Intersex stories: How are life stories compiled by Brújula Intersexual?

Intersex stories: How are life stories compiled by Brújula Intersexual?

By Laura Inter

Traducción: Laura Inter y Free

  • This text is a fragment of a Book that we will publish soon.
[En español]


The life stories of intersex people and their families compiled by Brújula Intersexual were mostly produced through a process of accompaniment and support. The first time I shared my story I went through a similar process. Writing my story for the first time, knowing how to start, and organizing memories that were mixed up, was complicated. Writing was not a natural skill for me, and it was even more difficult to express complex experiences that I had kept quiet for a long time: my past, my life, my traumas, my fears and many situations that I had never been given the opportunity to express openly with anyone.

I met Eva Alcántara in 2014, and from the beginning, I felt a deep connection with her. We talked, and despite not being an intersex person, Eva knew intersex issues very well, and I identified a great sensitivity in her. I felt that she understood me. From that moment, she believed in the project [Brújula Intersexual] that I had founded a year before. She is currently part of the Brújula Intersexual team. From the beginning she has advised and supported me to grow. The accompaniment and listening that she gave me were essential to remember and begin to organize my past. Thanks to those talks, I organized my memories and even recovered several moments of my life that I had completely forgotten. It was difficult for me to write, so Eva supported me with a series of questions that I answered and that gradually shaped my story. When I finished answering the questions, I integrated them into a testimony. When I finished, I felt that my past was finally beginning to have an order. I also felt a weight lifted off my shoulders, a weight that I had carried all my life: the weight of silence and shame. This testimony was published in English under the title «Finding My Compass«, which is the first version of the testimony entitled “Brújula: Mi cuerpo”, which competed for the Raquel Berman Award for women’s resilience against adversity 2019,  winning the 1st place.

Writing helped me understand the origin of some of my present traumas and insecurities. Later, that allowed me to understand and help other people with similar experiences. Thus, writing meant organizing my memories, because before that my past seemed to be made up of random fragments of memories with no real connection to my present. I think that forgiving and letting go does not mean forgetting. For a long time, I tried to forget my past, but what I was doing was avoiding my past, avoiding confronting it by repressing painful memories. I think that by writing I resignified my past, I stopped avoiding it. Now, I relate to it in a healthier way. I let go of many negative feelings that I associated with what I went through. Now, my life experiences, whether good or bad, are tools that help me understand and change my present and my future, as well as to understand and help other people who have gone through similar situations.

The first time I understood the power of testimonies was in 2014, when Eva Alcántara, Guadalupe Chavez and I, with the support of the then Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Distrito Federal (CDHDF), organized the First Intersex Forum in Mexico: “Foro Inter Visibilidad, Visibilidad Intersex”, with the especial participation of Mauro Cabral from Argentina. That was when we thought it would be a good idea to share our life stories. And it was. After the forum, I decided to share my testimony on the Brújula Intersexual Facebook page. I noticed that thanks to that, more people began to reach out. Those who approached me felt identified with my life experiences, especially those that I lived in hospitals. Seeing how writing my testimony had helped me and how reading it had helped other people, I suggested other people to write their own testimonies.

The process for collecting intersex stories is different for each person. Some persons decided to share their story shortly after contacting me and receiving information and support. Others have taken years before deciding to share it. Sometimes it was the persons I accompanied themselves who expressed their intention to write their testimony. This is how I began to replicate, in part, the accompaniment process that I had received to write my story: from generosity, patience, listening and understanding the particularity of the other person. For me, it’s very important to respect everyone’s time, because when so many things have been kept quiet for so long, which is kept quiet is so complex and painful that it is not easy to write and it’s difficult to structure one’s own experience.

Just as life experiences are unique to each person, so is the writing process. There are those who, after thinking about their lives, make the decision and then on impulse write their story in a single day; there are other people who take so long writing, sometimes they take months and even years. There are also those who send me their texts and ask me to make a call or several to delve into their experiences. Other people prefer the process to be through audio messages or phone calls, so that I write and organize the experiences they share with me. Sometimes we started the writing through a series of questions, on other occasions, people shared their stories with me through text messages via WhatsApp or Messenger and then I integrated the information and sent them a draft so they could tell me if they wanted to add or remove something. There are even people who prefer to write their stories in their own handwriting, and then send me photographs so that I can help them transcribe their pieces to publish them.

There are all kinds of experiences, some are extremely painful, there are others that people tell me but prefer not to include in their stories. There are also stories that are written, and they decide not to share. There are experiences of joy, of overcoming, of falling, of getting up, of love and heartbreak, of failures and achievements, of happiness and sadness. I assume that we are like any human being, unlike what is believed by other people who project their doubts into our bodies, making us experience very particular situations, generally complicated and painful.

Thus, expressing one’s own story can take days, months or years. Some people require close accompaniment while they write their experiences, others prefer it to be a more individual and solitary process. It´s normal that narrating complex and painful experiences arouse feelings of anxiety, loneliness or depression, and it´s necessary to have someone with whom you can talk about all those feelings that arise. When requested, I always try to be there to listen and support before, during and after this process. However, it’s common that the workload overwhelms me, so sometimes I fear that I have not been able to give everyone the time they need and deserve. In addition, if is required, I can contact them with a more professional psychological help. Fortunately, we have the support of some specialist psychologists who can provide them with care, although I admit that we have not always been able to meet all requests for support, as we need more allies who can provide dignified and informed psychological care.

It is important to mention that the care that intersex people need is very specialized, psychologists must have gender studies and in-depth knowledge about intersex. At the same time, intersex people generally go through a very precarious economic situation, since the majority suffer from discrimination, harassment and violence in practically all areas of their lives: school, work, family, etc. Therefore, it is common that they cannot access decent wages and very few people have economic independence. For this reason, most can pay little or nothing for the psychological care they receive, and not all psychologists are willing to charge according to that real economic possibility.

We thank all the intersex people and their families who have shared their life stories with us.

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