By Kate Harrold
THIS WOMAN was ‘devastated’ when she found out the reason she’d never had a period is because she’s PART-MALE – after doctors discovered she was missing a womb and had TESTICLES inside her stomach.
Content creator and activist, Dani Coyle (25), from Swindon, UK, grew up suspecting that something made her different. As a young teen, Dani’s voice suddenly dropped and whilst her peers began to get their first periods, Dani only developed terrible stomach cramps.
After seeking medical advice, Dani was sent to specialists who at age 14, diagnosed her as being intersex. This means that Dani has a deviation in her gender characteristics that does not match the ‘traditional’ understanding of the female body.
Dani was told she had a 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase three deficiency. Whilst she’d always appeared to be fema
le, Dani didn’t have the female hormones she required once she reached puberty and ‘should have’ been born as a cisgender male. This is when a person’s gender identification matches their birth sex.
The doctors discovered that Dani had XY chromosomes – usually found in men – and no female reproductive organs such as a womb. A further scan revealed that she has testicles inside her stomach which were in the early stages of cancer.
Doctors told Dani that they could ‘normalise’ her ‘medical defect’ through surgery and hormone replacement therapy. In 2009, the suspected cancerous testes were removed and Dani underwent external cosmetic surgery to alter the appearance of her vulva.
Dani thought that the ordeal was over, but she later felt coerced into the surgery after quickly learning that intersex bodies aren’t accepted by society.
At school, Dani began to experience transphobic comments as her peers would deem her to be a ‘lady boy’ and a ‘tranny,’ due to a lack of understanding on what it means to be intersex. Whilst Dani uses both female and gender-neutral pronouns, she identifies as female.
“When I was told that I’m intersex, in truth, I was devastated although not surprised,” Dani said.
“I’d wished for words to explain and understand my differences for a long time. I was relieved – but scared – to finally have them.
“When I was ten, I noticed things changing in my body that were more typical of what happens in male development. My voice lowered in tone and my period never came. It was an extremely confusing and lonely time.
“At fourteen, I was told I had ‘seventeen beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase three’ deficiency.
“My body didn’t respond ‘normally’ to the testosterone my testes produced which is why I was born, looked like, and was raised as a girl – which is lucky as I’ve always identified as female.
“I was scared no one was going to love me when I found out. I was angry at the odds – why me? I was told and believed it to be a secret that no one needed to know so I quickly underwent the surgery to remove my testes and normalise my external appearance – just as the doctors and surgeons recommended.
“I also had hormone replacement therapy – which is essentially a menopause oestrogen pill – and I thought I’d be back to being a normal girl.
“Now, I feel like these surgeries were presented as the only viable option – like I was robbed by biased doctors who work within a biased system which has caused an immeasurable amount of mental trauma.”
Dani is a keen activist and she hopes to raise awareness around intersex surgery – particularly surgery performed on young children without their consent. She believes raising awareness in society through extended education in schools could be a part of the solution.
“We are robbed of bodily autonomy in the name of gender binary,” said Dani.
“For many, the idea there are only two sexes and genders is way more convenient – disregarding those of us who don’t fit in to ‘either’ and ‘or.’ If I had known then what I do know, I wonder if I would have chosen the surgeries or harboured as much and shame and disgust for myself, as I did for so long.
“I used to think being intersex was a curse but now I see that’s a blessing. I am free from the confines of gender expectations. I’m a part of the sanctuary of the LGBTQIA+ community and I’m literally one in a million.
“These surgeries are forced upon intersex babies every day, many of whom end up with a gender identity that doesn’t align with their body’s presentation because it was chosen for them by someone else.
“Even now, I have intimacy issues and body dysmorphia due to the trauma of being poked and prodded so much as a child – it was incredibly traumatic.
“I want to see representative education in schools that covers the whole spectrum of human biology. I want to see the end of non-consensual, cosmetic intersex genital surgeries on babies and children.
“I want to promote and see the world become more aware, accepting, and inclusive of intersex, trans, and gender non-conforming people and our use of language. Hopefully, I can play a small part in that.
“The differences in our bodies, identities, and cultures are things to celebrate. Let’s all be kinder to people who are different from ourselves.”
For more, see @inter_sexy.