My life as an intersex person: 7 sisters, 7 brothers… and I
By Mar IS
*This story was shared by Mar IS for publishing in exclusive by Brújula Intersexual. If you want to republish it anywhere else, please request for the author’s permission addressing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in Spanish: https://brujulaintersexual.wordpress.com/2016/06/28/mi-vida-como-intersexual-7-hermanas-7-hermanos-y-yo-por-mar-is/
Translated by Laura Inter. Edited by Hana Aoi.
I was born in Mexico more than 30 years ago. I was born with an intersex body. I didn’t know it. When I was born everything was “normal”, apparently there was nothing unusual in my body. I was assigned as a girl, but ever since an early age people made me feel different.
I became aware of changes during puberty. My body developed quickly, it started to grow more body hair than usual, especially in my legs and arms. When I was 12 years old, I stopped growing up. My body was strong and beautiful, I was stronger than other girls and I liked how my body looked like.
My body already had by then an androgynous look: my shoulders are broad, I have almost no hips, my arms and hands are stronger than usual, I barely have breasts and as I mentioned, I have a lot of body hair; I even got a beard. However, my voice is rather feminine and so are some of my physical traits. Although I no longer identify myself as a man or as a woman, it’s because I was assigned as a female at birth that I’ve gotten used to refer to myself with feminine pronouns. People have always felt confused about my gender because of my appearance, sometimes they think I am woman, sometimes they think I’m a man. I’ve always had problems for it. It’s common that people kick me out of the ladies’ bathroom, or tell me I’m in the wrong one. No matter how I dress, other people are usually confused about my gender
I was born in a remote community, a very small town, where everyone knows each other. So it was impossible for me to go unnoticed. Since childhood I began to be bullied by my own family and people around me out of prejudices about my body and my behaviour (that was considered as male) In my family I was abused in many ways: lack of care, lack of clothing and shoes, and even lack of food. My mother worked all the time, always had problems and had no time for her children. My father was always drunk, unable to spend a little of his time with us. Because of this lack of attention, when I was very small, I suffered from sexual harassment and sexual abuse by three different persons much older than me. Sometimes I thought that it had been only bad dreams, but it had been all real. Today I still struggle to overcome this horrible trauma. I still get nightmares because of that.
When I was in elementary school, I began to be bullied because of my physical features by my classmates and even by some teachers. At that time, I didn’t understand why I was bullied. I only knew there was rejection in their body language and their words. All of this really bothered me, but I tried not to give it too much importance.
When I was 12 years old, I had my first boyfriend. My family didn’t like him, because he was older than me, so every time I was with him, my mom instructed one of my brothers to bring me home and hit me. At 14, I had another boyfriend. The first three months seemed that everything was fine between us, but later he began to tell me things like: “You look like a man”, “When I kiss you, I feel like I’m kissing a man”, “Your breasts are very small”, and so on. For these and other comments, I went to see a doctor. She asked me to take off my shirt, then she saw and touched my breasts, and also reviewed my genitals. She said to me: “There’s still chance to do something”. After the medical examination, she asked me if I’d be willing to remove my clothes and be examined by other doctors, in order to get help. Shyly I replied, “Yes”. Outside the doctor’s office there were people who knew me, and I realised that they had heard everything spoken inside the office, so I was concerned about it. A few days after, a cousin told me that she had heard rumours that I was actually a “man”. When I heard this, I became really angry. Because of this and the lack of money, I didn’t want to return to the doctor, and I tried to forget it all.
At school I had to wear a skirt. This was a constant nightmare because of the abundant hair on my legs, so I had to shave them constantly. One time I didn’t shave them well, and one of my classmates noticed. Gossip spread quickly all around the school and everyone started to bully me. They saw me as a “weirdo” and made hurtful comments. I felt very embarrassed, it was a very ugly experience and my self-esteem suffered. Furthermore, a beard began to grow on my face. I couldn´t hide my differences so easily anymore, I suffered deeply in silence. Who could I talk about the things that were happening to me? I was frightened and felt a lot of shame.
I had a friend from childhood, we used to spend a lot of time together. She seemed interesting, nice, pretty. My mom, however, didn’t like her and often prevented me of being and spending that much time with her. And then people started to say that we were lesbians. We didn’t care, we just laughed at the gossips.
