A Miracle—Not a Mistake

My life turned around when I learned that I was intersex, when I learned about the “correction” surgery that was done when I was small and about chromosomes and the hormonal system. The scattered dots started to form a picture, one that I didn’t want to look at. 

It was also a huge relief to finally have the feelings and difficulties in context. I understood why I’ve felt like a mistake, always felt that I needed to change to be liked,  always felt ashamed, blamed myself for having feelings that didn’t seem to have anything to do with my life, and felt a need to tell someone about something important but never knew what to talk about. 

I was born with different chromosomes and a different hormonal system than most people. My body parts didn’t correspond to male or female. I was operated on to fit in—I was assigned female. My parents were told to raise me as female, and I have been treated with hormones since my adolescence. I’ve learned that it is something I shouldn’t talk about—that life will go better if no one knows, and if I forget about it, too. 

I was told that what was done was best for me: I would be able to fit in and not suffer from being different. It didn’t work. Would it have worked if I’d had a chance to discharge on the painful treatments, the anaesthesia, and a body that was shaped by someone? I don’t know, but if I could choose, I would rather just be different instead of being different and having to deal with the treatments. The treatments and the attitude of adults confused me a lot. I was unclear as to my gender when young. Later, under pressure, I accepted the female identity. 

I’ve felt that I was a mistake. I have always struggled, and still do, with feelings of being just a product of science and having lost the real me. I am still an intersex person—no matter how much some people wanted to “help me” fit in, or how much they “knew” what was best for me. 

The more that I had sessions and got information, the clearer it was that my early experiences affected every aspect of my life. The shame, secrecy, and fear were so big that it took more than thirty years to unocclude the memories and start talking about them. It has been hard to feel the feelings, and even to believe that my experiences happened. It has been hard to both find and deal with the information. 

The problem is not that my chromosomes and hormonal system are different. The problem is the assumption that everybody is either male or female and that everybody’s body parts (and behavior and identity) should meet that standard. This confusion leads thousands of people into painful and confusing medical treatments and the use of artificial hormones. 

When I learned about being intersex and decided to take seriously the hurts caused by it, I thought the most important thing for my re-emergence would be to break the silence and secrecy. After being more open for a while, I started to see the oppression. My silence had protected me from some of it. The oppression is real. It is harsh, silencing, and isolating. It says that people are either male or female—so you are wrong, your feelings are wrong, your experiences are not real, and there is something wrong with you if you cannot fit in. 

The oppression of intersex people is completely invisible to most people. Most people don’t know about us. It resembles Gay oppression and the oppression of people with disabilities in some ways. Being intersex is often considered to be only a medical problem instead of an ethical issue. Mainly, the oppression says that you are a “freak”— that being intersex is unnatural, a mistake, and needs to be corrected or eliminated.

For me the oppression started with strange looks, lack of closeness, and the emergency-like atmosphere followed by the treatments. Later I was told to “use the other bathroom” (no matter which one I went to). I was told that I was standing in the wrong line when boys and girls were in separate lines in school. I was teased, beaten up, and raped. I got used to comments like “I will show you what it means to be female,” “I will make you a female; you are not a real boy,” “Why can’t you be like others; why do you want to be special?”  The fear of being exposed, of having my “shameful” secret revealed, was terrible and controlled my life. It was a dead-end panicky feeling1—no place to go and no way to show anything, because showing would mean telling. So I learned to hide it all and pretend. 

When I was small, I heard that people like me should not exist, that they were a mistake and unnatural. I decided to not be a burden for my parents. I would do my best and be good and useful to others. The oppression tells me that there is no place for me as me, that only if I pretend and play my role well enough will I fit in. It sometimes appears as advice: people are eager to tell me what my problems or distresses are and what I should do about them. I am told to do something about my “gender dysphoria,”2 “Gay distress,” or “unwillingness to identify as a woman.” This leaves me alone with my challenges: recordings3 from the anaesthesia, the operations, the current oppression, and the current health issues. 

When I was younger, I often got comments about my appearance and the clothes I wore. People asked if I wanted to be male, or if I used to be male/female. There were years when I was treated as male, and years when people couldn’t figure out my gender. Now I look more female than male. I have tried to identify according to how other people treat me, or see me, or what makes them less uncomfortable.

Life in the Present 

My life changed tremendously after I started to talk about these experiences. I am much less scared of people and of being visible. I have been able to form a loving, committed relationship. I am learning to be in charge of my health. I have been able to talk about my special needs. I am learning to lead in a new way—not by forcing myself or out of duty, but as me, noticing that I am there in connection with other people. The big challenge is to figure out how to do things my way instead of the “how to fit in” way.

It is challenging to distinguish between present and early incidents. It is hard to know what is oppression and what is restimulation, especially when both are present. It is hard to not be restimulated when the looks or words are the same as what I have seen or heard all my life. It is hard to answer calmly or informatively a comment that is based on assumption or misinformation. It is hard to stand up for myself. 

I have found ways to discharge and remember without getting overwhelmed with the memories. I’ve been able to think in new ways about my health and make decisions about it. It is reassuring and hopeful that some people are starting to discharge on their gender identity and the assumptions we all grew up with about everyone being male or female and everyone knowing what that means and never questioning it.

Here are some questions that have been useful for my Co-Counselors and me in discharging about gender: 

• When did you “know” that you were male or female (or . . . )? 

• How did you know it then, and how do you know it now? 

• Do you have a body part or characteristic that makes you (feel) male or female? 

• If that were taken away (or something added), would that change the way you identify yourself? 

• Do you feel uncomfortable if you see someone and cannot be sure of that person’s sex? Why? 

• Why do you want to know if a newborn is a girl or a boy? 

I have a sweet memory of an RC workshop in which I was seen for the first time simultaneously as an intersex person and as a leader, and it was safe enough to notice it. I felt I was seen as myself—with the experiences I carry, the characteristics I have, and the potential I have because of my unique point of view. I felt respected. That experience was a huge contradiction.4 It started the process of leading as myself, and because of being me. I am grateful to people who can see, who dare to get close to someone they don’t fully understand or have much information about. 

Getting the information about my past, being able to remember many things, and having a chance to discharge about it has made my life a lot better. I am starting to see myself as a miracle; as a unique, complete person; as a beautiful example, like everyone is, of the variation that nature is able to form. 

“Prisank” 


1 “Dead-end panicky feeling” means panicky feeling that didn’t go anywhere.
2 “Dysphoria” means unhappiness.
3 Distress recordings
4 Contradiction to distress


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07