I am Intersex and I am here

This article I originally wrote for West Michigan Woman's blog.  It was one of the hardest articles I have ever written and I wanted it here on my blog as well.  If you didn't read it before, here it is!


“I am one of the two percent.”  That is a statement you wouldn’t have heard me say a few years ago; mostly out of fear and shame.  You’re probably wondering, “two percent of what?”  Well I am part of the approximate two percent of the population born intersex.

If this word is foreign to you let me break it down; intersex people are born with physical sex traits that don’t fit the “typical” definitions of either male or female. So in my case I was born with XY chromosomes, which are typically “male” and internal testes instead of a uterus and ovaries. Externally my body looks like a typical “female”.

What comes along with a diagnosis like mine is a heavy amount of fear of being “outted” as someone different than what society is used to.  For me my internal testes were producing estrogen.  At age fifteen doctors told my parents I had to have them removed.  They convinced them that keeping them could cause cancer, and would be “mentally damaging” to me as a young woman if people found out I had them.  It wasn’t until years later that we learned this surgery really wasn’t medically necessary in fact I could have benefited from the natural hormone production.

At the time I wasn’t fully aware why I was going under the knife, or the implications of a surgery that took my hormone producing organs.  At fifteen I was already fully developed and had gone through puberty.  It’s still important to have estrogen as a woman though and I was forced on medication to make up for my lack of natural estrogen. 

It was a very confusing time.  I was only a freshman in high school.  I came back from surgery after Christmas break and still couldn’t wear jeans due to the incision that stretched wide across my lower abdomen.  I wasn’t supposed to take the stairs at all for a few weeks while I was healing so the school gave me an elevator key.  I was late to class twice because of it and multiple students asked why I was stuck using the elevator, so I started forcing myself to use the stairs even though it hurt.
I lied for years to everyone around me.  I lied so much I started to believe my own lies.  “I had a hysterectomy” I told most.  I let fear of people finding out that I was different keep me quiet. 
It wasn’t until I was married and wanted a baby that this really hit home. 

 My sister came to me and said she would carry a baby for my husband and me.  We successfully got donor eggs, and used my husband’s sperm to do in vitro fertilization.  Lucky for us it worked in only a few rounds and today we are proud parents to a 10 month old baby girl.  

At the time I was working as a morning show reporter for FOX17.  Being in media it was easy to shout our pregnancy news from the roof tops.  When I did people had questions, why was my sister doing this for me?  People kept asking, “What was wrong with me?” I had a sudden violent urge to scream, “Nothing is wrong with me!” I am just different. 

So I did just that, I began slowly telling my story little by little helping people understand that not being able to have a baby was very hard for me but it didn’t mean something was wrong with me. 
In telling my story I have been hearing from other West Michigan mothers whose daughters too were born with an intersex variation.  They are scared and afraid of the unknown.  I tell them there is nothing to be afraid of, nothing is wrong with your child.  They are just a little different. 

I am now passionate about stopping medically unnecessary and irreversible surgeries like the one performed on me.  Surgeries on intersex individuals are driven by fear; fear of a body that they don’t understand and can’t check in a “male” or “female” box on a piece of paper. These surgeries are human rights violations and in the future I want other intersex people, especially young people, to not feel shame. 

At Grand Rapids ArtPrize 2014 I saw a piece that invited the public to confess something about themselves.  I noticed someone wrote, “I am intersex and I am here.”  To you I say, I am here too, you aren’t alone.

 



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