Our friendship ended the same day of her wedding. Something happened: I saw her brother-in-law taking her to a room to talk. When he came out, he looked at me with a disdainful look that really scared me, then he started talking to his friends and I noticed that everyone turned to look at me, they looked at me with morbidity and mockery. That day I went home bewildered. I thought everything would be fine, but it wouldn’t. As days passed, this became something bigger, now the whole community, men, women and even children, one of my brothers too, everyone saw me with an accusing look. I just couldn’t summon the courage to ask what was going on. It was something horrible, I couldn’t even defend myself because I didn’t know what caused it. I confronted my friend, tried to talk to her and understand what was happening. She denied everything. There was no one I could talk to, nobody I could ask what was going on. No one had the decency of telling me what the community was saying about me, everything was fuzzy. I wanted to die, I wasn’t able to sleep. It was a nightmare for two months.
As days went on, I felt worse. And I was completely alone.
At 18, I started to gain weight, I felt depressed, anxious, I slept a lot. I spent nearly two years doing almost nothing. Due to my weight, my brothers began to mock me.
When I was 20, I moved to another town, along with my parents and a sister, because my dad got ill. After a year, my parents returned to live in the community. But my sister and I decided to stay. She went to high school and I began to study and work. We spent two years like this, and in this period of time I felt very good and found peace. I managed to finish high school. I wondered what else had the life for me.
In that little town, I freed myself from the pressure of both family and community. I began to discover myself. I underwent psychotherapy, where I faced something I only wanted to deny: the sexual abuse I suffered as a child. For the first time in my life I talked about it. It was something terrible, I became depressed at confronting the truth.
Later on, my sister and I decided to enter university. This was another change. Another of my sisters decided to join us and went to live with us. They had always been very close and, when for some reason we discussed, often they agreed on whatever subject was at discussion, and always turn against me. I felt alone again.
Many things were new to me, life in the city was very different from the community, most of young people were “extroverted”, I felt out of place in many ways and situations. I felt I was ignorant. However, there was I: trying, maybe with no direction and unsecure, but trying nonetheless. Even with all the difficulties, I knew that university was an opportunity that never crossed my mind I would take. With all my limitations, my difficulty with communication and economic hardships, I kept going.
It was very difficult for me to expose in front of the class. Speaking in public was tough. When I knew I had to deliver a presentation, days before I felt anxious and fearful. I rarely spoke in class. I met and talked only to a few girls who were introverted like me. However, as they passed the time badmouthing about others, I didn’t found them trustworthy. I still felt alone for long periods. I barely spent time with my sisters.
At that time, to calm the anxiety and loneliness I felt, I started to watch pornography and I began masturbating frequently. I felt this “helped” me to escape from reality for a moment. But after a while, I felt shame and guilt, I also felt that this was hurting my body and spirit. This became a vicious circle that seemed endless.
I started taking swimming lessons. Since the beginning of the lessons the instructor saw me differently from the other girls in the lessons, I felt his disdainful look, this bothered me a lot, and I was sure that he looked at me like this because of my body being different. So I wore a complete swimming suit, tried to ignore him and concentrated on the lessons. I learned to swim, and it helped me to raise my self-esteem and improved my health.
During university I went through a lot of stress, I also neglected my appearance. I was able to travel; those were happy moments in my life. My favourite trip was when I travelled to the coast and saw the sea for the first time, it was an amazing experience.
After finishing university, I met a man. I liked him. We had a couple of dates, but because of my insecurities and low self-esteem, he ended staying away from me. One day we had a date, but he never arrived.
I still felt alone. I really wanted to have a partner and receive affection and love, so one day I decided to go out on a “blind date” with a friend of my sister’s boyfriend. So the four of us met and went to a bar. That night I drank too much alcohol, until I lost consciousness, I just remembered a few things when I woke up. The next day, I was aware of what had happened to me, this man abused sexually of me while I was unconscious. I felt horrible, I sought psychological help and I could quickly overcome this experience.
It came the time to do my professional practices. With my fears and insecurities, I travelled to another city and state, to work at a tourist park. There I was very well treated. I met a young woman from Mexico City, she was an outgoing and friendly person, and she caught my attention immediately, we began to hang out, because we lived together in the same house. She listened to me and treated me kindly. I was attracted to her, and although she had a partner (her partner lived in another city), we began a relationship with no commitments. She treated me fine, she “accepted” me as I was and moreover I finally found someone who didn´t criticize me or my body, so she quickly became special. As time went by, the relationship predictably began to fail. I believed that in the time we spent together, I had lived both the “happiest and unhappiest” moments of my life. It was with her that I had intimacy with someone for the first time. During sex, I realised that my genitals were different from hers. My clitoris was much bigger than average. That made me feel insecure, but she “accepted” me as I was. So at first my self-esteem increased, but then it crashed down. Apart from her having a partner, she was promiscuous, and I began to be jealous about her behaviour. The relationship became somewhat sickish, but I stayed because she was the first person who treated me as someone “normal”. So, after three months I ended the relationship and stepped away from her. I felt stronger and weaker than ever. After all this years, for the first time I had felt alive and “normal”, but my emotions were out of control. I felt that I loved her, but I also felt I hated her. There was so much confusion and pain.
