From Jinu to Priya: Meet Kerala's first transwoman doctor who fought for her identity

Dr. Priya V S

The year was 2002. Jinu Sasidharan was involved in a hilarious conversation with other boys in the corridor of a prominent medical entrance examination coaching centre in Thrissur. During a bout of silence one of the boys commented, "Jinu, you've got a slight feminine mannerism."

A shudder streaked through Jinu's spine. "My God! They're close," Jinu gasped. But somehow the passive comment passed into oblivion and Jinu successfully completed the coaching classes and graduated from the Ayurveda medical course. The incident occurred at a time when Jinu was planning to live a new life, posing as a new individual in a new place.

"I had mastered the craft of imitating male ego and macho mannerisms and successfully faked the public," says Dr. Priya V S, now an Ayurvedic doctor who changed her name from Jinu. She had sensed her true gender identity very early and was ready to break free from the shackles of biological identity as well as a social stigma.

But her early attempts to come out had faced objections from family. She spent sleepless nights weeping her heart out and chose to nurse her wounds secretly. Meanwhile, she went on to complete schooling, college, and even post graduation without revealing her real gender identity to the outside world.

But there was a live ember of confusion smouldering deep inside, ever more intensely as each day passed. She was clueless as to where she was heading to or how long she would survive with the identity of a man, which contradicted her true inner self.

"At that time I contemplated suicide. I was wrecked by a state of mind that only I could understand," says Priya. “However, I didn't give up. I decided to come out and trumpet the truth to the whole world. But that was not as easy as one would think", Priya recalls.

When Priya first discovered it

Priya was in Class V at S N Public School in Kollam, when her parents read her mind from the scribbles she had made on the back of a notebook. "It was time I started getting hints of my gender identity and my complex state of mind", she says, "My parents were gobsmacked by their discovery, minced no words in expressing their agony and distress."

"The incident had unleashed mayhem in my life and in our family. However, I felt relieved because my close family members were in the know of things at least," she says.

“My parents thought that I was having some mental problems and I was even taken to a psychiatrist,” she recalls, “the doctor after medical examination ruled out any mental problem with me.”

Her parents later vehemently asked her to behave and grow up like a boy. After that, she always tried to hide her gender identity. She turned out to be a seasoned impersonator of sorts that she convincingly passed as a 'he' wherever she went.

But only she knew that she couldn't be anyone other than a woman. "Sometimes, in college, girls would come up to me and express their interest in me. It had put me in a fix. I used to get scared as I never had those male feelings for a woman. Of course, I was biologically male, with male genitals but with the psychological orientation of a female. So I got attracted to men only,” she says.

Priya graduated from Vaidyaratnam Ayurveda College in 2008 and completed her post graduation in 2012 from KVG Ayurveda Medical College, Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka. She started off her medical career at Sitaram Ayurveda Hospital in Thrissur.

Things looked normal, but she couldn't bear the moral heft of the false gender identity. "After years of pondering and speculation I decided once and for all that I would assume the real me inside," she says.

She then did thorough research on sex rearrangement surgery. The next big step was to inform my family. Mustering all my courage, I first approached my mother and said, "Mom, I have decided to undergo the surgery for the sex change, I want to be a woman."

She looked into my eyes and said, "Honey, no matter who all opposes, I will stand by you. Go ahead."

"That day, I realised the true sense of the term 'mother'", says Priya, "Fortunately, the whole family gradually accepted my decision and supported me."

There was no looking back since then for Priya and a series of long drawn out procedures to finally get 'transformed' into a woman began. In 2018 Priya started the hormone treatment at Renai Medicity in Kochi and in 2020 she underwent the sex rearrangement surgery under doctor couple Dr. Arjun Ashokan and Suja P Sukumar.

Enjoying the womanhood

"In fact, the lockdown was a blessing in disguise for me as it was declared soon after my sex rearrangement surgery and I could buy time to cushion the initial embarrassment of facing the world as a new and complete woman," says Priya.

Priya has thus become the first transgender doctor in Kerala.

"Right now I am enjoying the newly attained grace of womanhood. And I want to spread this message that parents should be magnanimous enough to accept their children as how they are, especially when they confront this kind of sexual complexities, instead of hiding the reality fearing unpleasant reactions from society," Priya says and adds, "Parents spend their whole fortune for the wellbeing of their kids, but finds their kids disgraceful if they notice aberrations in their gender identity."

Priya says she loves others' comments on her looks. "Which woman on earth would not like to hear that she is beautiful. I enjoy it. In fact, I wish to get married and have kids. I know that's a near-impossible dream. But one has the freedom to dream, right," she quips.

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