This semester, I began taking a Women and Gender Studies class. During one of our classes, we got on the topic of intersex people. The professor was explaining to everyone what the term meant, and I decided I would speak up and share with everyone that I was intersex. This might not seem like a big deal to some, but this was the first time I’d told people other than my friends and family about this side of myself. It felt amazing to talk about it, and to not feel afraid of who I was, because I’m not. I am proud of who I am. This was not always the case, though.
Around five years ago, when I was 16, I went to have an ultrasound because I hadn’t started my period yet. They were a bit concerned as most girls usually had started their periods by then. My mom assured me it was nothing to worry about, that I was just a late bloomer. I couldn’t help but worry it was more, though. In the back of my head, I kept thinking: “What if there’s something wrong with me? What if they tell me I can’t have kids?” Again, my family assured me that I would be just fine, but those nagging feelings wouldn’t go away. In the end, I was right.
At first, I didn’t know I was intersex. All the ultrasound told me was that I had been born without a uterus, without a womb. This meant I would, indeed, never be able to have children. After they told my dad and I this news, I stayed strong in front of the doctor and listened to them give me information on where to go from there. But once I walked out the door of the doctor’s office, I broke down sobbing. My dad hugged me as my little sister, who was young and had no idea what was going on, but was worried as to why I was crying, began to cry too. It felt like my life was crashing down around me.
For the case of many teenagers, they might not be that worried about being told they are unable to have a pregnancy until later in life. For me, though, this news was devastating. I had no clue what I wanted to do when I was older; that was something I was still figuring out. However, there was one thing I was positive I wanted to be when I was older: a mom. I couldn’t wait until I was married and had a family of my own. I didn’t care what career I had as long as I could have a happy life with my kids. Now, my dreams had been ripped away from me in an awful turn of fate. (Of course, there is adoption, but at the time that wasn’t really going through my head).
After a few months and multiple doctor visits, I was given a conclusive diagnosis. I was born with a condition called Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (or CAIS for short). Now I am awful at science, especially Biology, so I don’t know all the fancy words for what causes this. My version of it is that while I was in the womb, I was supposed to be a boy, but something went wrong. My genetics got all messed up and didn’t respond to the androgens that would make me a boy, so my external body was formed as a girl. I was born, and lived for 16 years, as a biological girl. Don’t get me wrong, I am a girl, just not genetically. I have XY chromosomes just like boys, and while I look like a girl on the outside, I don’t have many of the girl organs like ovaries. This is why I don’t have a menstrual cycle and why I am unable to conceive a baby. When I finally was diagnosed, it was nice to finally have an answer as to what was wrong with me, but it didn’t lessen my emotional pain.
I’ve had a lot of people tell me how lucky I am that I don’t have a period, which I guess is true. I’ll never have to deal with the pains most girls deal with, but I would take the pain in a heartbeat if it meant I could have a baby. I just couldn’t understand why I was so unlucky to have this condition, why I had been chosen to bear this pain. It didn’t seem fair to me that many women got pregnant on accident and didn’t even want kids, whereas I wanted a baby so desperately and would never be able to have one.
It took a few years, but I finally came to terms with my condition. I found a group of women just like me and suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I’ve also come to terms with my inability to give birth and have decided to adopt someday. There are still times when I see women I follow on social media getting pregnant or giving birth and it fills me with jealousy and I just break down into tears. However, after I have a good cry, I remember that I will still be a mom. I am going to adopt a few amazing kids one day and I’ll give them a loving home, and I’ll be the best mother I can be. My condition doesn’t define who I am and I’m not going to let it stop me from living my life. Being intersex has become a part of me that I am very proud of and has introduced me to a community full of love and acceptance. I love who I am, and who I am is intersex.
Written by Brooke Dunn, a Business student in Pittsburgh, PA
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