One day, tired of my appearance, tired of not being “woman enough” or “man enough”, tired of always being trying to be something I was not, I cut my hair. At that time, I had it very long, so I decided to cut it very short. I did it on an impulse. In doing so, something changed: I looked younger and I looked better with short hair, I was more relaxed, even I started to accept that I liked women, though I didn´t completely identified myself as a lesbian. Even now, I don’t feel like a lesbian, because never my appearance nor my gender identity have been a 100% female or male. At that moment, I tried to reaffirm my sexual preference for women but, because of the education I received in my family (one heavily influenced by the Catholic religion), sometimes I felt dirty and perverted, but that feeling disappeared over time.
With this change in my look, I gained confidence. Some girls started to approach me, but I was unsure about starting over a relationship. I was still hurt about the last relationship. Somehow I closed myself to the possibility of any relationship, so I focused in work. Then I started to get sick. I was tired all the time, my body and my head ached.
After a while, I resolved to major in something else, but my economy wasn’t the best and my health got worse. University was already causing me a lot of stress, so I dropped out.
I decided to work in a different state, and so I moved. I worked for a while in a tourist park, only during the high season, when there were many visitors. But eventually I moved back again with my sisters.
I became deeply depressed for about four months. The sense of loneliness was greater, I had no money and, to make it worst, I still felt sick. Although I had consulted many doctors and I received different diagnostics, the prescriptions I got didn’t work. The worse came when doctors ended up asking me inappropriate things because of their prejudices about my appearance, such as: “What is your sexual preference?”, “When will you decide on your gender?” “Why you don’t take female hormones or go to an endocrinologist?”. As a result of these situations, all I wanted was to DIE!
To distract myself and try to resume my life, I began to volunteer on issues related to ecology, and also got a job, so for a while, even though not everything was fine in my life, I felt a relative stability.
At that time, I started dating a girl I liked and we had a great time together. However, she often didn’t arrive to our dates and stood me up, so this depressed me again and increased the feeling of loneliness, which had been a constant during most of my life.
I decided to move again and I got a job in the same tourist park where I had worked before. I still didn’t feel my health was the best, but I needed to keep busy. I started working by mid-2015, and while it was a job already familiar to me, it still caused me a lot of anxiety and fear, possibly due to discrimination and bullying which often I am an object because of my androgynous appearance. This has happened every time I start a job, studies or, in general, something new. Unfortunately, the extremely hot climate of that place and the anxiety and depression I was suffering worsened my health. I felt tired all day long, and often had fever.
In the park I met new people. Again, it became a source of anxiety and insecurity, because it is common that people inquire me about my physical differences. And they did. But I realised that sometimes it is mere curiosity, and comments made by them weren’t always malicious. Plus, the park is located in a tourist place where people in general are open to diversity, so I made very good friends there.
I blamed the stress of “being different” for my poor health, for me being depressed, for the anxiety, for the insecurity, for everything. Again, I felt I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t sleep for a long while, I suffered a lot both physically and emotionally, I no longer wanted to live.
I remember that once I had read something about intersex, and suspected I was an intersex person, I was almost completely sure. One day, searching on the internet, I found the web page of Brújula Intersexual, so I began to read the stories of other intersex people. This reassured me, because I didn’t feel alone anymore. I saw myself reflected in many of the intersex people who shared their stories, but still didn’t know someone like me.
My wish was to meet another person like me. As I read all the medical abuses and social problems faced by intersex people, I had also the intention to become an activist, even if it turned out that I wasn’t intersex.
In my despair, one day I sent a message to the Facebook page of Brújula Intersexual. I sent it without any hope of response, but to my surprise, the administrator of the page answered me back, and gave me information and support. She shared with me part of her own story. I started talking on the phone with her, I told her about my experiences, and about my different body and its peculiarities. I told her about a medical exam I had performed long ago, in which my testosterone levels were very high. I also told her about my genitals differences, and so. She told me that I was an intersex person and that there was nothing wrong with me. I was happy to confirm that I was intersex, but also a part of me felt sad because I still wanted to be “normal”. Even now, it’s a little hard for me to acknowledge that I’m intersex, as my physical differences have brought me nothing but problems and discrimination in my life.
Now that I’ve met more intersex people, I no longer feel alone. I’ve finally found people who get me. I don’t have to explain anymore about myself, we just share our anecdotes, traumas, stories, and so on.
This is the first part of my story, I’ll write the second part soon, about how my life took a complete turnaround since I met others like me, because now I share my life with a partner who loves me, respects me, and is intersex like me.