Do I regret being born intersex?

Irene

Irene, human library event in Moscow


Sometimes people ask me, do I regret that I was born intersex?
And the answer is no, I don’t regret the fact that I was born intersex!
I never have, even for a split second. I’m happy to be an intersex person!

People are usually surprised when they hear that answer. Most people don’t even know that intersex people exist, and those who do often see intersex variations as something horrible, something like a disease. This is why they ask such questions. But being intersex is actually a completely ordinary thing.

Personally, I don’t know a single intersex person who doesn’t accept themselves. Of course, we all have different stories, and people might be in different places of their journey, but I’ve never met a person who 100% regrets being born intersex. A big part in self-acceptance is played by our intersex community – when you meet other intersex people who share similar life experiences with you, overtime you learn to accept yourself and your body. Of course, everyone can have their problems, for example, lives of trans people in Russia and Ukraine who can’t legally transition and change their gender marker because they’re also intersex would’ve been easier if they would’ve been born dyadic, non-intersex – but this is not about being born intersex, this is about medical communities in our countries not respecting self-determination of people and not allowing intersex people to get access to hormones they need and to change their gender marker.

Most intersex people I know don’t regret being born with an intersex variation – but a vast percent of us regrets the unconsented unnecessary surgeries and other interventions we received without our consent, regrets lies and secrecy, which were imposed on many of us for years.

Many still feel the pain caused by the things that happened to us (surgeries, secrecy, lies), but because we have our community it gets better overtime. We live normal, full and happy lives. And in the future, when we will stop the mutilating “normalizing” surgeries and other intersex human rights violations and society will accept us – I know that one day it will happen – people won’t even think of feeling sorry for someone simply because they’re born intersex.

I’m proud to be intersex. I’m not ashamed of it and I don’t regret it – because there’s nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to regret in the first place!

Each day I accept my body more and more. I have the best community, our amazing intersex community.

People react to me being intersex in different ways – sometimes negatively, most often positively, sometimes too positively, in an obsessive way – people beg to show them my photos, start analyzing my appearance and comment on it, comment what is masculine and what is feminine in my appearance…

But the only reaction that gets to me and makes me angry is when people react with pity. “Oh, you poor thing, what a pity, what a hard life you’re living!” Just no.
Of course, our actions as intersex activists and the way we present ourselves plays a key role in how people will perceive us. I’m personally always trying to be honest by mentioning all the shame and issues with self-esteem I gained over the years, but also clarifying that they were caused not by me being born intersex, but by the secrecy imposed on me and by the notion that I need to be “fixed”. Those things are the problem, not being born a certain way.

Also in Russia we always have to be careful about publicly associating intersex with LGBT – in a country where most people don’t even understand the difference between letters in LGBT and hate all of those communities equally, there is a high chance people won’t understand the difference between intersex and LGBT and the hatred towards LGBT will come onto our community as well.

Being born intersex is the norm, there are too many of us to view us as some kind of rare individual cases – there are more than a hundred million of intersex people in the world. We always were here and we always will be. As intersex activist Pidgeon put in the famous “What It’s Like to Be Intersex” video, there probably even have been intersex dinosaurs.

There is no “eternal truth” that would tell us how to treat intersex babies. We as people have to decide that on our own. And the logical thing here is to listen to intersex people themselves, learn how they want to be treated, as well as consider the facts: there is not a single research that proves the harm of growing up with a different body, not a single research that proves the benefit of the mutilating “normalizing” surgeries on intersex babies. But there are dozens, hundreds of intersex people who openly speak up about how much pain and suffering such mutilating interventions have caused them. How many lives were broken by secrecy and lies.

When a person knows the truth about themselves, knows that they’re not alone, it will definitely be so much easier for that person to accept themselves.

Intersex people are the main experts on the topic of intersex. Us, not doctors. We have the lived experience, we know how we want to be treated.

When doctors on Russian TV in 2017 are saying “yes, those children need to be operated on, everyone agrees on that, I have never heard a different opinion about it” I do feel defeated for a moment. But only for a moment.

Of course, there is still a long road ahead of us, especially in Russia. While in the US some surgeons are actually speaking out against intersex genital mutilation, the Russian Ministry of Health in 2017 is posting an article on their website that paints IGM in a good way, as a progressive, groundbreaking surgery. But they will have to reckon with us.

All doctors are supposed to “do no harm”. It’s time to understand that the current medical standards of treating intersex people do harm us. As intersex activist Kitty Anderson often says, in 2017 you can’t base your actions on the outdated views from the 1950s.

Intersex is not a medical problem, it is a human rights problem. UN, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and many other human rights organizations are on our side.

It’s time to respect the fundamental human right to decide what to do with your own body.

It’s time to give us rights to our bodies back, as Ellie put in the “Come Join Us! Intersex Youth in Europe” video.

26 October marks the annual Intersex Awareness Day. With each year there are more and more things happening on that day, events happening, articles and videos being published, more and more media coverage about existence of intersex people and intersex human rights violations.

With each year our community gets bigger and bigger. You can’t stop us now.
The time has come to respect the rights of intersex people.

Irene, Intersex Russia

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Translated from Russian language. Originally posted on Intersex Awareness Day, 26 October 2017.