In late 2014, I decided to 'come out' to my friends and extended network on Facebook that I am Intersex. Below is the unedited post, exactly as I posted it. Today, I would have phrased a number of things differently but I thought it might help to see exactly what it looks like to come out publicly and on your own terms. It was, and still is, the most liberating and terrifying thing I have done. I very nearly vomited. The response was unanimously positive and supportive. I am privileged, grateful, and filled with joy to be surrounded by open-minded and kind-hearted peers. However, the truth of the matter is that posting the below wasn't about validation but about finally realising that I don't need anyone's validation but my own. It's about accepting yourself, all of yourself. To continue speaking in cliches, the triumph in being open about one's intersex body is not receiving validation or acceptance, but no longer caring if you do. ----- Enough self-congratulation, blegh, on with it!
I started a blog last year called ‘Chemo-Sabe’, which people were kind enough to read, and occasionally enjoy. It was meant to be honest above all things, with the aim of helping anyone with cancer or ‘cancer-adjacent’ to get some catharsis, realize that they weren’t alone in what they felt and thought, and that all the ugliness and horror of cancer was a burden that someone else had shared. It doesn’t sound like much. It wasn’t a home-cooked meal or a charitable donation, but it meant the most to me when I was in the thick of it. That it was nothing to be ashamed of, and that being open about it can really help.
I stopped suddenly because I realized what I would have to write about if I wanted to continue in that vein. Here goes nothing and everything…
If you know me, you know me. I hope when you read this it doesn’t change your opinion of me. I would ask you to hold that image of me in your mind when you read this, good or bad. I’m taking a risk here, and instilling a great deal of trust in you.
I have Fraiser Syndrome.
I am phenotypically female. But I have typically male chromosomes (XY). It is an intersex condition, responsible for my cancer, crappy kidneys, and much unhappiness.
If you’d never met me. If you’d looked at a genetic blood test. You would think that Susannah might be a Simon. I won’t give you a biology lesson here but I ask politely that you do not Google this, there is a host of crappy information, often incorrect, that has caused me a great deal of unhappiness in the past, if you want to know more – just write to me. And to save any awkward questions NO I do not, nor have I ever had ‘male bits’ (not that it should matter).
I’m not a Simon or a Stephen. I’m a woman. I’m just me.
For my friends, the truest and best, this is not a shock. I’ve told you. You’ve ALL been wonderful. I can’t thank you enough for being supportive through phone calls and having the maturity to deal with concepts far beyond our maturity levels.
You may be wondering, “why are you telling me this? Is this my business? This is really personal? No one actually needed to know.” I am telling you because this year I decided, fuck it. I will not be ashamed anymore. I will not wonder and cry over how the world might treat me if they knew. I can’t change what I am, but I can try to change how I feel about myself, and MAYBE how other people see me.
Good lord. This is serious. Let’s talk about something kind of cool. Apparently people who are born like this have better skin, bigger boobs and longer legs. Which is why a fair few people have questioned whether several models and actress are born with an intersex condition. Good company, potentially.
BUT, as you might have guessed, not a lot of people are happy to come forward with this kind of information. That’s their choice and I would never begrudge them that. Strange considering an intersex condition is as common as red hair or twins. TWINS!
If you want to know why I am ‘coming out’ with this, after 7 years. It is because I recently found a woman called Eden Atwood. She is a beautiful jazz singer and model. The kind of woman I have been comparing myself too and judging myself against since I was 16. She it turns out is on the same spectrum as me. What made me want to come clean is that I realized something that my friends have been telling me for years: she is all the more beautiful for it.
I am not repulsed by her.
I am not disgusted.
I do not think she is an abomination, as I thought society would think me.
She is beautiful. Stunning. Somehow after years of only seeing horror stories and testimonials about the heartbreak, and insecurities, and loneliness an intersex condition can bring, she has undone it all.
The words of Emma Watson and Lena Dunham, along we a general change of conversation on gender, have also made me feel safer in who I am and whether society will accept me.
Some of you, when I’ve confided in you, have asked me why this is a ‘big deal’ or even just a ‘deal’? I’m writing this because until Eden, there wasn’t enough out there to convince me that I wasn’t a freak. Because of this I have had depression, an eating disorder, and like so many others who are diagnosed, I considered suicide. I punished myself and held myself to an unattainable standard of beauty, that if I deserved because I wasn’t a ‘proper woman’. At my lowest I thought that I was a freak of nature, and God gave me cancer to correct a mistake. I thought that no one would ever love me and would be alone for the rest of my life. No one should have to feel like this.
I don’t dislike most people that I meet. Jean-Paul Sartre said “Hell is other people”, my Grannie says the exact opposite, and that is what I try to live by (even when I want to push/murder people on my commute). So here is me taking a step and trusting that people are good-natured, kind and accepting (despite any and all evidence to the contrary).
I was wrong about myself. Someone did love me. And my friends and family have continued to love me.
I write this in the hopes that I continue to be proved wrong.