Out of the shadows
I knew as a kid I was different and I had this perception it wasn’t in a good way. When I was 12, I found out the name of what made me different. My parents told me I had 17 beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency. What the fuck is that? As a 12-year-old I was like—what the fuck? My parents told me this was extremely rare and almost no one has it. So essentially, in my head, I was alone. I was also told to keep this a secret and not tell anyone. Not with my friends, or my siblings. I remember rehearsing lies I should say if anyone asked a nosy question. I just put this complex ball of words into a corner and tried to forget about it. But then, mid last year, I got lost in the Youtube maze and stumbled on this video by Emily Quinn, an amazing queer activist—she has a whole Youtube channel dedicated to her weird and unusual challenges and experiences; and I was like, hey, I’ve had these weird and unusual experiences too! And that was the first time I connected the dots and found out that I was intersex, and I learnt that 17 beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency is actually one of over 40 intersex variations.
For many I can imagine this would be something difficult to come to terms with and many may find it hard to understand. But for me, it came as a relief—an answer to the question I was too scared and confused to ask. With the help of other intersex activists, like Pidgeon Pagonis, River Gallo, Hanne Gaby Odiele and Hans Lindahl, I learnt that being intersex was something not to be ashamed of, that it was not unnatural or disgusting, and that I should be proud of who I am.
In the queer community, when an individual openly expresses their gender or sexual identity, it is often known as coming out of the closet. For the intersex community, I like to think of it as coming out of the shadows. We exist, and have always existed, and a veil of shame and shadow has been put over us for too long. I believe that it is time that we cast a light on the human violations that are happening in our community. I think society needs to see us and understand and accept that we exist outside of the binaries they have created. I was scared about expressing who I am, worried about the potential bullying, harassment and discrimination I would be making myself vulnerable to. But now that people can see me, and I can see myself, I feel so much more… me. I can honestly say, coming out of the shadows has never felt so good.