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06 March 2014

Shonna (1947–) performer, travel agent, housewife

Shonna was raised in Singapore, and had two younger sisters. Father was a dentist who often beat his wife and put her in the hospital several times. Grandmother dressed Shonna as female, and arranged for Shonna to be adopted as a girl at the local Kwan Yin Temple.

At 7 Shonna returned home and was sent to school as a boy. However Shonna failed primary school, and later failed to obtain a school certificate. Shonna found some friends who also liked to dress as female and they would so meet in a church.

Father attempted to involve Shonna as a dental assistant, but after embarrassing comments from his patients, he banished her from his clinic. At 16 Shonna worked as a sales girl, and frequented the trans scene on Bugis Street. Her father died when she was 17. She worked as a housemaid for a European man, and had an affair with him. Subsequently she worked in a bank and then in public relations for a hotel.

She came second in the Miss Singapore Beauty Contest, which led to modelling work. In 1968 Shonna started a cabaret act using the name Mama Chan. Twice she attempted suicide by taking sleeping pills.

In 1969 Shonna approached gynaecologist S. S. Ratnam at the Singapore General Hospital and asked for transgender surgery. He sent her to a psychiatrist, but she kept returning two or three times a week. Ratnam had at that time never done sex change surgery, but he started to read the literature, and finally practised the operation on two cadavers in the mortuary. He had Shonna evaluated by a team of psychiatrists who confirmed that she was indeed transsexual. Legal clearance was sought from the ministry of health and granted. Surgery was performed 30 July 1971 at the Kandang Kerbau Hospital 竹脚妇幼医院. This was the first such operation in east Asia.

Afterwards, Shonna was prescribed female hormones. Later she married a French man and owned a travel agency in Paris. Later still she lived in England.
  • S.S. Ratnam & Victor H H Goh. "Becoming Shonna and Becoming Sam". In S. S. Ratnam, Victor H. H. Goh & Wing Foo Tsoi. Cries from Within: Transsexualism, Gender Confusion and Sex Change. Singapore: Longman, 1991: 25-6.
SGWiki     SingaporeInfopedia

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