria comes Body Dysmorphia and oestrogen, HRT and GC surgeries will only get us so far.
The way I see it, what’s most needed today is an understanding of sexuality. Sex education in schools, sensitisation of medical, para-medical, legal and government staff should be mandatory. Counselling for children and parents and society at large.
We might not be able to change the opinion of people by fighting them. But we sure can leave behind the mark of our existence. Hopefully, this will lead to normalisation of queerness. If trans-girls aren’t visible in mainstream media, then from whom would the world learn and understand. I grab every opportunity to share awareness in this cis-heterosexual, trans-exclusive world. Whether it is through my public speaking, or my writing, or my modelling work.
A trans gender individual fights a million battles within him/her self every day. Let’s at least make their outside environment a more supportive, loving and inclusive place for them.
Interviewed by: Delshad Master