In 1984, the same year that ‘Love Is A Battlefield’ was popular on the radio, I was born in the western suburbs of Sydney. It was an uneventful pregnancy according to my late mother. But my birth, at 1:27pm on the 16th of February, was followed by immediate panic and confusion. Not only were there serious medical issues, my genitalia failed to look distinctly male or distinctly female.
Even though the word wasn’t really used at the time, I was intersex. Like 1.7 per cent of the population, I had been born with ambiguous sex characteristics.
The doctors, according to my parents, contacted teams overseas and were advised to allocate me a binary sex. They chose female; a decision that would see me endure a life of surgery and hormonal interventions. It wasn’t until I was nearly an adult, that I learned that I was actually genetically 46XY – male. But in the medical world, it’s considered ‘easier to dig a hole than build a pole’.
Alex and other intersex people answer: what is intersex? (Post continues below.)
Throughout my childhood, I thought that I was simply female, albeit, very tomboyish. I loved playing sport, hanging out with the boys, playing video games, the usual stuff associated with a stereotypical boy. But to the outside world, to myself, I was a girl. The only people who knew the ‘secret’ were my parents and my doctors.
I knew I didn’t produce hormones, but I didn’t know why. My intersex status was kept from me because that was the treatment protocol at the time. It was based on studies from the 1950s that suggested if you raise a person as a certain gender without telling them otherwise, they will simply conform to that gender. And so at various medical appointments throughout my childhood, I was asked to leave the room and wait outside, while my parents and doctors discussed my body and my future.
At age 13, I began female hormone treatment, but it only lasted a few months, as I soon worked out that it didn’t feel right. Despite being lectured for not taking my medications by doctors who felt they knew better at the time, I stuck by my choice and remained in-between; a teenager who still looked very much like a child, a teenager not going through puberty. That part didn’t really bother me. I was more interested in school and just being myself. Puberty seemed simply too weird for me, and just something that my friends would deal with.