- From the Editors
- (Not) Another Clit Story
- Caught Between: An Essay on Intersexuality
- Doctors Containing Hermaphrodites: The Victorian Legacy
- Finding the Words
- Growing up in the Surgical Maelstrom
- Hermaphrodites with Attitude Take to the Streets
- In Amerika They Call Us Hermaphrodites
- In Process
- Interview with Dr. Arika Aiert
- Is Growing up in Silence Better Than Growing up Different?
- Letter to My Physicians
- Meanings of Gender Variability Constructs of Sex and Gender
- My Beautiful Clitoris
- News Release: American Academy of Pediatrics Position on Intersexuality
- Ode to a Life (Poem)
- Porno Docs
- Power, Orgasm, And the Psychohormonal Research Unit
- Showering "Sans Penis"
- Silence = Death
- Take Charge! A Guide to Home Catheterization
- The Murk Manual: How to Understand Medical Writing on Intersex
- Time for a Change
- What dream? (Poem)
I don’t quite remember when I became aware that I was not quite like other boys. My father never discussed it, never mentioned it, and never asked me how I felt. My mother broke the news to me when I was about eight, but even then I didn’t know that I wasn’t “right,” though I had nothing to compare to. I remember being hauled off to a doctor’s office, where a steel probe was inserted into my meatus (the pee-hole in his penis —Ed.) And I remember the doctor saying something would have to be done. I, of course, had no idea what he meant—but I was soon to find out. My mother explained that I had something called hysposdadias and that I would be going into the hospital for an operation that would make me like other boys. At the time, I couldn’t understand the need for this. After all, I could urinate with no problem.
This was in the late forties. Endocrinology wasn’t yet well established as a medical specialty, chromosomes were just around the corner, and the surgery for hypospadias was, at best, experimental. I awoke from the anesthetic in intense pain that I still remember vividly. An oversized catheter had been inserted to stretch the meatus. For the next two weeks, I fought back the urge to cry—because big boys don’t cry. Then another operation. I awoke; the catheter was gone. After a couple of days, I went home. I thought that it was all over—but it had only just begun. My mother explained that the surgeon didn’t do a good job and now I had to see a specialist, something about a plastic surgeon. My penis by now had a lot of scar tissue (it didn’t used to). I had also missed the start of the school year. When I eventually went to school, I was asked why I was in hospital. I couldn’t, wouldn’t answer. It became my secret.
Over the next three years, I spent about 50% of the time in hospital, many stays. I had a total of sixteen operations, performed by the plastic surgeon. I remember waking up from those procedures, the inevitable catheter—followed by the inevitable bladder infection. I missed a lot of school and had to repeat a year. That usually only happens to academic failures. I didn’t like it, my friends were now in the next grade. Even worse, I was thirteen—the age when boys focus on sex, and like to display their enlarged genitals: locker room stuff. For the first time, I became very aware that my penis was not like theirs. Mine had a gash on the underside, and their penises were obviously larger than mine. Embarrassed, I withdrew from the locker room scene.
But it gets worse. The other kids were now obsessed with masturbation. To my horror, although I could get an erection, I couldn’t masturbate. The surgery had so desensitized the glans that most of the feeling had gone. My artificially constructed urethra now began to develop a stricture (a narrowing —Ed.), necessitating an outpatient visit every three months to have it stretched, causing more pain. This continued until I went to college, at eighteen. My main concern was how to lose my virginity, something that everyone else seemed to have already done. I was very concerned that some female would look at my penis and say, “Oh my God! what happened?” or “I’m out of here.” I did eventually lose my virginity—under conditions of total darkness. I also became aware that my sex drive didn’t seem to be as strong as the other guys. That was probably due to some chromosomal combination that wasn’t right either, but what the hell. I was not even going to investigate that one.
In summary, I wouldn’t wish the “corrective” surgery on anyone. I endured much pain, had my childhood partially destroyed, was deprived of crucial friendships, suffered endless self-doubts concerning my “manhood,” and for what?
To: Derick@domain.net From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Cheryl Chase) Subject: Re: Write for Chrysalis? Cc: Bcc: X-Attachments: Hi Derick, What I would like you to write about is not just about the surgery, but about what it has been like to be intersexed, how you were treated and what it felt like (emotionally, physically), and how you wish you had been treated. best, cheryl From: Derick@domain.net Date: Sat, 3 Aug 1996 14:37:35 -0400 To: email@example.com Subject: My Story Cheryl..... is this what you are looking for?.... if you want it changed, expanded, etc... please let me know..... Regards Derick To: Derick@domain.net Date: 6 Aug 1996 From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Cheryl Chase) Subject: Re: My Story >Cheryl..... is this what you are looking for?.... if you want it >changed, expanded, etc... please let me know..... Thank you! If you could expand somewhat on what your life has been like since then... what you wrote seems to end at about 18. But it is now many years later; how did you fare, how did you connect with your current partner, how has sex been for you, and has your adult life been affected by your sexual difference? Did you ever learn to masturbate? Are you orgasmic? Do you find pleasure in sex? One of the goals of hypospadias surgery is to make you able to pee standing up. How did you pee before the surgery? After the surgery? love, cheryl From: Derick@domain.net Date: Tue, 13 Aug 1996 11:47:41 -0400 To: email@example.com Subject: Re: Article Cheryl, I am having a struggle trying to put into words my inner feelings, emotions, etc. that you asked for as an addition to the stuff I sent you. I think it's because its something I've never consciously tried to do.. it's been repressed for a long time. I've only known about ISNA for about a month now... and I guess you could say that I am still in the process of coming out...... Derick