I was born a hermaphrodite. As a young child, I was surgically assigned a gender without my knowledge or consent.
The Day I Found Out I Was Born Intersex
The day I found out I was born intersex was devastating. I couldn't tell anyone because I didn't totally believe it myself.
I went to the doctor and he had yet another theory on why I was in pain from head to toe. It just had to be Lyme disease—it just had to be. So, the doctor checked every inch of my body trying to find where the tick entered my body. He never found that tick. Instead, when he was nearly done with the exam when he looks up at me and says, "Did you know you were born with a vagina?"
I said, "I'm 49 years old. I should know if I was born with a vagina or not." The doctor proceeded to show and explain to me what he meant. I don't know if he was actually condescending or if I was just freaked out by what he was telling me, but I felt very small and confused when I left his office that day.
I was already separated from my wife at the time and was living in a small town where I knew no one. But if I wanted to keep my son I had to stay where I was. So telling anyone could have had severe consequences.
I didn't even believe it when I was just showed actual proof, so how in the hell was anyone else going to believe me?
It Was Two Years Before I Told Anyone Other Than My Doctor
Because of how I felt when I left the doctors office that day, I never went back to that doctor again. I also moved two hours away before my next check-up.
It was six months to a year before I even considered admitting to myself that what the doctor said was true.
I started on a quest to find medical records that to this day still elude me. I have invested lots of time and money, and yet I've discovered not one single scrap of paper regarding the seven different groups of surgeries required that led to the messed-up situation I live with today.
The Choice Faced by Parents of Intersex Children
So the only choice I had was to read everything I could about my situation. Sadly it is currently a world with only about one hundred hours of reading. Of course I had never heard the word intersex at this point and my search was very narrow.
This is what I learned about the typical experience parents faced when told by doctors that their child was intersex:
- The parents are told their child is born both boy and girl; then they are told they need to decide what gender they want their child to be. Not knowing this is even possible they are pressed into making a decision before they take the child home. After all, what are they going to tell people?
- As long as the surgery was a success, no one followed up to see how the child adjusted.
- Other than post-operative care to prevent infection, the parents received nothing.
- The parents were left to take care of their unique child with zero guidance.
I wanted to hate my parents for the choices they made but I have to be honest with myself. Knowing what I knew when my son was born I most likely would have gone ahead with the surgery if he was born the same way I was.
I like to tell myself that I would have researched it before I made a decision but I am not sure I would do a very good job. I would read everything the doctors gave me and then make the wrong decision. Just like my parents.
My Poor Wife
First, I am not going to put her in a position where she has to defend herself.
She never asked for any of this any more than I did. The only difference is she can walk away from it. Thankfully she has not done that yet. Not saying she hasn't been tempted; I wouldn't blame her if she did. God bless her! She's still here.
When I first told her she took it better than I expected. I actually had a bag packed expecting to be homeless by morning. Not that she is a horrible person but . . . we have had some heated discussions because of the situation (I am sure as hell not going to rehash them here).
But she has been a trouper. She has supported me as I explore possibilities that were never imagined the day we were married. I know it is hard for her because she has to rethink everything she knows and it is in her face every day. I could not have been blessed with a better person to help me figure all this out.
Just know I love her more than anything on this earth, and I will be with her for as long as she allows me to be.
God brought us together for a reason when it seemed most improbable and who am I to question God?
Figuring It All Out: Do I Fit Into the LGBT Conversation?
As I am sure you can imagine, finding out about being intersex late in one's life can be rather confusing. It causes you to question just about everything about your life and the world around you.
What else am I uneducated about that impacts every part of my life?
I mean, first of all, who would I have been if they had made the opposite choice?
No, like really it was an option and who would I be? I will never know.
What if they allowed me to grow up and make the choice myself?
I like to think I would have chosen no surgery but who knows? I do have some feminine qualities.
But it also answered some questions. Like how come I don't like sex very much. Mostly because I have little feeling in that area and even less control. So it's kind of like going to the gym even with the most attentive partner there is only so much I am going to feel.
Then come questions like, if my parents had made the other choice would I be gay? Somehow I just learn to like men because what they cut off as opposed to what they closed? Or can I even be gay?
