Monday, 20 June 2005

What the Heck... An Announcement.

I had a good look in the mirror, and it's now time to face the bleedin obvious.

I'm in a situation not unlike that of Schroedinger's Cat. Until the chromosome analysis results are in, neither I nor the doctors are sure exactly what sex(es) I am.

I could either be a mildly intersexed male who's becoming more radically intersexed over time, or I could be a terribly intersexed female so badly intersexed she could and did father a child, but who is becoming less intersexed as time goes by. It's happened before, rarely.

Bear in mind that due to selection against abnormal cells during cell division, intersexed people tend to become less intersexed over time. The amount of extra oestrodiol in my system from berserk adrenals wasn't that high - 192 pMols/Liter - but I had physical effects in two weeks that male-to-female transitioners only get after months, suggesting that at least some of my cells have too many oestrogen receptors to be considered male.

A consultant I saw at the Gender Center in Sydney said that she'd seen this rare phenomenon before in "several other transsexual women".

My bet's a 46xx/46xy/47xxy mosaic, which means my genetic sex will depend on exactly which cell you happen to pick. But if it turns out 46xy (male), I must have some really weird stuff going on in the somatic chromosomes. The same if I'm 46xx (female), since my son is, well, a son. There must be a Y-like structure somewhere.

Most people who are intersexed aren't transsexual (that is, they don't have a body/brain mismatch), only 5-10%, though quite a few consider themselves neither Male nor Female in the conventional sense.

In my head I've always been somewhat Female, but was never fanatical about it. Boy, Girl, both roles I could play equally well, or rather, equally badly. Or so I thought. Being intersexed means you can't quite be wholly either, but you can come close enough for most purposes. Enough to lead a relatively normal life, fall in Love, and find true happiness, even if you're not fully equipped for "normal" male/female sex. For a lucky few, they can even become biological parents (usually with technical help), though this is rare. I lucked out, and Carmel was strong enough to endure the many miscarriages before we finally had Andrew.

I had the body of a Footballer, definitely not a Cheerleader, so male it was for me, despite my brain's wiring (the gender of which is set 4 weeks later in pregnancy than the rest) and a few female body features. It's not as if I was ever attracted in any way to guys, I'm still, well, I can't say homophobic any more, but if I'm female, I'm lesbian. 30 years of testosterone pumped into the system will bend any girl's gender, no matter how straight she might have started.

But "had" a body like a Footballer not a Cheerleader is the operative word, right now, I look about halfway in between, and middle-aged to boot.


Seriously, we're talking a Yuk factor off the scale here. Breasts of a 13 year old girl, an increasingly voluptous hourglass figure, a male ribcage with spread ribs from having them broken playing Rugby and not taped, a 5 O'clock shadow and middle-aged wrinkles, chest and back hair, arms thick enough for a weightlifter.... Ewwwwwwwwww.

Time to face the fact that I'm not a male slightly psychologically screwed up by a very mild degree of intersex, but something else entirely. I've already got enough testosterone in my system so that a lot is excreted, adding more will not change my situation. I already have some chest developments, but more importantly, I have a female skin tone now, and am slowly getting a female body fat distribution, despite oestrodiol levels which have settled down to high-normal for a male. In other ways, from the size and shape of my pelvis and hands, I've always been closer to female norms than male ones. To me, I still look male, but to others.... I've been told that I could pass as either, if I got the face hair removed. As long as I wore baggy clothing to conceal the curves.

It's likely that the change will continue. Unlike transsexuals who are transitioning from male to female, I can't stop the process by aborting hormone therapy, nor like transsexuals transitioning from female to male, reverse it by having my ovaries removed and taking testosterone. I don't have ovaries (yes, that has been checked recently), and the evidence is inconclusive as to whether I've ever had any (just suspicious scars and odd memories, which probably are mere coincidence).

If you think it's bad for me, (it isn't, my brain's device drivers are definitely set up for female peripherals, as I've recently found out), consider my wife and love-of-my-life, Carmel. Her husband was never terribly macho, but now he's turning into a she, or something close to it. And how to explain to Andrew, 4 next month, that Daddy is turning into a Mummy?

And now a political announcement:

I am as God made me. My condition is not man-made. Although dividing all people into categories of "Male" and "Female" is a good first approximation, there are somewhere between 8 and 17 per thousand who are hormonally, chromosomally, or physically intersexed (most of them mildly, often they don't know it). That's not counting the 0.2 per thousand who have another congenital problem, a brain-body gender mismatch. (That's a minimum : those are the ones who present for treatment, there are no reliable estimates about how many have come to terms with it, like I had).

(This post left unpublished until Jan 2007)


Anonymous said...

Hey Zoe,

I feel for ya mate. I love both you and Carmel very much, and you were there for me through some tough times. You are BOTH among my very favourite people. I'm deeply sorry to hear of your relationship troubles.

If biases idiots can't see the person you are, then screw them all! That said, I feel your pain over your appearance.. you've got enough troubles adjusting without a serious yuk factor going on about your own appearance!

Be strong for yourself and your family mate... there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, and it isn't *always* the headlight of an oncoming train. (thats (my role in life :-)). Don't go doing anything stupid ok? like going to a biker bar and bitchslaping the head biker :-)

Anyway, if there's ever ANYTHING me or mine can do for you, get in touch.. you know how to contact me.

Much respect and admiration,
Your old friend Mark

Zoe Brain said...

As it turned out, my figure improved rather more than I thought it would after this post. My face likewise.

I'll never win any beauty contests, but compared with what I looked like in June, I've done quite well. :)