It has been in my medical file since I was 20: Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS). I am partially insensitive to testosterone, which is why I developed breasts as a teenager. I am also not well-endowed and, as a child, I was unable to pee standing up. I have seen a lot of doctors and had many operations in my life. But up until I was 60, not a single doctor told me the cause of my symptoms.
Two years ago, I started doing research on the internet. That is how I came across the term intersex. It means that you are born with a body that is different from what people expect of a man or a woman. One in ninety people is intersex. The specific variation I have is much rarer.
I had my first operation when I was ten. Not that anything bothered me. But apparently, people thought that I had to be able to pee standing up, so my urethra was surgically repositioned. The operation failed, and I had several reconstructive surgeries. The last one was when I was 31. After the first operation, I came back to school, and the children asked: how is your knee? That was when I realised: what I have apparently is wrong. No doctor or specialist ever asked me how I was doing or how I felt. It was never discussed. That made me lonely.
There are still young boys who have to undergo surgery when the urethra is not exactly on the head of the penis. But: you cannot ask a baby or a young child if it is important for them to be able to pee standing up and whether they are prepared to accept the risks of complications.
It comes down to the fact that we are adjusting babies and children to a societal idea of masculinity. But would it not be better if it was the other way around? Inform society about all these different bodies and make sure they are all allowed to be? I think parents and doctors might be afraid that a boy like that will be bullied and feel miserable for being different. But an operation as a solution? I actually think that is crazy.
Society thinks that gender consists of two flavours: man and woman. Now, very slowly, the realisation is dawning that there is another flavour: intersex, then you have something of both. But I think that is not right either. In reality, gender is a collection of all kinds of variations, without a prototype. My wish would be that there are no more labels or names. And that we are all seen as human beings.
Geert is 62 years old and a process operator