“Posting this photo was hard for me to do. For the fear of rejection, judgment, and discrimination. Writing the post, putting it all together, and then pushing ‘share’ was nerve wracking, and I was the most anxious I have ever been. I didn’t know what the response would be, but after a few days of the post being up, I received nothing but love and support from friends, family, and my following. To me, that is the most genuine feeling I could ever have; it is feeling loved and accepted for being myself.
Of course, there’s always going to be negative feedback (‘you’re a freak’) and I did feel sick and sad at first about opening up. It’s always hard to open up; it’s scary uncomfortable. I have a hard time trusting sometimes because I have built walls up around me. It’s hard to let people in. Those walls are there because of the rejection, fear, and abuse I’ve survived throughout my life. But I chose not to let that affect me, or bring me down, or silence my voice. This is my story, and I would love to share with all of you.
A little back story: I wasn’t always raised by the mom I have now. I was adopted at the age of 13. Before then, I had grown up in a small town with a family that was really religiously close-minded. It was hard being told you are a boy and you have to live your life a certain way. Like, grow up, marry a woman, have children, and be very masculine. Trying to be masculine was really hard for me to do because I looked like a girl with short hair. It was difficult to put my voice into a deeper tone than I usually talked. One sibling was constantly telling me to ‘man up.’ I’d just get frustrated and cry. It always made matters worse.
There were times growing up that I wished I was normal. At night, I would pray to God promising that I would be a man and do all the things a man does if only he would make me a normal girl in my next life. And if that couldn’t happen, then I would ask to just be a mermaid! I didn’t have the freedom to explore who I was or who I was meant to be. I wished I could be what my family wanted me to be.
I learned about what intersex meant at the age of 13, when a family member who was a nurse brought it up at a family gathering. I was trying to be an acceptable boy, while she laughed and informed me I had female bone structure and that, as far as she was concerned, I was a girl. When I began to undergo a late puberty, I noticed some different changes in my body than what I learned about in health class at school. Later, my mom had a talk with me about the topic of intersex and the LGBTQ+ community, which I hardly knew about.
I didn’t get the opportunity to learn about things like fairy tales, witches, or Harry Potter, or even the amazing LGBTQ+ community. I was constantly accused of being gay and/or having a demon in me. As my body changed, I was also told it was evil to have both male and female anatomy. That’s a real mental health kicker for a little kid. All I could see ahead of me was conversion therapy. If only I’d known earlier. Could you imagine how different my life would have been if the doctors announced at birth, ‘Congratulations! It’s a girl…and a boy!’ I think if I’d had the freedom to ask things like, ‘What is intersex?’—or if I had an understanding that the world is such a diverse place—then I would have found myself earlier.
So, at the age of 13, I got to move away, start fresh, and get adopted. It was one of the best things that happened to me in my life. I truly needed a fresh start. I finally felt I was in a safe place and I was loved unconditionally for myself. After I was adopted, I found out I had XXY chromosomes, and ovaries. Finding that out made me so happy because it answered questions I’d had for so long. It was like finding a big part of me I didn’t know I needed. After a lot of doctor visits, the topic of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) came up, as I was going through a rougher than average puberty. The doctors had a talk with me about getting on HRT and how that could give my body the right amount of hormone levels I needed to be healthy. (Side note: hormones play a big part in your body!) Since being on HRT, I am so much healthier and happier with my body. For the first time, I feel whole.
I want you all to know intersex can be so different for any individual, and it’s nothing to be fixed or changed. It comes down to the person and what they want to do with their life. Intersex is not something wrong with your body. It’s a part of who you are, whether it be big or small. I wanted to be open with my following and with the people in my life, so I started blogging about my life and the things I have faced and gone through. I got some hate, and it was hard for me because sometimes people would say I was lying or misleading people about myself. I was angry. They didn’t have all the facts.
They didn’t know what it was like.
I believe it shouldn’t matter if you tell someone before or after you get to know them and feel safe around them, because it’s such a personal and vulnerable thing to tell anyone. Sometimes after I tell people, I get asked so many different questions about surgery, or about personal details, or this and that about my body; it makes me feel as if I’m a science project. It shouldn’t be about that, or what’s in my pants. It should be about who I am as a person.
And I have faced challenges throughout my life. I’ve been bullied or called a freak at school, with one of my siblings as tormentor. I had one teacher say my mixed hormonal state was in collision mode – whatever THAT means. But at the same school, another teacher embraced me for who I am and listened. She gave me worth. And I love her dearly to this day.
And, yes, I am a survivor of mental, physical, and even sexual abuse: it has led me to trust issues in my life. I still have nightmares. It marked me. When stuff like that happens to anyone, it takes a long time to heal and recover. I had a big breakdown when I was 17 because of everything I had buried or blocked out. That was one of the hardest, scariest, and most emotional times in my life. But with counseling, meditating, surrounding myself with the right people, and creating a space of safety and love, it becomes so much easier to heal myself. I had gone through life not knowing who I was, why they did what they did, and thinking it was my fault because I was too feminine or gave off the wrong vibe or looked weird. I know now that it wasn’t my fault and that they did not take anything from me.
I know in life I have not always had the best of connections with family members due to me being me. Some don’t accept it because of their beliefs, and some choose not to recognize me for who I am today. But then there are family members that do love me, support me, lift me up, encourage me, and push me to be my best. And that right there is what I believe unconditional love is.
Life has definitely given me some struggles, whether because I’m intersex or any of a thousand other things. Before knowing about being intersex, I struggled with anxiety and depression to the point that I couldn’t even get out of bed. I still struggle with anxiety, but it has gotten so much better.
This journey has been very emotional, from having dysphoria with my body, or feeling I wasn’t pretty enough, or not good enough to be loved. I have always tried to be my best and to be respectful to everyone, but in the past, I have forgotten to respect and love myself before giving that to anyone.
Everyone goes on life’s journey, and there are always bumps. There are always crazy turns in the road along the way. I have gone through some experiences that have changed me for the better, and I always try to look at the good in life. At the end of the day, I am an intersex woman, but that’s not all; it’s just a little piece of the puzzle that makes up the bigger picture of me and who I am. I’m open and honest with people I date or befriend, because that’s just me. I want to share my story and give a voice to the intersex community to help educate and raise awareness, and to show people it’s okay to express and accept yourself no matter what. I’m not going to live under a title, I’m going to live as the woman I am. So, be who you are, because you are beautiful, wonderful, and amazing just as yourself.
For a long time, I put myself into categories and labels about what I could and couldn’t do because I am intersex, but that shouldn’t control my hopes and dreams and my accomplishments in life. Sometimes acceptance can be hard, not just of others, but of yourself. It was a hard thing for me to do, to accept myself the way I am and love myself for who I am. I am Gean. I am more than just intersex. I am proud of who I have become, and I am excited for the future.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Gean O’Bryant. You can follow her journey on her blog and Instagram. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more amazing LGBTQIA stories:
‘How will you know you don’t like sex if you don’t try?’ Kissing left me uncomfortable. As a ‘good Catholic girl,’ I was pressured to marry and have kids.’: Asexual woman says she ‘doesn’t need sex to feel happy’
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