GUWAHATI: Bidhan Baruah, the young man from Guwahati who sought the Bombay High Court’s intervention in undergoing a sex reassignment surgery in 2012, and whose efforts were thwarted by his disapproving father’s threats to sue the medical facility that performed the operation, has finally made the transformation.
Bidhan now goes by the name Swati and is married to Rinku Talukdar, an engineering student from Nalbari district of Assam. He underwent surgery at a private clinic in Guwahati in 2013, and became a wife in March this year.
Happily for Swati, her father Supti Ranjan Barua and mother Shukla Barua, who resolutely resisted Bidhan’s attempts to alter his gender, now accept him as a woman. “He is my child. What do I do but welcome his decision?” Shukla told Mumbai Mirror. “We want her to succeed in life.”
But Swati’s transformation is as yet incomplete. She underwent sex-change surgery to alter her genitalia, or vaginoplasty, in 2013 and intends to seek medical help for breast implantation and augmentation after she completes her education, in 2017. This, she said, will be followed by hormonal therapy to do away with hair growth on certain parts of her body.
The first doctor Swati reached out to in 2012, when she was still identified as Bidhan, was the Mumbai-based plastic surgeon Dr Kalpesh Gajiwala. He had to restrain himself from performing the surgery owing to threats of litigation from Supti Ranjan Baruah.
Bidhan eventually settled on a clinic in Guwahati for the surgical procedure, which was performed in November, 2013.
The months leading up to the gender-reassignment operation were fraught. Bidhan had fallen in love with an Air Force pilot and was determined to marry him after transforming into a woman. On March 2, 2012 he was administered a psychiatric test in Maligaon, Guwahati to check if he was ready for sex reassignment surgery. The test returned positive. The doctors recommended Saifee Hospital for the surgery. On March 31, Bidhan fled his home and came to Mumbai, where he lived with his cousin. But his father chased him down.
“I was set to check into Mumbai’s Saifee Hospital on April 17 that year for the procedure, but my parents threatened legal action,” Swati recounted. An appeal was made to the HC on April 27 to allow Bidhan to undergo the process, and the court even issued a clarification in his favour, but Dr Gajiwala and Saifee Hospital, faced with the prospect of legal action from Supti Ranjan Baruah, balked. “I was running out of money. Mumbai is an expensive city and the hospital refused to do the surgery, so I had to come back to Guwahati,” Swati recalled. “There was immense pressure from my parents. They told me that I was disrespecting the whole family.” She alleged that their displeasure turned to abuse.
“They were ashamed of me. They would often ill-treat me; beat me up and use foul language. I was made to do all the housework too. It was both physical and mental torture,” she said. In the interim, further legal wrangling was due. Bidhan was arrested for deceiving an Indian Air Force officer posted in Kutch, Gujarat (Supti Ranjan Barua claimed it was the same pilot his son intended to marry) by posing as a woman on Facebook. “I had to fight the case in Gujarat High Court. As homosexuality was not permitted in the IAF, a case of cheating was filed against me. But later the court quashed the case,” Swati recounted.
Paradoxically, it was an act by the Supreme Court to deny the LGBT community legitimacy that hastened her family’s acceptance of their son’s sexuality. In 2013, when the SC upheld Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalises same sex relations, the Baruas became aware of the discourse around gender reassignment and queer rights. “We accepted her for who she is,” Swati’s mother Shukla said. Less than a year after Swati cast off Bidhan’s persona, she met Rinku Talukdar, from Chamata village in Nalbari in Assam, on Facebook. “We exchanged mobile numbers and started meeting each other,” Swati said. “He’s two years younger than I.”
On March 9 this year, the two were married. Talukdar’s father, Bhaben, is unaware that the nuptials took place. “Rinku comes to my parents’ house and we spend time together,” she said. “The conjugal relationship is also healthy as I underwent surgery and have female organs.”