Designer Swapnil Shinde who recently declared on her Instagram account “I am not a gay man. I am a Transwoman” (hashtagging her new identity – Saisha Shinde) knew that she was a woman inside. When she’s asked about her decision to transition, she shares, “It wasn’t a decision as per se as much as it was something that I needed to accept. I was clearly born with it. I wanted to be a woman. I was a woman inside all my life. But yes, the decision that today I want to start the change – has been an ongoing process for the last five to six years or probably more. When I decided that I’m going ahead with it and I stopped and that I’m going ahead with it and I stopped. And it’s during the lockdown that I eventually end up deciding positively that this is who I’m and I need to start this process right away.”
Gender dysphoria is said to be deeply painful and it’s believed that transitioning may not make things better and doesn’t heal underlying issues. Even though the designer got letters of approval from her therapist long ago, it took her a while to finally go through with it. “The process for transitioning is important and crucial. It’s divided in two parts – one is of course your therapy sessions with a psychiatrist and other is with your endocrinologist and MD where they check your blood, your health history. Whether there are any underlying health issues in the family. They both go hand in hand. Only when your emotional and mental issues are resolved does the psychiatrist give you the green signal. You need letters from the therapist stating that this person is going through gender identity dysphoria and is viable to go through transition. So I got my letters from my psychiatrist long ago, but it’s just that my personal decision was taking a long time. You can’t just get up and start taking hormones one day because these are subscription medicines. Deep down I always knew who I was and that’s why it became easier,” says she.
One’s keen to ask her that does the fact that transwomen are often objectified and vulnerable targets of discrimination worry her.
“I’m a very private person. The most difficult decision was – should I live my life privately or make it a public thing and the reason why I went public with my transition as I wanted to be a role model to so many boys and girls out there. There are hardly any role models who are openly transgender. The ones who are there are either vilified or objectified. I wanted to prove that someone as successful as me could also be a transgender person.”
It’s not difficult to understand how this transition will impact her overall design aesthetic. ”Now I have a better understanding of how women’s clothes feel. That’s going to affect how my brand looks. I want to do a lot of humanitarian based events and talk about these problems,” says she.
In her therapy sessions the most important aspect covered was her parents. “We take our parents for granted and not give them credit. My parents who are conservative Maharashtrian were very supportive. My father wanted to know the name of all the surgeons I was consulting etc. Because my professional life has been good and I have been a fairly good kid, they said, ‘We are with you as you’ve lived your life responsibly always’. And friends of course have always been there for me,” says she.