If I never had the surgery and was left as I was born would I be attracted to one gender or the other?
If I can't be gay, where do I fit into the LGBT conversation? I am not sure I do but I do know the conversation of LGBT would be moved along if people could except intersex people without surgically altering them. Or saying they need to conform to one gender or the other and they can only pick one gender one time.
Thankfully I really don't have to worry about those things in the real world because my wife is awesome and we love each other regardless of how weird I might be. So I am not looking for a different mate of any kind and thank God for that.
But I don't have it all figured out at this point. Some days I think I understand less than I did before. Generally when I try to figure out what label fits me.
So I keep pushing the limits. If you know me my life is pushing limits.
I honestly don't think I can ever figure it all out. I was lied to for forty plus years by my parents my doctors and all the people I was taught I could trust. So no I will never have it figured out.
Did I Change My Gender After I Found Out?
If I had a dollar for every time I said "I am not a man but thank God I am not a woman" before I even knew I was born intersex. I would have at least a couple hundred dollars.
The two thoughts run side by side in my brain because the way men treat women is why I am not a man and the way women are treated is why I wouldn't want to be a woman.
I could explain more but I am not looking to create anger. If you know what I am talking about I don't need to explain it and if you don't know what I am talking about I can't explain it.
But did I try on a dress to see how it looked? You bet your sweet donkey I did. I looked better than I could even hope. I never really noticed what shape my body was. Not until I put on that dress that day. Now I understand why so many men have hit on me over the years. It also helped me understand why so many people thought I was gay. Take away the face and the voice and you got yourself a babe.
But no I did not change my gender. If anything I no longer claim a gender at all. I don't wear dresses much but I do find female clothes very comfortable. Often I wear a little of both. Female jeans with a male shirt. or the other way around. I might wear a dress more if I didn't think I might have to get in a fight because of it. Jail would suck.
I do have some male clothes that make me look very feminine so it is very confusing for some people. I almost feel like I should show them what way the buttons go just to prove that it is a male shirt.
I sometimes think I am only dressing feminine to bother people and make them say stupid things. Surprisingly very few people ever say anything at all. Sometimes I tell myself I do it to help create awareness. It might just be I like the clothes. If you are male and reading this go wear a sundress at the beach one day and you will see what I mean.
The way I dress has started a few conversations about the situation but to this day they have all been very polite. Most people don't have any idea what to say after they read my other blog describing the medical situation that got me here.
I am open to questions but I don't solicit them. I just keep being the person I was before they read the blog. After all I am trying to get them to understand that I am a normal human.
I grew my hair out for a while not long after I told my wife. Then I had a crisis day and shaved my head. I have grown my hair back out too where it was. It looks pretty and I like it but It helps add to the confusion of the people I meet. when I am dressed as a woman I am addressed as a woman until they hear my voice. Then they are just confused.
So no, I don't claim to be a woman and I still deny being a man. You can call me whatever you want as long as you are kind. I dress in whatever I want and dare people to question it. Because they will get an education that will change the way they see the world every time.
Why Do I Write About This? Isn't It Embarrassing?
In all the research that I did after I found out my situation was not the only way to be born with ambiguous gender I learned what intersex is I learned I had it easy compared to the physical and mental abuse other intersex children have had to live through.
Intersex is a blanket word that covers a dozen or more ways that one can be born with ambiguous gender. Some more extreme than others. Some children show no outward physical signs at birth others are like me present with the genitals of both genders.
Parents are being left to raise these children with no help no understanding and being told to never tell anyone because they will make the child's life a living Hell.
These parents are being talked into surgically altering their children when there is no medical necessity, simply the stigmatism of not being one gender or the other.
Parents are being told to make their child conform to the gender they were not allowed to choose when there was a choice, because it is what is best for them.
Parents have no information other than the information given to them by the people that make their living performing these surgeries.
I want to be that other voice. Still today parents are being told the same thing my parents were told. The world's population is 7.5 billion. That means there are 127,500,000.00 intersex people alive today (1.7% of 7.5 billion). Yet parents are told their child will be the only one and need to be fixed.
