A Memoir from Jim Costich, 2003
I was 44 before I found out what my body contains and what being intersex might mean as I age. I was born with ambiguous genitals in 1957 and I had no surgery. I’ve been on hormones since I was a teen because I have hypogonadal hypogonadism and no puberty. I’ve never felt dysphoric about my gender or my sex. I’m just what I am. I am an intersex, gay man.
At my birth, my parents weren’t told much and the doctors didn’t know what to say, just that my genitals were ambiguous. Later they thought it might have been due to the progestin they had prescribed for my mother before and into her pregnancy. Through the years other suggestions were made about what made me intersex but as a child, we thought my penis didn’t completely develop, my scrotum didn’t seal along the seam visible on everyone else, and that I had no testes. I thought I was an unfinished male. I recently learned that I’m genetically XX, have a prostate, am between a 2 and a 3 on a fascinating thing called the Prader Scale, and have a vagina that was closed over, but no fully developed uterus and ovaries. Do I have a tiny penis or a big clit? They’re analogous organs. Everyone has one. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. I like to call mine a phalloclit, a term some other intersex people like too. It changes nothing really; I’m the same man I’ve always been. I know more about my body now, about my truth. What I am is part of the story of who I am and now the missing pages are back in my book. I also now know I’m not an inadequate male. I’m not male at all. I’m not female at all. I’m Intersex – both male and female in some ways and not exactly either in others. That set me free to be what I am rather than constantly apologizing for what I’m not. I am not a bad excuse for male or female. I am a perfectly adequate intersex man.
I’m not one of the ones who had a surgical transition forced on them in childhood. I didn’t have surgery to make me look more like me look “more male”. I don’t and didn’t need it or want it. It’s also not a bad thing to find out you’ve got an extra piece of playground equipment. It is a bad thing to have genitals cut up by some idiot with a ruler. So now I’m no longer a man missing testicles, I’m a man who also has a vagina. Ok, it’s not as good as a fully female woman’s but hey I’m a gay man. It’s good enough for me.
Is there so much difference between intersex, transsex, or transgender? Really? There are blokes you can poke, there are chicks with dicks….. trans, intersex….are we talking different species here or just cousins? Is the difference that most trans people desperately want their bodies changed and most intersex people don’t? Do differences matter more than similarities?
We have the physically male, female or intersex force-fed a gender that doesn’t fit so they assume a gender that fits better. That happens a lot. But wait a minute! The brain is part of the body and the mind resides in the brain. Gender identity takes place between the ears, not the legs. We know that there are differences between male and female brains. That’s even taught in High School Biology now. We know that trans, gay and lesbian brains are more like the “opposite” sex so does that mean that the organ of intersex for them is only the brain? From what I’ve been reading fetal exposure to testosterone, is ultimately what virilizes the brain and/or rest of the body. We all start with the same bodies. Male is an add-on and different quantities of testosterone at different times are what ultimately make a fetus develop into a male. Maybe that testosterone came from mom, or a drug mom was on, or your testes, or your adrenals but if you got enough you developed fully as male. In the end, the effect or lack of effect of it has an impact on all human fetuses creating a vast array of sex differences. Some of them are just garden variety males and females, but whatever influence sex hormones had on the fetal brain is just as real as the effect on genitals and sex organs. Intersex people are a very real thing in itself. We aren’t just “almost male” or “almost female”. Some of us have ovotestes or a testicle on one side and ovary on the other.
I can’t help but wonder if intersex doesn’t encompass every form of gender variance from sexual orientation to hermaphrodism. Maybe people with really big clits or really tiny penises are intersex. Australia passed a statute saying that transsexualism is to be legally treated as a form of intersex. In the U.S.A. the Intersex have no civil rights because the legal system has no way of dealing with us. Some people argue that Hypospadias is not intersex. Some people argue that the ONLY valid definition of intersex is ovarian and testicular tissue in the same person and ambiguous genitals aren’t intersex. Some people just argue for the sake of arguing. It’s an interesting mind puzzle, but I have a really important question to ask;
“Who is defining us to ourselves and do we really want to continue to let them do that?”
I think it’s time we validate each other and reclaim our rightful place at the table of humanity. When we look down on each other arrogantly thinking that one of us is superior to the other what do we think that says about us? Do we suppose that society will favor “our” group if we disassociate ourselves from other “less favorable” groups? How on Earth can we justify that? Trans looking down their noses at crossdressers, intersex looking down their noses at trans, macho acting men looking down their noses at effeminate men, certain lesbians declaring trans or intersex women are “really” men, and straight people declaring us all sick, damned or deformed. I hope and pray that every day, every little thing I do chips away at the walls that divide us. This has been lovely, but now I have to scream.
Written by Jim Costich 2003
Note: This was written back in 2003, and no statute, as stated above, in Australia ended up happening.
Jim Costich was in INTERSExION a Documentary about being Intersex; in 2012
Quote from the above link:
Most of the people who feature in this documentary had medical interventions to “fix” their so called problems (always by well meaning doctors and parents) – but some escaped the surgeries to repair and “normalize” their genitals and continue to live as Nature made them.
One of these is Jim Costich, from upstate New York who, despite some physical differences, identified as a man for his entire life. He only recently discovered that he in fact has female XX chromosomes.
“I wasn’t a partially developed male, I was an overdeveloped female, “ he says. “Here I am 44 years old and I find out I’ve got another piece of playground equipment I didn’t know I had. I wasn’t a man missing testicles. I was a man with a vagina!”
To understand “The PraderScale” better: Seven Names for the SAME thing: Penis, Phallus, Clitoris, Phalloclitoris, Micropenis, Microphallus, and Clitoromegaly.