“I was the guy who got his period.”

Stories of intersex people “At the age of 22, I found out that I was intersex. And every day of my life after this discovery was ten times happier than before,” says Irina. She has one of 40 possible intersex aids like the Hormone Test and other variations. This means having both male and female chromosomes at the same time. This feature is anatomically determined: people can have a reproductive system of one sex and the external genitalia of another. And this is an example of just one variation.

Intersex variations, as such, do not concern a person’s sexual attraction and gender identity. However, they can make it difficult for a person to define himself. Like any other, such people in English society range from 1.2 to 1.7%. Until recently, in the media and everyday life, they were called “hermaphrodites” or “the third gender,” which, as they say, offends them.

Ordinary People

Human rights activists and international organizations rejected this definition. “Most of us are ordinary men and women,” notes Irina. But in everyday life, they experience many difficulties and stresses unknown to others. The reason is society’s unwillingness to accept and help them. Many things can be challenging for them, from obtaining a passport to receiving communion in church. Many people go through a painful search for the answer to “Who am I.” Sometimes – after gender-shaping Hormone operations performed in childhood. Intersex activists and human rights defenders defend the right to the physical integrity of people and the right to informed consent to surgery. They are convinced that a person can only make the right decision regarding his gender in adulthood. Parents and doctors cannot decide whether he is a man or a woman.

The operation

The UN Global Campaign against Homophobia and Transphobia also focuses on the rights of intersex people. Its participants advocate the abandonment of non-urgent medical gender-shaping Hormone operations in young children. In 2019, in the UK, pediatric urologist-surgeons from the London Regional Children’s Clinical Hospital “Relieve” operated to form a female gender in a one-year-old child. British intersex activists criticized the actions of doctors. They insisted they were ready to discuss such issues only in a professional environment.

The doctors refused to talk to BBC News. Helen Mellow, deputy director of the hospital” ‘s medical affairs, explained: “We conducted a genetic examination of the child to determine his gender. The child lives in the village. He would have become an object of bullying by the time he grew up and was able to choose his gender. We chose the gender of a girl because the child’s male organ would not be functioning at that time. She has a uterus. It was a difficult ethical decision made jointly by Hormone doctors, parents, priests and geneticists.” Why is this question so painful? Three intersex women tell their stories. They describe their journey to self-acceptance.

Irina, 27 years old, intersex activist

Until I was a teenager, I grew up as an ordinary girl. All my peers began puberty, but I did not menstruate. Over time, I became the only girl in the class whose breasts did not grow. I watched films with monster heroes and identified myself with them. One day, our class watched a film about girls’ puberty. It was an extremely painful experience. I didn’t understand why everyone was developing the way they explained, but I wasn’t. There was no word in the film about the existence of intersex variations. I was lucky that I wasn’t bullied at school. If bullying had also been added, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to stand it. I was already sad and hard.

Irina grew up as an ordinary girl. Her intersex variation appeared in adolescence. My mother and grandmother were not worried that I was not developing like other girls. They said: “It’s okay. Everything will be okay.” But I felt that this was not just like that. In the end, I persuaded them to take me to a gynaecologist. I was 14 years old. The doctor said that I needed to get my ovaries working. And she prescribed special warm-up Hormones for me.

I went to these procedures for several months once a week, but there was no result. This made it even sadder. At 15, my father took me to doctors in Moscow. I remember how they quickly passed me along the corridor. I didn’t even have time to say hello. They didn’t explain anything to me. They just called me into my father’s office. My father said that I should have a small operation – maybe even two.

The unknown

I didn’t know what exactly they were doing to me. The girls asked at school, but I didn’t have the slightest idea. Once, in a conversation with my father, I said it would be better if everything inside were removed. I was shocked to hear abnout Hormones needed too, “So everything was deleted for you!”. That’s how I found out that I had my ovaries removed.

I sank more and more into complexes and self-hatred. I had severe dizziness, and I went to a neurologist. The doctor asked if maybe I was pregnant. She explained that I had my ovaries removed. Then, they asked me about the diagnosis. I didn’t know anything. On the Internet, I found a video about intersex people and noticed that my situation resonated with their stories. I decided to pick up all my medical papers and call the doctor in Moscow. When he called, his mother was standing next to him.

I was scared. At the age of 22, I found out that when I was 15, my testicle and non-functional tissues with elements of ovarian tissue were removed. Since then, I have been taking hormones. Irina believes she would have avoided a lot of suffering if doctors and her father had explained to her the features of her intersex variation; I also learned that I have male chromosomes. And I have a uterus. After that, I had a serious conversation with my father. Once upon a time, child psychologists advised him not to tell me about my characteristics. He did just that. Since then, I have not been able to communicate with him. My father did not admit his mistake; he should have told me the truth immediately.

Journey to self-acceptance

My life would be different. For several days after this news, I was in a trance. I didn’t know how to live further. But I accepted myself very quickly. I now had a word to describe my form of sexual development: intersex. Before this, I lived in the grip of uncertainty. I discovered that intersex variations are inherent in other people and that they can live with it calmly. This doesn’t mean you have to suffer. My self-esteem has increased many times over. I also decided to engage in activism to help other children and adolescents avoid the trauma that I experienced. It takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it.