Telling My Stories

A life lived outside

Life’s Turning Points

Posted by catkisser on June 16, 2009

In everyone’s life there are points where a decision or event changes the entire course of one’s life. Mine has been no exception. I suppose my birth was the first major one. Apparently I was born a hermaphrodite. That’s right, someone born with the supposedly extremely rare condition of both male and female genitals. The decision must have seem easy to the doctor who delivered me, just sew up the labia and toss a blue blanket over the area. Afterall, it must have seemed a no brainer at that time that being a boy would be vastly superior to being a girl and back then no one had a clue what gender identity was, babies were supposed to be a tabla rasa, a blank slate for life to write on.

By the time I was three I knew something was very very wrong with that, by the time I was four or five, I learned never to speak of it aloud…but it was always there, always present, my shameful secret. My maternal grandmother was present at my birth and quite telling is she always honoured my female nature in a covert but supportive fashion. I was told in no uncertain terms that boys did not play “house” or have dolls but I did have a wonderful assortment of homemade stuffed animals Grandma made for me…..and I played “village” with them. I was an avid reader so my parents bought me the Hardy Boys books. Around age nine I discovered a tomboy who had a Nancy Drew collection….we exchanged books.

But the major turning point at that stage in my life was the night my mother tried to leave my father. I was about nine years old at the time and understood that my father’s treatment of my mother pretty darn patriarchal (no I didn’t have that word then but I sure as hell got the concept). Finally being fed up that treatment my mother attempted the bravest thing I’d ever seen, to leave him even in the face of the threats my father made that she’d never see us kids again. She actually did walk out and I came out of my hiding place crying. My father totally misread my feelings for one’s of abandonment and “comforted” me by telling me “don’t worry, she’ll be back because she has no place to go.” This was the late fifties and second wave feminism was just barely getting started and I sure wasn’t aware of it but I had my feminist awakening right then and there. My father’s attitude was just plain wrong, I wanted no part of his male entitlement. That wedge existed between him and me up to the day he died.

Another turning point that was unexpected happened when I was 15 years old. Our family was living in India and I was practically an emancipated minor in the freedom I had. Walking alone on a dusty road outside of Jaipur I was suddenly aware the entire world around me was paired. Monkeys, insects, reptiles, people, everything was in male/female pairs but me…..and I was struck with the realization I would never actually be part of such a pair because of who I was. It was a powerful but unbelievably sad moment in my life, the realization that I was something not quite human, not quite of the world and probably never would be. That sense of being in the world but not of it has been with me in some fashion ever since.

There are lot’s more, one appropriate for Pride month on the 40’th anniversary of Stonewall, but maybe later.

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