Intersexuality: Two People’s Personal Experience
By Jarmila Dokladalova
Although Curtis Hinkle and Joëlle-Circé Laramée did not meet until this spring when the Organisation Internationale des Intersexués (OII - International Intersex Organisation) was founded, they both share memories of a common experience that goes back as early in their childhood as they can remember. They were born intersexed, or having anatomical characteristics that could not be classified strictly as either “male” or “female.” They are also both transsexuals, Curtis having undergone Sex re-assignment surgery (SRS) to be male and Joëlle from male to female.
According to a 2003 book published by Rutgers University Press, (Intersex and Identity: The Contested Self by Sharon E. Preves), as many as four in one hundred individuals may be intersexed if we take into account hormonal and chromosomal differences along with anatomy. One in 2,000 infants are born with atypical genitalia.
Following the practice of the 1950s and 60s when Curtis and Joëlle were growing up, they were assigned a gender and underwent surgery to bring their genitalia in compliance with being a “normal” male and female. The philosophy as espoused by psychologists and psychiatrists of those days stressed that gender identity was determined by upbringing and not by genetics, so assigning a male or female “identity” and then raising the child in that role was their best path to a satisfying life. Both Curtis and Joëlle remember “urinary tract problems” as the only reason given to them for their multiple operations and treatments. Curtis was assigned “female” and Joëlle a “male.” The only problem, it turned out, was that the doctors in both cases made a mistake.
“I was born with a vaginal opening under the shaft, and it was all closed up,” explains Joëlle. “I realized later in life that I just had the wrong body.” Before meeting Curtis, which she considers “an epiphany” because she came to understand so much about her past, she was an activist with the Canadian Fight for Transsexual Rights (CFTR). She is now the Canadian vice-President of OII, which Curtis founded this March along with André Fiset.
By Jarmila Dokladalova
“I identify as a transsexual when I need to, but I do not necessarily want to be spotted as trans. I first identify as a woman,” asserts Melanie Pasztor, who is well-known in the Ottawa area for her involvement in the community on LGBT and youth issues.
For Melanie, the path to self-discovery started at puberty when she was about 12. She acknowledges that she felt different: “I tried to be one of the guys, but I did not relate to any of them. I could relate more to the girls at school.” She hid her feelings out of fear and did not come out to her parents, who started to suspect when they saw her in the streets wearing different clothes.
When she was ready to explore her feelings, she turned to the internet and the first word she did a search on was “cross-dressing.” “That is the only word I knew. As I found out, I learned that there were other terms.” At 16, she came out as transgender and a lesbian at the same time. “I was not sure if I was transsexual, because I was scared of the whole medical thing. Hormones can be scary. ‘I am not going to do that,’ I thought at first. It was a process.”
Two years later, at 18, she did come out as transsexual and embarked on the road to transitioning. The first step she undertook in May of 2003 was on the medical front: she started to take hormones, which she said she would have done sooner, but admits with a laugh: “I procrastinated, and there was a two month wait to see the doctor that everyone in the trans community goes to.” The regimen consists of taking a testosterone blocker, estrogen, and provera, which stimulates breast development.