Thursday, November 30, 2023

Transgender orthopaedic surgeon inspiring change and breaking barriers

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Making a difference for the entire trans community, this week for our weekly column of Community Wise, Dr. Prachi Rathore speaks of her journey, challenges, and shattering stereotypes over an exclusive chat.
Tejal Sinha
Trans and gender non-binary people continue to confront discriminatory barriers to healthcare. The transgender bill has probably helped to some extent, but public opinion needs to shift dramatically. Furthermore, sexual orientation and identity concerns must be addressed in the medical curriculum.
But now it seems like things are taking a slight turn. While of late, there have been one-after-the-other films based on the trans life coming up, namely Taali and Haddi, here we have Dr. Prachi Rathore, who has made a name for herself by becoming India’s first transgender orthopaedic surgeon and medical officer at the Mitr Clinic. For our special community-wise column, we exclusively connect to her over a quick chat. Basically, the medical field was not something that she was ambitious for, but fashion design. However, coming from an orthodox family with all doctors, her parents were austere regarding her studies. Being anyways good with her studies, things went on!
But soon after her MBBS, she had to leave her family and survive on her own, just so she could earn money. “I had to lie that I was a male, dressing in male attire, though my transition was done,” she recalls about her early days. “I didn’t want to go for begging or sex work. I worked as an emergency physician, but I had to discontinue my emergency medical course due to discrimination. However, I never stopped doing a job, be it on the night shift, so I continued the same for 3 years.
Since I had a passion for fashion, I did that as well. I worked with Neeta Lulla, but after that, I felt that every field had that discrimination. Be it in college or at work, people had been discriminating me alot, and it had really become tough for me, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I do something different?’ I didn’t want to be like a normal transgender person, so I decided I would go on to work, and I worked for 2 years. However, later when I informed my hospital, I was asked to quit my job since it was a private hospital and would be a problem if the patients came to know about it. After that, I applied to many hospitals, but though I had experience, I didn’t get a job because of my gender identity. I felt like I was also going to be one of the others. I used to go begging, ‘Badhaais’, and that’s how I survived for over one and a half years.”
During this, she worked with the Darpan Foundation and found out that there is a clinic that is going to be set up for transgender people. There, she got to know more about the Mitr clinic. She shares, “I was definitely excited to work there because it was kind of blessing from God that I got to work the way I wanted to do. That was a good kick start for me, and I got to work there as a part-time medical officer, and I was happy to be the only transgender doctor among the rest in the community. It was a great feeling to wear a saree and go to the clinic to treat people, which made me more enthusiastic, and through the clinic, people got to know about me. Also, my college students and classmates, and other colleges not only in Telangana but throughout India, used to call me for different programmes, and due to that, I got a little familiar with the society, and then I went for a guest lecturer in Osmania General Hospital.
There, the superintendent was very impressed and said that we have notifications for the chief medical officer in the anti-retroviral department, so why don’t you apply? And I told him that I was not very interested because I was a little scared of coming into society, and it was also a government hospital. I was not sure if they would give me the job or not because I had already faced discrimination two years ago while applying to many private hospitals, but I was like, let’s try our luck once. Though I wasn’t sure about it, I got the job. My becoming the chief medical officer there became a turning point.”
Now, again, ortho was not something she was looking for, as she explains: “Last year, I had applied for MD Pharmacology and MD Community Medicine, which I was not really interested in, and those seats were again allotted to the male category. I then filed a petition in high court, and the court considered me a priority, saying that we shouldn’t consider her a male but a female and give her a priority. After that, I again filled out the options, where I filled in only dermatology, psychiatry, and orthopaedics, which were only my three priorities.
According to my rank, I couldn’t get dermatology. I am not so happy with orthopaedics, but yes, I am happy in a way. I took it up because I didn’t want to take a chance next year. Being transwomen, we have to deal with a lot of things: mental pressure, hormonal tension, and peer pressure. I didn’t want to take a chance because I was already 30. But talking of orthopaedics, it’s a very cool branch, and the best thing is that I’ll be Asia’s first transgender orthopaedics surgeon. That tag in itself makes me excited.”
Well, now that she’s an orthopaedic surgeon, she is looking forward to treating others in the community who cannot afford treatments. Like, “We always think of hormone replacement therapies, transitional surgeries, and cosmetics as only what we can apply to transgender people, but the fact is that if you are dysphoric and you start anything before or after your transition, there will be hormonal imbalances in your body. After the procedure, your bone density gets very weak, and you might end up suffering from osteoarthritis or bone-related issues.”
Also, did you know that she has become the first transgender doctor to secure admission at a government medical college in Nizamabad for an MS in Orthopaedics? Recently, the first state-run transgender clinic was inaugurated in Osmania Government Hospital, and now she says her college is also on an idea to open a clinic for transgenders.
“We had to really push the government and get the clinic for the transgender people because the community lacks money and cannot afford hormone replacement therapies, which cost over lakhs. Be it getting a gender diaspora certificate, or a psychologist consultation, it has been becoming very difficult to get any of it. Now that transgender people are even casting their votes, why can’t we deserve a clinic? People who cannot afford to go to the government sector, and then, just from the counter itself, have to go through discrimination.
These people also don’t know the procedure to get their names changed. Entering a doctor’s chamber in itself would be a major task because most people in the community are involved in sex work, and many will be suffering from HTI’s and HTV’s. Doctors use them as specimens and ask the students to show the symptoms. Not being treated again is also a kind of humiliation there,” signs off Prachi, who really wishes to sensitise and guide everyone to legally stand for themselves, get a horizontal reservation, and see at least 10 transgenders in the government sector.
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