As every parent knows, parenting is filled with twist and turns, ups and downs. Parenting, in my experience, fits into the definition of Murphy’s Law. If it can go wrong, it likely will, at some point. In that sense, I think we all strive to parent with an outside of the box approach.
In our case, there is no other way to parent but step outside of the box.
Our youngest turned our world upside down and inside out. When you learn your child is Intersex, there are so many questions from every angle, and you don’t always know the questions that need to be asked.
First, what is Intersex?
“Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.”
Okay, that sums it up. All clear now, right? Not so much, not for the new parent of an Intersex child who at first can only fumble clumsily through terms they don’t understand.
PAIS is the Intersex Condition Our Sweetheart Has
What in the world is (PAIS)Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome? PAIS is the partial inability of the cell to respond to androgens. What does that mean? Let me paint a picture in the way I understand it. I have a bottle of water and want to take a drink. But I can’t because the lid is on. I have plenty of water, but I can’t drink any of it. In the case of PAIS, the testosterone is there, but can’t be processed to stimulate the formation of male characteristics, or secondary puberty traits.
Mind You, This is One of Many Intersex Conditions
As this was a bit difficult to write in a way that could be understood and clear, how the hell does a parent explain it to a child? I can only share with you WHY and HOW we chose to approach sharing this with our child. This is not the golden standard or the Bible of Intersex conversations.
It is just what we chose to do.
We never want her ever to feel ashamed of who she is. Over the last several years, I’ve read many testimonials from intersex individuals, and a consistent theme was their parents hid their conditions like a dirty, shameful secret. The physiological damage from hiding something so intimately related to the anatomy is ludicrous.
This is why we chose to be upfront and have difficult discussions.
We have frequent conversations and explain to her about her anatomy, the surgeries, and discuss how she feels. Each conversation is different, based on her cognitive level of understanding. At age 4, our discussions were much different than at 8, and at 12 they will continue to evolve. One thing we don’t do is make it a dismal, dark or a scary conversation. We approach it with love and science. (Because science works!)
There are many questions she is going to have as she matures, and we don’t have all the answers today, but together we will work through them. What about when she asks about relationships? Let us also consider the questions she will have about sex. Yeah, this is something we have to anticipate. The hard shit has not happened yet, the real deal will surface soon enough.
The Perceptions of Intersex in Our Society
One thing a parent of an intersex child has to recognize is society’s perception of Intersex is non-existent or skewed. There is either no understanding, like us when she was born. The other perception is she that Intersex is transgender.
I want to discuss this for a moment. Can an Intersex person be transgender? Sure, in some cases, based on their personal decisions. Are Intersex children Transgender? I don’t think my sweetheart is; I think she is a child and embraces just being a Homosapien.
Having PAIS does not place her in a blanket term of transgender. She is biologically different and, at 8, is just a child.
On the other hand, there are many children who are transgendered. These parents are experiencing some of the same feelings we do. It is not an easy concept to digest when the only thing society teaches us is that boys are blue and girls are pink.
Transgender is is a term used to refer to people who do not believe they are the gender they were assigned at birth and take medical steps to change their body to match the gender they believe they truly are. Intersex individuals are people who were born with features that do not fit clearly into the standard male/female binary. There are a variety of different medical conditions that are considered as intersex conditions.
Hermaphrodite is a difficult term because it refers to one of many conditions that can be categorized as intersex. Treating all intersex people as hermaphrodites is clinically problematic. Many Intersex individuals find this term offensive.
Nothing in life is cut and dry, and it is our duty to each other to at least try to see the uniqueness of all people. No one wants to be placed in a box and sorted out like Lego blocks based on shape and color.
One scenario we were never prepared for was the current issue with bathroom laws in the United States. Today, people are worried about protecting their children from my daughter. Seriously? She is not a threat, but the fact is, some parents have this perception that any male dressing as a woman can now walk into a female bathroom to gawk at the spectacle of children peeing sitting down makes my face red with anger.
<p”>Some people need to get their heads outta their asses. My child has an (M) on her birth certificate, but at 8 has no predatory desire to look at another person with perverted thoughts. Now, because of this delusional perception, if my county, like the one next door, bans her from using the female bathroom, we are going to have a huge issue. She will be forced to use the boy’s bathroom, and every child in her school will know she is different with no understanding of why.
As a parent, this is beyond a nightmare; this is painful to the core.
Our Baby is Intersex, Nothing Less, and Nothing More
She is a human, a person, an individual, a wonderful gift in our world. We can protect her, but can you? Life is not black and white, pink or blue. Life is eclectic and full of beauty. My beautiful intersex child is simply amazing.
As parents, we do all we can do to protect our children with our mamma claws exposed. Each new school year, we have to check a box. Boy or Girl? I can’t check that box. She is who she is, with an (M) on her birth certificate. This is why we parent outside the box.
We are always aware of the world’s perception, and the harm that ignorance can bring. Complicated? Just a bit. Even still, she is just a child that chases butterflies, enjoys an easy bake oven, dances, sings, loves pizza, kisses us goodnight, and dreams big.
Is she any different than any other child? NO, she just does not fit the binary norms taught in 6th-grade sex-ed.
Outside the box, that is our only option.
Read another post by Tiescha: 72 Hours of Pain, Suffering, & Joy: Caleb’s Birth Story