The story of a boy who had to undergo a gender reassignment surgery to finally be happy
Omer* was 13 when he stopped going to school. The curves on his chest were becoming prominent through his white uniform shirt, attracting curious looks from his classmates. The excruciating pain he experienced every month made his friends more inquisitive.
Omer was born an intersex — a person with both male and female reproductive organs. For the first 18 years of his life, Omer was a man on the inside but a woman on the outside says his family, until last month when he underwent a life-changing operation. Omer’s uterus and ovaries were removed and his male organs were enhanced through a gender reassignment surgery.
“Before the operation, I would say to my mother ‘get me treated or let me die’,” said the tall, slender boy bashfully as he lowered his gaze. “I am happy now,” he says.
Intersex is defined by medical professionals as a disorder of sexual differentiation. Omer was lucky to have parents who understood his problem and did not abandon him. His mother, Musarrat, said that she and her husband have been supportive of Omer’s condition and decision to go through with the surgery. “He is my son, how could I have made fun or rebuked him?” she asks reproachfully.
The boy and his mother sit across a table from an Express Tribune reporter at the Koohi Goth hospital, a place tucked away in a slum area to treat pregnant and postpartum women. Gynaecologist, Dr Shershah Syed, the boy’s surgeon, has prescribed him a testosterone drug. “Take these for three months and come back. You are normal now,” Syed assures his patient.
An untrained midwife delivered Omer at his home in Korangi. The baby was first termed a girl by the midwife and then later a boy when the family realised that his penis was underdeveloped. The only brother of three sisters, the baby was raised as a boy.
When Omer was a teenager, his body started to change. His breasts were developing like a teenage girl’s. He started experiencing menses but they were unlike those of a normal woman. With no vagina, the blood was simply accumulating in his uterus. “He would be in a lot of pain. He would have medicine and sometimes we would get injections for his pain,” recalls Musarrat.
That was when the family came to know that their son had female organs and did best to hide it from their relatives. Omer would wear two shirts to hide his chest.
But as the pain worsened, the boy stopped going to school and began working as a mechanic. A doctor recommended Dr Syed to Musarrat.
On September 20, Dr Syed and another surgeon performed the two-hour-long procedure on Omer. “We removed the uterus and ovaries and developed his male organs,” he explained.
The cost of the surgery came up to Rs250,000, which was covered entirely by donors. Omer and his family did not pay a single rupee. “Dr Syed is an angel. He saved my son’s life,” gushes Musarrat.
Omer, who months ago had isolated himself, can now hang out with the boys in his neighborhood and be comfortable in his own skin. Still recovering from his operation, he has to wait a while before he can play cricket.
Even though changing one’s gender is generally considered a taboo in Pakistani society, Dr Syed is ready to perform surgeries on anyone who wants to change their gender. “I will entertain them. It’s a person’s right to be what they want to be,” he asserts.
“A lot of people, including transsexuals, come to me. Most of the people wanting operations want to be women,” he explains. Dr Syed has performed 12 such surgeries and before every operation he makes sure that the patient undergoes psychological counselling.
Omer is gaining confidence and starting to lead to a normal life. “I will go back to school and become a doctor,” he says happily.
*Name changed to protect privacy
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2015.