First published on ScaryMommy.com, March 22, 2021
My biggest fear? Periods. Not my own — I know I will never experience a visit from Aunt Flo. But I knew someday my daughters probably would, and that fact petrified me for nearly a decade. I mean, how was I supposed to guide them through this mystical female rite of passage when I was so clueless? Sure, together we read the doctrinal American Girl book “The Care and Keeping of You,” and they’d probably learn stuff from their friends, right? I thought I could avoid facing my fear for several more years. Shoot, they had just turned double digits. Surely I was off the hook for at least three or four more years?
It was a steamy summer morning just outside of Seattle. I had traveled cross country to attend my fourth intersex support group conference — an annual pilgrimage I cherished. An opportunity to be with my tribe. The other women there got me: they were intersex too. We referred to each other as sisters and in an attempt to fully accept ourselves we embraced the rare and beautiful orchid as a symbol of our intersex uniqueness. While we all had individual stories, we shared the unique bond of being born with physical sex traits (such as genitals, chromosomes, and/or reproductive organs) that don’t align with typical notions of either a “male” or “female” body.
My chromosomes are XY (typically male) and instead of ovaries, I was born with internal testes and no uterus. Yes, I have a vagina. It’s shorter than most and doesn’t lead anywhere.
Being born with a condition referred to as androgen insensitivity syndrome also meant I would never menstruate or have biological children. Instead, I was fated to become the luckiest mom in the world and adopted my identical twin daughters from an orphanage in Shanghai just days before Christmas, nearly two decades ago. These two precious gifts have brought me so much joy, and also, anxiety about being a real mother. A good mom. The kind of mom that knows from personal experience how to help their daughter when she gets her first period. (…)
Kimberly M. Zieselman is the Executive Director of interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth and author of the award-winning memoir, XOXY, a memoir reflecting on her life as an intersex woman turned activist.. Reach her on Twitter @XOXYKZ