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FRIENDS AND SOCIETY

We have a section dedicated to some of the most important people in this story. Believe it or not, it is our friends and society in general. A lot of decisions that parents and young people make are fuelled by what we think friends and society will think about our children. Will our little child be teased at school? Will he or she be accepted? Will I be accepted? We would like to think the second and third, but we are afraid it will be the first. So, instead of trying to close ourselves off from the public, perhaps we should try to welcome people in.

if you are here because you have read something in a newspaper, have a friend who could use some support, or perhaps have just heard about this condition and want to find out more, we hope that you will feel very welcome. Thank you for spending some time with us.

One of the parents who offered to contribute to this site sent us the story about how her little boy, whose sex was reassigned at the age of 20 months was accepted by the community. In the story she explains how she managed to educate the community before any outrageous speculation had time to develop. If you have a minute, read her story (as well as her other stories in A's Story). You may be surprised at what she learned from her community.

Most of us are not in the situation where publicising our stories, and the condition of our children, is necessary, but it is heart-warming to learn that people can learn and adapt. We need to educate our communities, so they will say, 'that isn't so unusual, I know someone who has this condition and she's perfectly fine'.

If we can accept our differences then we can teach others to accept them, too. Perhaps, you will get some ideas of how to share your story, or perhaps it will help you decide to wait a while.

We hope this page supports you in what ever way you need.

Survey

I'd like to share our story because I think it is extremely rare in that it reveals a lot about the way people in the community we live in feel about intersex people. You see, our son is PAIS was being raised as a girl until he was 20 months old, at which time we reassigned his gender and changed his name.

This was not an easy choice, however it was our only choice and so we tried to carry out the gender reassignment in the most practical of ways. (I would tell you about all the tests, dealing with doctors and so on, but our story is not really very different from anyone else's. However, a gender reassignment, followed by a community survey is a bit rare, so this is the story I'm going to share) We changed our son's name on a Saturday and on the following Monday, we invited all our neighbours to come for a cup of tea and to share our son's diagnosis. Of the 28 families we invited, 7 women showed up. After everyone was settled in, I began to tell our story. I explained the scientific side of our son's condition, then quoted some statistics, and finished up with some stories I had read by adult Intersex people who had been brought up in secrecy and, to them, shame. I explained that while my son's condition is an extremely private thing, that as his gender reassignment could be nothing other than public, that instead of encouraging people to whisper about him and us behind hands, I wanted to give my consent to anyone who wanted to talk about it. In fact, that I encouraged everyone to share the story with at least two other people and to tell them our story. This way, our community would understand what had happened, would understand our decisions on behalf of our son, and as a result support us and him.

This was clearly the best decision we could make; everyone around the table asked intelligent questions. Some asked about his sexual tendencies, and once that was cleared up, they went on to tell me how brave we were to share with the community. At the end of the morning, I once again asked them to please share our story, and to tell people that I wanted them to talk about it to each other, and to contact me if there were any questions they wanted to ask. Also, I passed out the AISSG website address so they could find clear well written information about our son's genetic condition.

Regarding telling our families; we phoned each one of our brothers and sisters and told them individually about the condition. I live a long distance from my brothers and sisters so waiting to tell them in person wasn't a choice. After hours on the phone, our families reactions were similar to our community's reactions.

About a year later, I decided to go to my first AISSG meeting, and to speak at it, as well. In order to share the story more honestly, I decided to put a survey together asking around 10 questions about what we did, how we shared the information and how people felt before and after the gender reassignment.

The results were stunning in how supportive and positive the community felt towards us and towards our son. One of the questions I asked was regarding how each respondent would have felt if they had learned through the grapevine instead of directly from us that we had carried out a gender reassignment. The replies were divided among two groups. One group said they were honoured to be told personally but would have felt perfectly fine if they had learned through the grapevine. The other group said that they would have felt we didn't trust them enough to share the information and would have been hurt. The first group made up about 80% of the responses; the second, which would have felt hurt group, made up 20%. Later, I learned that some of the people who would have been hurt were not family members, nor even close friends!

So, my conclusions are that being open with the community and sharing medical information and psychological findings did wonders for the closeness of our community and allows our son to have a broader safety net. Many people responded that they felt more protective of him after learning about his situation; without knowing about it, they would have turned a blind eye to teasing that may have come up. Now they will step in and nip any nastiness in the bud.

I know that publicly informing the community is not likely for most parents of intersex children because there is no need for it, however, I think it does reveal a little of how people would react if they were told in a straightforward, friendly, and open way about this condition. Keeping it a secret, especially from family, could be a very hurtful thing and the reason for with-holding this fundamental information (protecting your child from unwarranted speculation) is possibly helped by sharing the information rather than keeping it covered up. I hope that my son will feel he has a good body; it is different from others, but he is strong and healthy and we love him regardless of any difference people may perceive.