I had my best years stolen from me

Fallon Brooks today. Photo provided.

by Fallon Brooks
Guest Submission

In the Spring of 1983, I came into this world like any other kid; head first and screaming. Doctors took one look at my junk, labeled me female, jotted that down on the birth certificate, and carried on.

I was raised female, identified as female, and had no reason to believe I was different from any other girl until I hit puberty. All my girlfriends were getting their periods and growing breasts as early as 11 or 12. By the time I hit high school, my mother knew something was up, but casually waited for me to tell her I had “become a woman.”

By casually I mean she asked me about my period on what seemed like a daily basis. It became a thing in our house; “how was school, did you start your period?”

I started to feel like something was wrong with me and wondered if perhaps I could will it to happen. I carried tampons and pads in my backpack just in case. I was mortified at the thought it was going to happen at the worst moment, yet it never did.

The summer after my 15th birthday, heading into my sophomore year of high school, I was taken to an OBGYN where I was diagnosed with a sexual identity crisis. They prescribed Zoloft, and I was told that wearing some frilly dresses might make me overcome my psychosomatic barrier to menstruating like a “real woman,” and sent on my way.

Thankfully, my mother sought a second opinion, and I was diagnosed with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.

The most basic part of our identity is our sex and gender. Mine was suddenly incongruous. I had surgery to remove my undescended testicles, and I was also told my vagina wasn’t adequate for sexual intercourse and I’d have to have a vaginoplasty.

Looking back, my mother was scared and agreed to have the testes removed because they told her I would likely develop testicular cancer. The truth is, they thought it inappropriate a little girl should have balls, internal or not. 

The problem with having had my testicles removed is this left me unable to regulate my hormones so that I will require HRT for life. I have had hot flashes off and on since then.

In some ways, I’m thankful for the trauma the initial doctor’s visits caused me because it left me completely unable to be complicit in any treatments. I refused to let them touch or examine me until I was 26. 

Yes, I said twenty-six.

At that age, I finally went in for a pelvic exam to determine the extent of my vaginal hypoplasia, since I never had that vaginoplasty which was apparently so necessary. I was surprised to learn that I was “adequate, generous even.”

There I was, an attractive young woman believing I was incapable of a functioning sex life. I hid behind the sex shaming culture of religion and projected myself as an advocate of abstinence until marriage. I hid from my diagnosis because ignorant doctors early on didn't know how to provide me the proper care and treated me like a science experiment.

Up to that point, I had never received any advice on how to cope with my condition and how to live a normal functioning life. In the end, I was left coping not with the condition, but with the damage that poor medical care and advice had caused me.

As it turns out, the things I never knew were that I was born physically female, but genetically male with undescended testicles (asexual gonads containing no gametes), no uterus, no cervix, and a blind-ending vagina. From the outside, everything looks normal and functions as a typical vagina, but I didn’t know that until 26.

I had my best years stolen from me by poor medical advice and a severe lack of support and care. My story, albeit rage inducing, is mild. Intersex infants with more ambiguity in their genital appearance are being assigned sex and gender that is often at odds with their identity later in life by being surgically mutilated under the guise of “normalization.”

To learn more about intersex conditions and what you can do to help stop the genital mutilation of infants, please visit bit.ly/gayly46.

Fallon Brooks as a child. Photo provided.

Copyright The Gayly. 10/26/2018 @ 11:49 a.m. CST.