From Santiago de Chile to Washington D.C.

I was born on 1978 in Santiago de Chile. My mother told me that she didn´t know what was happening. My metabolism was unstable for a long time, so I spent a lot of time hospitalized. After several tests, I was diagnosed with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) in its salt-wasting form. I also born with what doctors call “ambiguous genitalia”. According to my medical records I had hypospadias, with a larger than “normal” phallus/clitoris, and a fused labia that resembled testicles. No one told me about this, I had to find out by myself when I asked for my medical records in the hospital. Also, I was surprise to discover that I was registered first as a male. Two months later my assignment was changed to female when they discovered I have XX chromosomes and, therefore, typical female internal reproductive organs. I had genital differences because I have higher levels of testosterone than a typical female.

When I was 2 months old, doctors decided to reduce the size of my phallus/clitoris because it was considered very large for a woman, and this was the beginning of a long process of forced feminization, which I can sum up in two words: rape and torture.

At the age of 9 I underwent a second surgery, which consisted in creating a neovagina whose sole purpose was to create a conduit that could be penetrated. To ensure that the conduit didn´t close, I was subjected to the constant insertion of dilators, which was extremely painful for me. I have no words to describe the humiliation I had to live day after day, I felt oppressed, raped, sad and full of pain. My mother was the main witness of these feelings.

At the age of 11, the last and most painful intervention took place, which consisted of the reconstruction of a duct to urinate, not because I didn´t have one, but because the doctors wanted to be sure that the girl they were creating should pee sitting down. This intervention ended up destroying my life, it´s impossible to describe the pain I suffered. The most terrible thing is that none of the above interventions were necessary to protect my health or my life. They were just “cosmetic” surgeries to make my body fit the medical standards that define normality. There were numerous efforts to erase all traces of my bodily diversity.

In addition, during my school days before adolescence, I was treat with medication to prevent my body from taking its intended features. The idea was to feminize it. But my body resisted. Despite everything they did to me, it was still different from the bodies of my female classmates. I didn´t have a single female feature in me: I had broad shoulders, my hips did not widen, my beard grew. I suffered bullying because of this.

I also went to psychologists who tried to force my behaviors, considered masculine, to adjust to behaviors considered feminine. For many years, I had to pretend and adapt my behavior to what the psychologists expected of me. This situation made me feel sad and very insecure in all my decisions. I spent much of my life sad, and in pain because of the surgeries. I was very insecure of myself. Even though I studied for a university degree, I never felt satisfied with anything in my life, nothing caught my attention. I always had doubts about whether I could ever have an almost “normal” sex life. The worst thing was that my mother never wanted to talk about when I was born, about what happened in the first part of my life, carried away by doctor´s decisions.
For a long time, my life was a long walk without finding the answers to the things that happened to me. To this day, these experiences have left deep scars, both physical and emotional. Every day I work so these experiences don’t hurt me so much.

When I turned 35, I decided that I was tired of spending my life forced into an identity that didn´t correspond to me, so I decided to look for answers. I found information about intersex and, at that moment, I started a change. I found an endocrinologist who worked with people like me, he stopped me from taking the drugs that prevented my body from taking its natural form, and I began my change to be the man I always felt myself to be.

Four years ago, I met Laura Inter, who coordinates the Mexican project Brújula Intersexual. It was the first time I spoke with someone like me. I had been searching for answers about everything I had live for a long time, and I finally got a chance to talk to someone who really understood me. She also introduced me to other intersex people from all over the world and for the first time I was able to speak freely about what was happening to me.

On February 2016, Laura Inter and Mar Is (who is also a Mexican intersex person) visited me in Santiago de Chile and we shared experiences. I even showed them the hospital where I spent much of my life hospitalized due to surgeries and other “treatments”. For the first time, I didn´t feel alone and I realized that there are many people like me. People that have been through similar experiences. I felt happy, in good company and I realized that my lonely days were over. Along with Laura Inter we started the project Brújula Intersexual Chile, a Facebook page where we share information specific to the Chilean intersex community.

Since this moment, a change in my life began. Later, in March 2017, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC, USA. It was the first time I traveled to a country so far away, but being with my friends Laura Inter and Mar Is gave me enough support to go. We traveled to the headquarters of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). For the first time in my life, I told my personal story to the world at the public hearing on the “Human Rights Situation of Intersex Persons in the Americas”. I was nervous but happy because I knew that my story could help many people like me. I also had the opportunity to meet the intersex activists Natasha Jimenez from Costa Rica, and Kimberly Zieselman and Betsy Driver from USA. It was a beautiful experience, I felt so welcomed and respected.

Betsy Driver gave us a tour of the city, to Laura, Mar and I, and I had the opportunity to feel free, to share with people who understand me like no other.

Four years ago, I started the process to recover my own identity. It has been a long road where the word PATIENCE is the one I remember the most every day. I have learned to wait, and I know I have a long way to go.

In conclusion, I can say that I am happy to share my story with the Intersex Day project, and so contribute to the growing number of people who are raising our voices to say “Stop unnecessary surgeries! Intersex people are happy with the bodies we were born with. We don´t need to be fixed.

– Ale.