English translation: Zoraida A.
*Testimony shared by Anaid IS in ILGALAC 2017 in Guatemala City, on November 17, 2017.
My name is Anaid IS, I’m the coordinator of Brújula Intersexual Colombia
I was born on October 1990 in a small town in Colombia, where health, economic and social conditions were precarious. For that reason I was born in my parents’ house, my mother was assisted during my childbirth by my paternal grandmother. In those moments of happiness parents want to know if their baby is a girl or a boy. In my case, when my family received me, they were very confused because of my ambiguous genitalia.
Days later, my parents looked for some assistance in the town’s medical center, but no one was trained to help in those cases, so I stayed for months without a birth registration.
When I was three years old, my parents moved to Bogotá, where they went to the Hospital de la Misericordia, which specialize in pediatric care. I was attend by a multidisciplinary group, which after several tests and genetic studies, decided I have to undergo corrective surgery on my genitals to become me into a “girl”. Today it hurts me that this had happened; they violated my right to decide and mutilated my genitals just because they did not fit into that binary infused by society.
Two years ago, I filled myself with courage, and asked my mother why she had allowed the surgery. She told me that they were very afraid, they wanted the best for me and they did not want society to reject me, that day I understood ignorance still exists, in both Medical institutions and society, with respect to intersexuality, it would be easier if there weren’t that much taboo and rejection about the non-typical.
The first years of life, I was the happiest person in the world. I lived in a quiet place, surrounded by lots of nature and animals, I was busy inventing mischief with my younger sister and my cousins all day. I loved being next to my father helping in the activities he did, I had more strength than any girl of my age and I liked to show off it, I was a very outgoing girl.
Everything changed when one of my classmates found out about my condition when I was 10 years old. He told this to all his classmates, they made fun of me, because I was different. Those jokes led me to become an introverted, lonely and quiet person. They told me ugly things, but there was a word that marked me negatively for a long time, they called me “double sex”. I cried in places where nobody could see me, but I never told my parents because I did not want to bring problems to my home.
My life as a teenager was very complicated, because I saw how my friends and my classmates were becoming women, while my body was just getting more and more masculine every day, more hairy, my voice became deeper, and my breast didn’t develop. I suffered in silence when my friends talked about boyfriends, menstruation and menstrual cramps. They used to ask me about those experiences and I just laughed and change the conversation.
While in my childhood I felt a lack of affection due all the attention had been always for my younger sister who born premature at 7 months of gestation. I do not remember my mother saying that she loved me or that at some point she hugged me strong, this situation made me not trust on her, I felt lonely.
At home they never told me anything about my condition, the little I knew was that at three years old I had undergone a surgery to correct something in my genitals and that I should take a medication for life so that don’t give me headache.
My parents never spoke about this issue with me, nor that I was born with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). I knew something had happened with me because I heard them talking about me. It’s difficult to grow up not knowing who you really are. It is difficult to understand that your parents do not trust you and do not tell you the truth. It is difficult to grow believing that you are a monster because you are different. It is difficult to grow and not receive enough love from your parents to face the world.
On one occasion, my mother took me to a doctor’s appointment, he told her about my condition and, I am sorry for the expression but that guy looked at me as if I was a freak. He looked at me with contempt, I felt very bad because he said that I was an “Hermaphrodite”, in that moment that word was very strong for me. It made me feel very bad, I just wanted to run way from that doctor’s office.
I continued finding out about my condition, and at 18 I decided to ask for an appointment with an endocrinologist, where I found out that I was born with CAH and genetically I was 46XX. In several tests I had high levels of testosterone compared with those of a “typical” woman of my age. I went back to take medications (I had left the medication 10 years ago by my own decision without knowing the consequences) because I always felt like a woman, and knew that these medication would help me to develop some female characteristics. That decision made me feel good.
I decided to go with an obstetrician/gynecologist, to find out why I never had a menstrual period, completely unaware of what the CAH consisted of. I remember that first appointment, there were several medical students, I was lying on an examination table in an open dressing gown, I remember they wanted to see me, I felt bad because I was not comfortable with all those eyes looking at me. After several echography I found out that I had normal ovaries and a “child’s uterus”. This information made me feel good, because at some point I had come to think that I was born without ovaries.
I had grown up wanting to hide a truth, making my family believe that I was the girl they had always dreamed of, religious and with principles, but it turns out that this girl liked other girls. The first time I fell in love I was 11 years old and it was not exactly with man but a girl. However, I kept quiet about my sexual orientation because I knew that for society, and especially for my family, that was totally wrong.
Two years ago, I accepted myself as a lesbian, now I feel much better, months ago I told my mother, her words were few but she let me know that she accepted me, she told me that she had suspected it for a long time. Little by little I have been letting other people know my secret and they have taken it in a good way.
More than a year ago, I found myself alone at home for a couple of weeks. I meditated every day and I asked God why he created me with CAH. I cried without understanding anything, I thought I was the only one in this world with that condition, in this moment of meditation I felt the desire to kneel down and forgive absolutely all the people I felt had hurt me. I cried without stopping, tired and exhausted I lay down feeling in peace and harmony.
One night I took my computer and looked for the word CAH and read several web sites. For the first time in my life, I understood that my condition was one of different types of intersexuality. Finding this word helped to be more specific in my research on the internet. I was very surprised to find several support groups, I realized that I was not alone that there were many people with the same condition, a great impulse motivated me to write an email to one of the groups and I immediately met wonderful people with different stories.
Now days I have healed wounds, and every time I remember a negative event in my life, I know that in some way it help me to grow as a person and to be stronger. It maybe is not the right way, but life teaches you to overcome any obstacle, to put your forehead in high and feel as important as any other person. I can say that I was reborn, I have achieved goals that I never imagine possible I know that I will reach far as much as I dream.
Now I just laugh about the things that happen to me, for example in medical routine appointments, questions like “when was the last time you had your period?” years ago I made up a date to get by, but now I answer that I never had a period, and when they ask me surprised “why?” I answer, “I was born with one of the different intersex variations.”
I want to thank this morning to someone in particular, Laura Inter from Brújula Intersexual, for her great support, she was important in my acceptance process, it was because of her that I learned that we are not wrong, it is society that must open their minds and accept the people like us.
In December 2016, together with Laura Inter, we created the Brújula Intersexual Colombia, a Facebook page. It has been very satisfying to work on it and publish important content for the community. The internet allowed many of us to open doors and really discover who we are, probably there are many people who are intersex and don’t even know it. With each post that is published we want to reach more and more people, make them feel that they have our support. We are a big family and as people we are as important as any other person in society.
In Colombia, since the first T-477 ruling, issued by the 1995 constitutional court and subsequent judgments, there have been some advances in favor of our rights, however, there are still cases of not consented surgeries in children, and in some cases it has been given the right to let the doctors avoid the rights of the minors. The efforts must be greater and not only of the intersex community but of the governments and the society.
As an intersex person who underwent surgery in childhood, I say no to “normalizing” surgeries, please allow children to grow up to know the stories of other intersex people, interact with them and decide.