In the last year I have become friends with several intersex people from around the world. We all fight for the same thing's. The self determination of gender by intersex people. The right to figure that out, and the right not to pick either male or female if we so choose.
We want parents to be able to make informed decisions.
We want intersex kids to be allowed to pee in public restrooms without being confronted.
We want to be allowed to dress how ever we want with out getting beat up.
But most of all we want to exist.“The devastation caused by medically unnecessary surgery on intersex infants is both physical and psychological,” said Kimberly Zieselman, an intersex woman and executive director of interACT. “Despite decades of patient advocates putting the medical community on notice about the harm from these procedures, many doctors continue to present these surgeries to parents as good options.”
So yes it is embarrassing to talk about this, and yes I wish I didn't have to talk about it. But as long as over 67,600 new cases of intersex children are born every year and the parents and being miss informed I am unable to stay quiet.
Further Reading About Intersex Issues
- Our History: Intersex Campaign for Equality
- What is intersex? | Intersex Society of North America
Gender/INTERSEX Activist: Educator, Writer & Speaker
- US: Harmful Surgery on Intersex Children | Human Rights Watch
Doctors in the United States continue to perform medically unnecessary surgeries that can inflict permanent harm on intersex children, Human Rights Watch and interACT said in a report released today.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Hizashi on May 12, 2020:
This is a pretty heartwarming story of a man who learned that he was born both genders.
And the courage to write about it? Shoot, this man wasn't born just intersex, he was born brave.
Jeffrey A Benedict (author) from Colorado on November 21, 2017:
It is the kindness of people like you that has made the easier than it might have been.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 20, 2017:
Very happy for you that you have found other people who relate to your struggle. May God give you the strength and courage to endure and make a difference for yourself and others! Thanks for making us aware.
Jeffrey A Benedict (author) from Colorado on November 19, 2017:
I agree with all but the unique part. Intersex effects 1.7% of the worlds population.
The worlds population is 7.5 Billion
1.7% of 7.5 Billion is 127,500,000.00.
So there are 127.5 Million people on this planet that were born Intersex.
Or In others words it would be as if.
As if everyone in China's three largest cities were born Intersex.
Guanqzhou pop: 44,294,245
Shandhi pop: 35,965,403
Chongqing pop: 30,165,000
Total 110,424,648 We got room for 10 million more here.
As if everyone in India's four largest cities were born Intersex.
Mumbai pop: 12,442,373
Delhi pop: 11,034,555
Bengaluru pop: 4,301,326
Hyderabad pop: 6,731,790
Total 34,510,044 not even close in Fact you would need all of the twenty five most populated cities in India to be born Intersex to equal the actual number
As if everyone in America's most populated States were born Intersex.
California pop: 39,250,017
Texas pop: 27,862,596
Florida pop: 20,612,439
New York pop: 19,745,289
Total 107,470,341 and there is still 20 million Intersex people left over.
As if every person in Japan were born intersex population 126,670,000
As if every person born in Mexico were born Intersex population 123,364,426
As if every person in the Philippines was born Intersex population 104,718,00
As if every person in Germany was born Intersex population 82,800,000
As if every person in Iran was born Intersex population 80,493,700
As if every person in Russia was born Intersex as long as you don’t count the Crimean peninsula which the Ukraine claims to be theirs.
Greg Schweizer from Corona, California. on November 19, 2017:
Jeffrey, In my opinion, you have a very unique life situation. I have seen stories about something like this on TV shows, but I have never heard about it on a personal basis. I have wondered how someone would live with it. Not that it wouldn't be possible, but I know you have to feel different.
I guess it really wouldn't be much different than someone knowing they are gay, no disrespect to anyone, but they have to feel different. I'm not gay but I do respect how they feel.
You do have a lot of questions that you say you ask yourself and I can understand that. I am glad you wrote about this because my mind actually lets me wander sometimes into some different areas of interest.
I realize this is probably a touchy subject to some people so I hope I haven't upset anyone.
I would also like to add, not all men treat women like crap. And just because you treat women, what I call right, doesn't mean you aren't a man.