My mother was aware that her brother was Intersex (PAIS), and a month before she gave birth, she was admitted to the hospital where she was treated by a specialist from Baltimore. It seemed strange, didn’t they have any specialists in New York City where I was born? Now that I’m older, I’m aware that Johns Hopkins is in Baltimore.
No doubt her doctors were aware that I was Intersex. No doubt my parents were also aware that I was born Intersex.
When I was an adolescent, I became aware that I was different than the other boys. My genitalia was underdeveloped, much smaller than my friends. I felt embarrassed, and always used the bathroom stall instead of the urinal so they wouldn’t look at me. Besides, it was difficult for me to pee standing up.
I also became aware that I desired to dress in women’s clothing. Whenever I was left alone, I would sneak into my parent’s bedroom and dress in my mother’s clothes. If I had sufficient time, I would try on her makeup. I felt shame, like I was some sort of freak. If only someone had made me aware that I was Intersex, I would understand who I truly was.
No one ever sat me down and explained it to me, explained that I was Intersex and that there was nothing wrong with that. Instead, everyone dealt with the matter by simply ignoring it. No one prepared me for that day in the Spring of 1963 when I became aware that I was developing breasts.
It was on that day that I discovered that I was no longer the boy my parents raised, and what should have been my first step towards self-awareness quickly became the first step on a decades-long journey into despair and self-loathing.
An aware society would have recognized the beauty and the wonder of the Intersex child, just as they would any other child. They wouldn’t have tried to erase us from the public consciousness, denying that we even exist. They wouldn’t have mutilated our genitals to make us appear more male or more female. They wouldn’t have forced us to live lives that were not ours to live.
I had it rough, but I’m aware that others suffered far greater indignities than I did. I was spared the physical mutilation that scarred several generations of our community. It must stop now.
Although modern society is becoming more aware of our existence, and more aware of the difficulties we face daily, most people don’t quite understand us. They think of us as being a subset of the Transgender community, the “I” at the end of LGBT that’s seldom included. In fact, we’ve seemed to be absorbed by the all encompassing “Q”, delegating us to being a subset of a subset.
My adopted state of California recently passed a law recognizing a third, nonconforming gender on all official State documents. While I’m aware that this is a major step forward, I fear that we are still being kept hidden away in the background. It is important that my documentation proclaim that I am Intersex, particularly my birth certificate, since that’s the way I was born. Chromosomally male, hormonally female. I was born a combination of both, but most of the time, I felt like neither.
Last December, New York City issued the first INTERSEX birth certificate in the nation. When I became aware of this, I applied to have mine corrected. After supplying proof from my doctor, I became the third person in the United States to be granted an INTERSEX birth certificate this past August. It was a validation of who I am, not the person I was told I had to be.
We need that validation in order bring awareness to the public, who generally have little or no knowledge about the issues that affect our communities and our lives. We were erased from history, denied existence by society’s insistence that there is only male and female, with no deviation allowed. No third gender box to authentic our true selves, and parents who are so ashamed of their children that they gladly consented to genital mutilation to make their child appear normal.
And while the public must be made aware of our existence, that won’t happen as long as we complacently allow ourselves to be defined by a society that would prefer that we simply disappear. But we can’t accept ghostly invisibility any more; it is our time to become visible and live the lives we were born to live.