This is a guest post by an intersex person in their mid-50s who was raised and lives as a man, only to discover lately that the wrong surgery had been performed in infancy. F.H. graciously shared this to enlighten cisgender others and to offer encouragement to other intersex people. F.H. is unsure of the road ahead so far. F.H. feels peace at knowing the biological facts that support their gender dysphoria. F.H. wishes the doctor had had the benefit of today’s trend in some European countries, toward not surgically assigning a sex before the child reveals their gender—usually around age 3-4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“I was born with both sexes – I am an intersex person; we used to be called hermaphrodites. At the time, 1959, probably considered the most respected teaching hospital at the time put me through all types of physical and mental tests. I was seen by Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, Gynecology, Urology and eventually seen for a surgical consult. The hospital and surgeons decided my sex by where my urethra emerged – which was through the penis. So, they told my parents this was the best route and my outer feminine parts as well as all my internal feminine parts – my vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries – were removed.
“I however did not discover this until I was in my fifties after my mother’s death. In a box of childhood school art and other things from my youth there were also a few medical records or my birth. These alluded to a week’s worth of tests to ensure I was healthy before an undescribed corrective surgery was performed. It also stated that from the results the doctors expected no complications in living as an active and healthy boy.
“I love my parents and was raised in a very loving family. I grew up being taught that there was no reason to yell or cuss as that simply showed you did not have a good command of the English language to express yourself. I was taught ignorance was not a respected characteristic to have or display. I also grew up with hugs, support and caring family. A family that wanted you to do your best in everything you did or tried to do.
“I also grew up with almost all women including an aunt and cousins who lived with us. We were not well to do but lived comfortably, ate well, and were conservative by nature in not wasting things. I believe that is why I was dressed in many girls’ hand-me-downs. I remember pink and pastel clothing; much of it with lace or frilly trim. I even remember while still in diapers being dressed for church in white or pink lace tights with rows of lace on the rear and a black velvet dress with puffy arms and white lace trim. I remember adults saying I looked so nice, and my aunt, grandmother and mom commenting that it also made it easier to change my diaper if needed.
“As I said earlier, I did not find that I was born both male and female until my fifties when fate you may say caused paths to cross when I met – as was the practice of the time when I was born – the nurse who was on duty when I was born and assigned to my care until I was released from the hospital. Through long-time mutual medical friends, she had tracked my dad down having heard he had had a slight heart attack, and that he was also turning 90 years old. I, by fate, happened to be visiting my dad after his heart attack and thus was in town when she came to town. I asked her since she was just passing through if we could have coffee the next morning before she left.
“The nurse and I met for coffee. She was in no hurry being 80 years old herself. We had a pleasant conversation about my dad being in medical school at the time I was born, how she met and became friends during this period with my parents and other things about what my dad and mom were like at this age. At what I though was a comfortable juncture, I told her that my mom when she died had left me some of my hospital birth records. I asked her if she could tell me what she remembered. I felt I could tell a change in here posture as she sat up a bit in her chair and looked down at her feet for a short time as if trying to recall. I took that opportunity to tell her that I wanted to know as I loved my parents and anything she could tell me was strictly between her and myself. I said I think she can tell me why they did all the tests they did and what was the corrective surgery.
“The old nurse began to tell me the story of the first week of my life. My parents, and grandparents who were also there at the time, were so proud of having a healthy child. She said as was typical of the times the head medical staff made the decisions that were made. She said that I was a textbook case, though rarely seen and documented, of being born healthy but with a complete set of both boy and girl parts, both internal and external. The week of tests that followed were in part to ensure I was healthy but also in part for the hospital to document and learn from my unusual birth. All sorts of tests were done including psychological to see how alert and developed I was. She said that my mom and grandmother may have been favoring a little girl but they went along with what the prestigious medical minds decided. My dad was a practical man and she thought probably never spoke of this, as neither did my mom, grandmother or aunts – who were the only family members besides eventually two female cousins to ever know – as it was for the best as the world was not a place at that time to understand and accept such things. I was perfectly healthy and the surgery was done.
“The old nurse said she saw me over the next couple years when I was brought in for my medical check-ups, or was sick, or when she was invited to my parent’s apartment for dinners, and she babysat from time to time. I told her I remembered growing up being dressed in many girl’s things. She said she remembered this as the practical side of my family. She also stated now as she had several times during this conversations that my parents were wonderful people and loved me very much. I seemed to like the nicer things so they felt being I was a child, as many thought, there was nothing wrong in this.
“In finding this out, it has given me a better sense of self. In knowing there was – and I unfortunately did not know this growing up, but trusted myself – a probable reason for liking many things I did growing up, and do now. As well as some unusual but caring and loving reasons for how I was raised. I always knew, and it has been a fact of my life in the belief and comments of others, I am a good person. You are not alone.”
F.H., age mid-50s, surgically- assigned male; intersex and gender dysphoric