‘The day I saw my first trans man, I knew I had been lied to. I told my husband I would never live as a woman again.’: Intersex man, gestational father shares self-discovery journey

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“I was born in 1967, and I would later be told that my mother wanted me to be Anthony Ray. However, things would not be so clear. You see, I was born with both male and female traits. We now call my physiology intersex. My diagnosis is pseudo-hermaphrodite. Pseudo, because I only have eggs, and being a true hermaphrodite involves having both sperm and eggs. My diagnosis would sadly be called a disorder of sex development or ‘DSD’ instead of being told I was a variation of human.

man posing for his head shot of his ted talk
Courtesy of Tiffany Manning

You see, my chromosomes are 46XX, but unlike what you have been taught, I am not a female, and my gender identity is not that of a woman. Yet, due to binary notions erasing us intersex people, they would raise me a girl. I would be named Antoinette. Despite being assigned wrong, I am very lucky, most intersex kids like me suffer medically unnecessary cosmetic non-consenting surgeries when they are assigned a girl. In other words, they are surgically amputated or their phallus is surgically hidden.

I am very fortunate to be a whole hermaphrodite. I personally am okay with calling myself a hermaphrodite man now. Some in the intersex community find the word hermaphrodite a slur. Like the word ‘queer’ coming back, I hope ‘hermaphrodite’ becomes okay to say again too. The main reason I have no shame with this word is that if I arrive at the ER and am naked, this is what they are going to see: a hermaphrodite.

I would go to therapy at three and four years old to be taught that I was a girl. Back then they called my problem of being assigned the wrong gender ‘perceptually handicapped.’ As well as having a reversal problem, I had speech problems too, and by today’s standards would easily be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. I can remember the therapy to this day. It was back when Dr. John Money’s ideas of gender and sex were prevalent, and they felt they could teach a child, like me, their gender. If I was a ‘good girl,’ I would receive tiny tinfoil-colored stickers that they would put on a chart, and my mother would reward me with a candy bar from the Children’s Hospital’s gift shop. A magical place to me, with all the sweet smell of all the candy with the brightly colored wrappers. I would typically buy a Butterfinger and eat all the chocolate off, leaving the crunchy center for last. Both girls and boys can do that.

man feeling the power flow through him
Courtesy of Karmathartic

I wanted to please, but by the time I was four years old, the therapy must have destroyed something inside of me, somehow, because I became mute. They called this ‘selective mutism.’ I don’t remember anything about it being a choice or selective. I don’t remember much about it at all, other than I felt erased and invisible and had become utterly speechless. It would be at this point in my life I would imagine I was an alien visitor from another planet.

By kindergarten, I had talked my mom into getting me a boy’s haircut. I do believe the girly name for it was ‘Sassoon.’ At a young age, I was an outcast to typical endosex, cisgender kids. The endosex cis girls wanted nothing to do with me, and the boys could see I was a strange girl, so they avoided me too. It was a lonely childhood. In case you are wondering, a person is ‘endosex’ if they are not intersex and ‘cisgender,’ if they agree with their birth assignment.

My older sister called me a ‘tomboy,’ and my nickname would become ‘Toni.’ I quickly learned how to spell, and the ‘i’ at the end of Tony upset me greatly. I was not a girl or female, yet I had no choice but to be one. I was bathed with my younger brother: I definitely did not have his genitals. So I learned to perform the part of being a girl well. As an adult now, he remembers my being similar to him but different. Medical experts use the ‘prader scale’ to measure my phallus. I was small, and I did not have testicles. I also sit to pee. We both liked our boy toys, but I really loved my ‘Baby Tender Love,’ because I could feed her, and she would actually go to the bathroom in newborn diapers. I knew very young I wanted to have a baby. Since this binary world taught me this is what moms do, I must be a girl. I would soon discover this is not true.

man kneeling on the ground in the leaves
Courtesy of Mx. Anunnaki Ray Marquez

When 46XX intersex happens due to Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. I developed in-between male and female with what my doctors call a ‘partial or small prostrate,’ small phallus, vulva, vagina, uterus, and ovaries. I would also develop polycystic ovaries, which some now consider an intersex trait. I would know I was different than endosex, cisgender female girls by fifteen years old. My being different caused me much shame, secrecy, and self-esteem problems.

This is why I do not accept being pathologized at all now. By the time I was a teen, I refused to be called ‘Toni’ and they started to call me ‘Ant.’ Even my father honored this, which made me feel good. However, I was a ‘strange teen’ daughter. Most confused my natural masculinity with my being a butch lesbian. They could not have been further from the truth. I liked boys and would later marry a man, my husband James, who accepted me for who I was and showed me how to orgasm and enjoy sex as an intersex person.

partners smiling and posing together
Courtesy of Karmathartic

With the help of hormones, I would have two successful births out of six pregnancies. There was much hardship in having two live babies. The miscarriages were brutal and broke our hearts. Yet, thanks to modern-day medical intervention, both me and my two babies would live thanks to the invention of epidurals and c-sections. I would give birth to an endosex son and daughter. We would adopt our youngest endosex daughter, and our two daughters would be five months apart.

