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Pinoy 'X-Men' talk about life-changing operation

August 27, 2007 9:46pm
Having your body changed to fit your psychological gender preference is a major life-changing decision, one which some Filipinos had been going through in recent years, right here in the Philippines, despite the difficulties.

The physical part – technically called sex reassignment surgery, or SRS – is daunting enough. No responsible surgeon would do the surgery without making the patient take thorough psychological and psychiatric tests.

Dr. Jaime Jorge, who has been doing SRS since 1989 at the Mary Chiles Hospital in Manila, can give any patient properly working sex organs, male or female.

But he says it's not enough for patients to look like and even act like the gender they have chosen to be converted to. Patients must actually have the psychological and emotional makeup of the sex they prefer.

In other words, they must actually be transsexuals, that is, men trapped inside women's bodies, or vice versa, as distinguished from homosexuals, gay men or women who prefer same-sex relations without needing to have their bodies changed.

In an interview with GMANews.TV last Tuesday (August 21), Jorge made some broad distinctions:

"Yung transsexual, yun lang ang ino-opera ko. Yung homosexual hindi ko inoopera yun. Yung transsexual, these are the patients who don't want to be identified dun sa birth sex nila.

"Sa totoo lang ang mga pasyente na yan as early as early as five, six years old may symptomatology na yan ng transsexualism. So sila yung sabi nilang female trapped in a man's body. Sila, kahit ano pa sila, may pera man sila o wala, nasa isip na nila yan. Pag-iipunan nila yan.

"Ngayon yung mga nag-iisip lang na magpa-opera, dahil may nagsasabi sa kanilang magpa-opera sila, like a boyfriend or somebody, huwag na huwag nilang gagawin. Magsisisi lang sila. If they are not properly evaluated by a psychiatrist, huwag."

Jorge was guest last Wednesday (August 22) in GMA's Palaban, a weekly talk show hosted by Solita Monsod, Malou Mangahas, and Miriam Quiambao.

The episode, titled "X-Men," tackled the issue of transsexualism. The other guests included guest four transsexuals. Three of them are entertainers happy with their new bodies – entertainers Lena Santos and Jessica Santos and Ladlad secretary-general Bemz Benedito.

One other guest – Vince Santiago – had a successful operation, but had a change of heart, figuratively speaking: After a five years living as a housewife to a Briton in England, he decided that he had made a mistake.

The operation, of course, is irreversible. But Santiago told the Palaban hosts: "I've learned to live with it."

The cost of the operation ranges from P250,000 to P300,000 in the Philippines, not something that many Filipinos could afford. Many patients, according to Jorge, thus had to find sponsors. In the case of his patients, the boyfriends of the patients shouldered all the expenses.

But the financial part is just part of the whole change. Relatives and friends may have learned to accept the patients' decision, but patients still have to cope with the legal and social acceptance of their new identities.

So far, they're still waiting for a law that would allow them to legally change their names and sex designation.

GMANews.TV captured brief interviews of the guests in its webcasts. Click on the following links to learn more about transsexualism:

Dr. Jaime Jorge

Bemz Benedito

Lena Santos

Jessica Angeles

- Alexander T. Magno, GMANews.TV