When she first came to me for counselling, she was at a loss. And look at her now…” exclaimed psychologist Suparna Das.
She was talking of Tista, a transexual woman, who, held over 50 academics spellbound for over three hours with her lecture on Gender Identity Disorder (GID) recently.
The lecture, organised by Eastern Zonal Psychological Association at Rajabazar College, was the first-of-its-kind in Calcutta and Tista, 27, was in her element talking about her disorder — the historical and social background and conditions along with her own dilemmas during her conversion from Sushanto to Tista.
“Though we do not get many patients like Tista who want to change their sex, the very few that we come across, tend to be of immense intensity,” explains Suvra Chunder, secretary, Eastern Zonal Psychological Association.
“A workshop like this one will be of immense help to sensitise society about people with GID. These patients’ trauma of dealing with their own sexuality, coupled with their families’ attitudes, can lead to severe mental problems and in many cases, suicide.”
Though a study in Sweden mentions that only one out of 30,000 men and one out of 100,000 women are afflicted with Tista’s disorder, psychologists believe that there are many more who do not turn up at a doctor’s clinic.
After the lecture, Mallika Banerjee, reader in the psychology department, Calcutta University, said: “A huge number of such patients are suppressed because of the alarmingly low level of consciousness and awareness at all levels of society. The pressure of having to fight society at every step, along with their own discomfiture of being fit into bodies they wish to change, can be highly traumatic for youngsters.”
Suparna Das added: “Sometimes, people with GID can’t deal with the harassment and stop thinking about a change. But only because they can’t fight anymore.”
Tista and her lecture, therefore, was exemplary for more reasons than one. “Speaking forth on an issue as sensitive as this requires a lot of determination. She can garner more support for people like her, than psychologists ever can do,” said Suvra Chunder.
Students, practising psychologists, teachers and counsellors all were unanimous in their appreciation of the lecture, which could have gone on for longer, judging by the enthusiasm and inquisitiveness of the audience.
As for Tista, this is just another chapter of change. “After all the harassment I have been through, this is like a dream come true. I am looking forward to creating a forum to provide help to people like myself.”
Now on a high, having procured a “legitimate ration card and voter’s ID card after hours of standing in queues and making government officials see reason”, Tista is busy with shoot schedules for a telefilm, in which she works with actors Parambrata and Manoj Mitra among others.