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Thai surgeons at Yanhee General Hospital
Thai surgeons operate a patient for breast enlargement at Yanhee General Hospital, famous for sex change operations, in Bangkok. Thailand has become the global destination of choice for people around the world haunted since birth by feelings they should be of the opposite sex.
His last patient was 62 years old, married with two kids. He showed up wearing his wife's underwear, having come from the United States to Thailand to make his life-long dream come true.
"I make my patients happy. That's my job," says Greechart Pornsinsirirak, a plastic surgeon at Thailand's most famous hospital for sex change operations.
Long accepted here but still a relatively rare procedure abroad, Thailand has become the global destination of choice for people around the world haunted since birth by feelings they should be of the opposite sex.
Like popular tourist attractions, the entrance of Yanhee Hospital in Bangkok welcomes visitors in six different languages including Arabic, Chinese and French while young female staff on roller skates scurry among patients.
While sex change operations are far less common than breast implants or nose jobs, Greechart says the number of foreign patients seeking gender reassignment surgery in Thailand is no doubt rising.
Nurses at Yanhee General Hospital
A Thai nurse along with other staff member wait for a patient outside an operating room at Yanhee General Hospital, famous for sex change operations, in Bangkok. Like popular tourist attractions, the hospital entrance welcomes visitors in six different languages including Arabic, Chinese and French while young female staff on roller skates scurry among patients
"Unlike my Thai patients, many foreign patients are married and middle-aged. When they came to me, they said 'I can't hide it anymore,'" Greechart, 41, says, adding over 95 percent of sex change operations are from male to female.
Comments from foreign patients are posted across Greechart's office wall, with many thanking the doctor for changing their lives.
"I am sincerely grateful. Dr Greechart, thank you for making my wish come true," reads one from a 21-year-old Japanese man who had both a sex change operation and breast implants.
A 31-year-old American man, who had a sex change and contoured his Adam's apple, said he was very satisfied with the result.
"The appearance is excellent. The depth is more than expected. I should have done this years ago," said the American man.
In addition to Thailand's reputation for quality, Greechart said foreign patients come here for sex change operations because the price is much cheaper than in more developed countries.
Nurse at Yanhee General Hospital
A Thai nurse talks to a patient who underwent a sex change operation at Yanhee General Hospital in Bangkok. Long accepted here but still a relatively rare procedure abroad, Thailand has become the global destination of choice for people around the world haunted since birth by feelings they should be of the opposite sex
"The price is very cheap. In the United States, the price is 10 times higher," he says. At Yanhee, a male to female operation, which takes about four to eight hours, costs 5,000 dollars and patients stay there for two weeks.
To undergo a sex change operation, a patient must have taken female hormones for at least two years and pass a psychiatric evaluation.
But most importantly, patients must have felt like a girl since their childhood and have lived like a woman for at least one or two years, says another renowned surgeon, Prayuth Chokrungvaranont, who teaches plastic and reconstructive surgery at Thailand's top university, Chulalongkorn University.
"All day, throughout their daily life, patients must live like a woman. They should go to a women's bathroom. No exception. This is important because after the surgery, you live as a woman," Prayuth, 49, says.
The doctor, who has performed 300 sex change operations, in addition to 600 cosmetic surgeries, says a gender reassignment operation is the last hurdle for patients to become a full woman.
A doctor(L) and his staff with a patient at Yanhee Hospital
A doctor(L) enquires about the health of a patient from the US following a sex change operation from female to male at Yanhee General Hospital in Bangkok. While sex change operations are far less common than breast implants or nose jobs, the number of foreign patients seeking gender reassignment surgery in Thailand is rising
"They all say 'I want to be a complete woman. Please get rid of my penis.' or 'I want to have normal sexual activities with my boyfriend,'" Prayuth says.
Among the most common concerns of sex change patients is whether they will be able to reach orgasm after their operations, says Yanhee's Greechart.
"I told them 'Yes, but only if you have good emotions for your partner,'" he said.
Prayuth says a decade ago less than 100 foreigners came for sex change operations each year in Thailand.
"But I can assure you today there are two or three cases of foreign sex change operations per day. The reasons are the good result, cheap cost, easy communication such as emails and easy air transportation," he says.
Prayuth says he has also received more than 50 requests for penis enlargements from foreign men. But he refuses to perform the procedure.
"It's myth. Men believe a bigger penis can improve their sex life. But the size doesn't matter. It depends on your partner, your relationship and foreplay. The result of penis enlargement is questionable," he says.
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