Monday, October 31, 2016

"No One Told Me I Was Intersex"

While her friends were shopping for cute bras and debating tampons versus pads, Kimberly Zieselman had yet to start her period. So at 15 years old, her parents insisted on taking her to the doctor. Eventually, a reproductive oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital told her parents that their daughter's uterus and ovaries were only partially formed — and would likely soon become cancerous. The doctors pushed them to consent to a surgery to remove them, essentially a hysterectomy. She spent her 16th birthday that summer recuperating from the operation, but other scars wouldn't heal.
"On some level, I knew I was not being told the whole truth," Kimberly says. "But I was afraid to ask questions. I was the kid who did what I was told, who wanted to please adults and doctors. I sensed something awful was being hidden from me, and I didn't know who I could trust."
It wasn't until 26 years later that she learned the truth: She was intersex. Specifically, Kimberly has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), one of more than 30 different intersex conditions. Externally, she looks typically female, but what the doctors removed, she later discovered, were internal testes. (She never had a uterus or ovaries at all.) These produced testosterone, which her body then converted to estrogen. In Kimberly's case, leaving the testes intact would have allowed her body to self-regulate and age without synthetic hormones.

When she found out, Kimberly was 41 and a married mother of adopted twin girls living in the suburbs. "It was very disorienting," she says. "It took that foundation that your life is built on and pulled it out from under me."
While Kimberly felt her whole world was upended, her husband, Steven, was almost blasé when she told him. "He was like, 'Okay, it doesn't change anything,'" she says. Although she appreciated his understanding, she wanted him to recognize her turmoil. "I was confused and trying to figure out what it really did mean for me to have XY chromosomes."
It meant, essentially, that she's part of the thousands of people born each year with differences in their sex characteristics or differences of sex development (DSD). Usually, these variations occur before birth — in genes, chromosomes, genitals, body hair or reproductive organs. Widely accepted statistics put the number of intersex births at 1 in 1,500, but because there are more than 30 intersex conditions, some estimate it's more than 1 in 150 births.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Meet ‘H’ of St. Paul: She’s 5, she’s transgender, and this is her story

contributed by: Mara Glubka

Dave and Hannah Edwards and their daughter, Hildie, represent how it can be for trans kids. We are BORN. It is no more a choice than sexual orientation. Overwhelmingly, those who study human sexuality confirm this. Yet, we have religious objections based on random adherence to ancient patriarchal writing.
This is childish.
There was a time, not so long ago, when we punished people for being left-handed. This, because of vague references to being at God's right hand. We leftthat nonsense behind. Most people, save a few in the Middle East, no longer stone women for not being virgin brides. Most people eat shrimp and lobster. Most fathers no longer sell their daughters for livestock and most everyone thinks that slavery is wrong.
All of these are issues that we humans have come to be on the right side of despite what's in the Bible. Yet many, if not most, religious leaders cling to black and white rigid thinking about matters of sex and gender in humans. THEY ARE WRONG and they're murdering us in their wrongness and have been doing that for at least a couple thousand years. It's long past time for religious leaders to follow the lead of the vast majority of medical and mental health professionals and let us BE.
By letting us BE who we say that we are, so much suffering can be avoided later in life. There will no longer be family members who feel betrayed and when the wrong puberty is avoided, the physical markers of birth biology that we spend so much time and money to painfully erase or diminish, won't happen. Having lived in a time when I couldn't even talk about it, I know how cruel that forcing us to be other than who we are is.
I honestly would give my life to keep our young from being locked in the same closet that almost everyone from my generation and the generations before were. That can't happen. Not anymore. No more suffering because some old men can't grow up. To say that society will come undone if we accept the normal variations in human sexual orientation and gender identity/expression is ridiculous in the extreme. What will actually happen is that a small minority of fellow human beings will no longer suffer at the hands of rigid and willful ignorance.
And that's a very GOOD thing.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Young & Transgender: Vermont Families on Raising Kids in Transition

The best present "Willow" received on her ninth birthday wasn't a bike or a doll, but a court document in a manila envelope. Inside was a new birth certificate, on which the gender had been officially changed — from male to female. 
"I am one of the first people to ever do this," Willow said a few days later, snuggled up between her parents on a comfortable couch at their rural home in northern Vermont. The state allows individuals to change their birth records if they've completed medical treatment for gender transition, and plenty of trans adults have done so. But because Willow is too young for either hormone therapy or surgery, the judge used different legal logic to come to a decision — after three court dates, and testimony from Willow, her psychologist and her pediatrician.
Her dad "James" explained: "The standard of the law is that you have to have completed treatment. And the argument that we then made ... was that for a child her age, there is no medical treatment, so she has completed the medical treatment ... but it was a complicated process because as far as we could tell there wasn't a precedent ... There could be other children just like her, but those records are sealed."
Although there will be more forms to change, and bureaucratic battles to fight, with this document Willow will be able to get a driver's license and a passport that will reflect her gender identity. She'll be able to travel without being hassled and apply to college as a girl.
As trans adults have moved from the margins of society into the public eye over the past few years, kids have begun to come out in increasing numbers and at younger ages. Although no agencies in Vermont are currently keeping statistics on numbers of trans youth, Dr. Rachel Inker from the Community Health Centers of Burlington's Transgender Clinic explains, "There are certainly more transmen and -women coming forward of all ages as transitioning becomes more acceptable and public."
Because schools and teachers across the state are dealing with more gender-nonconforming kids, the Vermont Agency of Education is currently collaborating with parents, staff from queer youth support and advocacy group Outright Vermont, educators and consultants to create a best practice guide relating to gender identity in school.
Two years ago Melissa Murray, the executive director of Outright Vermont, cofounded a Gender Creative kids social group for gender nonconforming children under the age of 13 and their parents. "Over the last five years or more, we've gotten calls from people asking us to work with youth younger than 13," Murray says. "We're finding more and more that youth ... are knowing their gender identity at earlier and earlier ages."