Life isn’t that simple, however. My Lord has called me to become more transparent. More vulnerable. And that means sharing my own history.
You see, like the main character in my young adult novel, Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite, I have a genetic condition that caused sexual ambiguity and, I was raised, for a time, as a boy.
XY-Turner Syndrome mosaicism resulted in my having a mix of testicular and ovarian tissue. Hermaphrodite is the old medical term for that. It’s not politically correct any longer, but it’s still accurate. In practical terms, what it meant was my puberty came out of a bottle.
My condition also made me tiny and frail as a child. So much so that my parents thought I might not survive. I had mild heart and kidney malformations, visuo-motor and spatio-temporal deficits, dyslexia, micrognathia (a pixie face), and a few other minor issues, like hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, and needing surgery to have vaginal intercourse.
This is Easter, when I was five, with a tea set in my basket. (click for a close-up.) It took courage for my parents to let me move from playing with dolls to living as a girl. At the time, not even intersex kids had many options regarding their gender.
I was the smallest of my peer group until fifth grade, and it wasn’t until high school that one of the boys in my class was shorter than me. I kept right on growing into my early twenties.
I’m nine in this photo. As a preteen, my health improved, and my father decided it was about time I started acting like a boy. No longer were feminine toys, clothes, or mannerisms allowed.
My brother was tall, and strong, and handsome. How bad could that be? But I felt like Pinocchio—if I were good enough, if I tried hard enough, maybe God would make me a real boy. And since I wasn’t, it must mean there was something bad about me. Perhaps it was that I dreamed of being a wife and a mom.
I was never very good—physically or emotionally—at being a boy. By the time I was seventeen, I was anorexic, anti-social, and suicidal. But a Christian boy cared enough about me to befriend me and share the Gospel. As a new Christian, I hoped to become the man my parents expected. Instead, the mask that I had relied on to function socially as a boy crumbled. What remained was an immature girl who wanted to serve her Lord.
At eighteen, I thought getting away from my parents would help. So I moved from a supportive family to a dorm. It didn’t take long for the boys to make clear that I wasn’t one of them. And one proved he could do whatever he wanted to me.
The Lord made it clear that if I didn’t cling to Him, I’d die by my own recklessness. Living meant doing something about my condition, so I went to see a doctor. Most of my life, my mother, who was a nurse, had handled my medical treatment.
The doctor said testosterone and anabolic steroids would give me a male puberty—give me broad shoulders, a deep voice, body hair, muscles, facial hair, and a raging sex drive. But I liked my body the way it was, at least mostly, and after staying with boys in the dorm, I didn’t want to be any more like them.
The doctor thought my two most pressing issues were anorexia and depression. Estrogen would help me gain weight and would take care of at least the hormonal cause of my depression. Then he said I wouldn’t have any trouble being accepted as a girl.
I could have a life that didn’t revolve around gender.
The passport photo was taken shortly after my mom changed my legal status to female, about forty years ago.