Video: TRANS-AMERICA

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updated 3/6/2006 1:09:19 PM ET 2006-03-06T18:09:19

A powerful attorney claims he was a man born into the body of a woman until he went under the knife to change his gender. 

Dhillon Khosla underwent a sex change operation and wrote a book, "Both Sides Now" chronicling his transistion.

'Live and Direct’ spoke with Khosla about the operation and how his life changed after his body did.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

RITA COSBY, HOST, 'LIVE AND DIRECT’:  Dhillon, when did you have a sense that you wanted to make this change physically—you were born a female—to become a male? 

DHILLON KHOSLA, WENT THROUGH SEX CHANGE OPERATION:  Well, first of all, I knew very early on as a child.  And in fact, in Europe, I lived as a boy, believed I would grow into a man, and the children accepted me as a boy on the playground.  It was one of those things were there was a blueprint that I came into the world with, and I just carried that conviction. 

Then I moved to America, and sort of hit puberty, and didn't have any reference point for that belief anymore.  And my mind suppressed it, I think, partly so that I could survive and continue into adulthood, until I eventually had an ex-girlfriend who brought an article to me from the “New Yorker” about people who had done this surgery. 

And all of a sudden, I realized that all of this sort of belief that I had as a kid, all of these sort of notions and dreams that I had that I was really a man inside had a context and a biological reference.  And I immediately set about looking for the best surgeons and starting the process so that I could be whole again. 

COSBY:  And, you know, it's amazing, when you look at the pictures of you before and after just the surgeries.  How many surgeries have you had and how complex? 

KHOSLA:  Well, you know, I had nothing on my face.  That's just pure hormones.  But it took 15 surgeries what should have taken five, because this is the really the most complicated side of the transition.  And I have so many brutal complications.  I actually almost died during one surgery because of blood loss.  And it was just this deep, deep pact and fight to honor something I knew was true. 

COSBY:  Was it worth it? 

KHOSLA:  Oh, absolutely.  You know, I mean I really know what I'm made of, and I know that I have what I would say enough self-love to bring this literal conviction, this pact that I had as a kid all the way home.  And I don't think you can ever put a price on that. 

COSBY:  You know, you talked about sort of the look on one of your friend's faces.  This is an excerpt from your book that's coming up.  And you talked about sort of the look that they had when you came out.  And it says, “It was a look that held nothing but pure joy and excitement.  It was a look that said, 'I am so happy for you,' and it was also a look that made me feel so ashamed.”

Why were you ashamed?  This was something you did voluntarily. 

KHOSLA:  No, no, no.  The only shame I had was that particular incident was a guy that I knew before that I was actually really rude and dismissive towards.  And what I realized was all of this attitude and sometimes competitive rage I had towards men was about me having this cramped jealously, and envy, and competition, and thinking, “I'm really a better guy than you.  It's not fair.” 

And all of a sudden, here is the other side of the transition.  I see the same guy, who's nothing but kind towards me, and I realize, “Oh, my God.”  I had all this stuff going on before, and had I not fixed this, I would still be that person, and I would still be projecting that stuff onto other people. 

COSBY:  Yes, what do you think of all the attention, you know, with the film, “Transamerica”?  Of course, you know, very popular.  The Oscars are coming up.  With all the attention on this issue, is that good?  Is it bad? 

KHOSLA:  I think it's the beginning of good.  I think the difficulty for people like myself is dealing with words like “transgender,” because historically those words have really been used by people who don't feel like they're either men or women.  And so having those labels and knowing that, when I go public, the word “man” might get taken away from me is the hardest part of this journey.

COSBY:  Now, you're an attorney.

KHOSLA:  Yes.

COSBY:  And I have to ask you, you know, you go through this surgery.  You come back to work.  You know, the woman who worked in the office is now a man.  What's the reaction?

KHOSLA:  Well, you know, it's not like an overnight thing, Rita.  It takes months and months of hormones and surgeries.

COSBY:  And how did they react?  How did your coworkers, and friends, and family react? 

KHOSLA:  Well, you know, we already had a good bond.  And they really honestly, from the heart, walked this journey with me.  They were very kind.  I wish I could have holed up and then showed up when I was done, but I didn't have that choice, and I couldn't have picked a better place. 

And maybe because it was a courthouse and we do things behind the scenes anyway, and our brains matter more than whatever body they show up in, but I had some good people with me.  And I owe them a great, great tribute.  This book is a tribute to them, as well.

COSBY: Yes, and also, you're dating now?  Do you tell prospective women, “Hey, by the way, I used to be a lady”? 

Well, I like five-hour dinners.  I have a European background, so at some point we have some sort of conversation.  The problem is sometimes they do the other thing.  They utopianize it and think that, perhaps, you know, I'll do 50 percent of the housework, or I don't leave my socks on the floor.  But that's a little bit of a disappointment, I think. 

COSBY:  Well, thank you very much, Dhillon, for a very frank, and outspoken, and honest book.  And we appreciate you being with us.  Thank you very much.

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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