Thanks to the nature of hormones, I was able to lactate and be able to breastfeed all three of my babies with the help of the La Leche League and an amazing lactation consultant. Even our adopted daughter was breastfed by me and did not have to depend on formula. I am very proud of my attachment parenting too. You might be thinking this makes me a woman. No, I was always intersex in my physiology, and my true gender identity since the age of three has been a boy. Any mammal with nipples and the right hormones can lactate.

family waving intersex flags in union
Courtesy of Mx. Anunnaki Ray Marquez

In 2014, I discovered the term ‘intersex’ thanks to the internet and the invention of social media. Back then, I was very naïve about LGBTQ people. I did not even know trans men existed until I was forty-six years old. The day I saw my first trans man, I knew I had been lied to. The boy who was taught to be a girl came out of the closet. I wrote my husband a letter telling him I would never appear or live as a woman again. I had one problem though, could I call myself intersex?

lgbtq+ people coming together for support
Courtesy of Mx. Anunnaki Ray Marquez

The women with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia in my support groups did not like the word. They disliked me, even more, when I went against my birth assignment and told them I was assigned a girl in error. With much of their intersex phobia and transphobia, I left my support groups when I decided to transition to a man. So I wrote the leading intersex activist, Tiger Devore Ph.D., and Cary G. Costello Ph.D., and asked them. They pretty much told me I obviously had intersex traits and, of course, I could call myself intersex.

With that information, I joined my first support group, ‘Trans men over forty.’ It did not go over well, that I had an intersex body in that group. So I quickly created my own Facebook group: Beyond The Binary: Gender Non-Conformist. Between the prejudice, I had received from my ‘CAH group of women’ and the ‘Trans Men’ group, I knew now I had a problem. I was truly an outcast, and the feeling of being an alien was even stronger. To me intersex is not about my identity, it is about my physiology. My identity is simply a man. Between the two, this makes me an intersex man. Since I love my husband and want to be with a man, if I don’t share about my body, we simply appear gay to everyone. This is okay with me since I felt like a gay boy pretty much all my life; even when I was trying to live as a girl. My husband knew this when he met me.

All my feelings of being an alien would lead to my naming myself Anunnaki. Since the Anunnaki are known as the alien/angels, and shockingly I would discover that ‘Anu’ means ant, and ‘Nnaki’ means friend in Ancient Sumerian. When I stopped living as a woman, I changed fast into a man. My kids had to come up with a name to call me. I could not be called mom anymore. So they called me Vader. For Mother’s Day, we invented ‘Seahorse Day.’ I call myself a Gestation Father, after Cary G. Costello’s blog, on Intersex Fertility on his blog Intersex Road Show.

the website cover
Courtesy of Mx. Anunnaki Ray Marquez

Quickly with the word out about us intersex ‘Seahorse Dads’ many trans guys grabbed onto it too, and now celebrate their existence as well. To those who don’t know, it is the male seahorse that gets pregnant and gives birth. My biggest regret is not coming out of the closet sooner as a man. I now know I was lied to: that I could have been pregnant as my natural masculine self, as a man, and given birth. There are photos in history of such success stories, such as Magdelena Ventura. I have their photo in my family room. My kids bought me a framed copy of this painting for my birthday.

intersex person looking back at other intersex people through history
Courtesy of Mx. Anunnaki Ray Marquez

Cary G. Costello was assigned a girl in error as a person with a different form of intersex than me. An intersex variation called True gonadal intersex. They too had a baby, were never a female, and now live full-time non-binary but masculine. Both of us have much transgender intersectionality, in that our genitals are not that of an endosex male, but instead are intersex. My husband fell in love with my hermaphrodite body. It is one of the reasons he married me, and we have been together for thirty-four years now. He also says that he is ‘Anunnaki Sexual’ to anyone who asks what is sexual orientation is.

Today I am an MDiv Student at Meadville Lombard on full scholarship and a part of Intersex and Faith, Organization. We are out with our documentary ‘Stories of Intersex and Faith,’ where several of us intersex survivors tell our story to the world and after a viewing give an educational panel discussion afterward. By educating this world, we show this world you were lied to, too. Modern-day science has tried to erase us, intersex people, by diagnosing us. By September 2018, I would achieve getting the first intersex birth certificate in Colorado, which would lead to my TEDx Born Intersex: we are human, which you can find on Youtube. It is my hope that every child born intersex, or endosex, be given the same self-determination over their own gender identity. Both can be assigned wrong. We should be allowed to exist, free and equal.

man posing for his head shot of his ted talk
Courtesy of Tiffany Manning

I am glad I now know I was born in the image of God too. I am loved and hope to save many intersex babies from being operated on unnecessarily. No matter what they would have done to me they could have never cut the gay off. Being a man is in my heart and brain. My vagina belongs to me a man, so it is a man’s vagina. The breast that fed my babies were a man’s breasts. It is who I am. I just so happen to have an intersex body, and I am okay with that. I am not in the wrong body I do not have gender dysphoria. Some are sadly not okay with my existence and I call it out as their ‘cultural dysphoria.’ I hope everyone can learn to accept human diversity and parents stop being persuaded by surgeons to surgically destroy us. Intersex is beautiful! I am a proud intersex man now as my true self a gestational father.”

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