Punlop Tongchai is awake for the entire two hours it takes to be turned into a woman on the operating table of a Bangkok sex change clinic.
The 27-year-old Thai cabaret dancer chats to nurses throughout the ordeal under the surgeon’s knife, numbed only by local anaesthetic.
Growing up in Thailand, a country with one of the largest transgender populations in the world and surgeons who have pioneered ever cheaper and quicker sex change techniques, Punlop’s childhood ambition was always within reach.
For as little as $2,000 (£1,218), he became a woman.
But the government is making it tougher for patients like Punlop to undergo the procedure, forcing them to prove they are psychologically fit to change sex.
From Wednesday, anyone wanting to swap gender in Thailand must live as a woman for at least a year, take a course of female hormones, and obtain the approval of two psychiatrists.
Punlop says it is too much to ask.
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