Miroslav Djordjevic, urologist, professor of Faculty of Medicine in Belgrade and surgeon of sex reassignment surgery, who up until this date performed around 500 sex change surgeries in Serbia and abroad, says in an interview for The Balkans Daily that more and more open attitude towards transsexual persons is resulting in increase of number of people who are “trapped” in other sex’ body who decide to undergo an operation. Due to their skills, Serbian surgeons are among the world leaders regarding the number of performed operations, but also when it comes to training of foreign doctors.
TBD: What makes this procedure so specific?
Djordjevic: Well, this procedure regards the fulfilment of a life-long dream. These are the people who do not accept their body since the earliest days of their lives, since age 4 or 5. Can you imagine what a person whose own body is their biggest enemy feels like, and who lives with those feelings and convictions for decades? I’ll give you one example. I performed an operation on one person who went from male to female sex, one 68-year-old intellectual. After the operation she said to me that she had just started her life, at that age. How to understand a person who is “wasting” an entire creative lifetime, and only begins to live “normally” at the time of her full maturity or old age? Reactions are mostly very touching and filled with emotions. I remain in touch with my patients the entire time after operation, I listen to their stories, and I can say that each patient is a story in itself.
TBD: How much did Serbia change when it comes to accepting transsexual persons? How big is the progress made in the last 10 or 20 years?
Djordjevic: There has been an enormous progress in understanding these persons, in accepting the problem of transsexualism as a condition which is regarded in world medicine as all other illnesses. We’re not talking about some fad, or aesthetics, or fashion… This is an illness like any other. We, on our side have done everything in our power to bring this illness closer to the everyday man. The result of this work is recognition by our state and the desire to help these persons by setting apart money from the state social insurance fund so that the costs of treatment can be covered.
TBD: Why is it that foreigners often decide to undergo this operation in Serbia? Is it the better price or the quality of expertise?
Djordjevic: Many people think that this is a part of medical tourism, that it is cheaper here and such. However, it is not exactly the case. For example, the operation of gallbladder removal is certainly much cheaper in Serbia than elsewhere, and I am not so sure that patients who want to do that come here in large numbers. So, it is more than evident that we get patients from all over the world thanks to only one thing, and that is the fact that we are recognizable by our quality, results, and respect that we get from patients who underwent surgery here.
TBD: How many people underwent surgery here since doctors began performing this operation here in Serbia? Both local and foreign patients?
Djordjevic: I will give you some relevant information. Since the beginning, that is since 1989, more than 250 operations have been performed on patients who come from these regions, i.e. from the region of former Yugoslavia. Since 2006, when I formed my team, up to this date, we have performed more than 400 such surgeries on foreign patients.