Playing wiffle ball in the backyard, climbing trees, and playing with Star Wars action figures might sound like a typical American boy’s childhood. The feelings of wanting to be one of the boys, yet knowing that we were born in a female body is something that many trans guy’s can recall struggling with during childhood. But for Jamie Bisson, these childhood feelings started to make more sense as he grew older.
“I found out I was intersex in bits and pieces over many years.” said Jamie.
Not ever being given the “birds and the bees” talk as a teenager, Jamie felt confused and ashamed about his body. In fourth grade a fellow student shared the excitement of having her period for the first time. This interaction left Jamie distraught and terrified to go to the bathroom over the next few days.
His mother later explained that he didn’t have a uterus and would never have a period, but gave no explanation why. Jamie explains, “It was standard practice for doctors to lie to parents a lot, and most people respected doctors. Any resentment I feel is towards the doctors, not my parents.”
At the beginning of his life Jamie actually lived as a boy in the hospital, but after two weeks the doctors informed his parents his life would be easier if he was a girl.
Living as a girl presented many medical challenges to Jamie. He had to have a clitorectomy at 15 months and an intestinal vaginoplasy when he was 15 years old. Still not knowing why he had these procedures, Jamie figured he had been born as a blank slate.
Once Jamie reached the age of 30, a visit to his doctor explained that he had Androgen Immunity Syndrome (AIS), which is commonly known as an intersex condition. People with this condition are born genetically male, having one X chromosome and one Y chromosome in each cell. Their bodies are unable to respond to certain male sex hormones and have mostly female external sex characteristics or signs of both male and female sexual development. AIS occurs in 1 in 20,000 individuals.
Finally having some type of understanding about his body, Jamie felt complete. All of his confusion as a child started to make sense. But when Jamie got married as a woman, he struggled again with his identity.
“I spent my childhood wishing I was a boy, but by the time I got married I had buried those feelings and accepted that, even though I didn’t feel like a woman (and had no menstrual cycle and could not bear children), I was a woman.”
Jamie’s marriage lasted for eighteen years. Seven years after the divorce, he began spending time with a group of LGBT people at his workplace. He had always thought that in order to be transgender you had to be able to transition. Since that wasn’t possible for him because of AIS, he figured there was no point in coming out as transgender. Then he met a transgender man in person for the first time and decided to come out as trans in October 2018. His work accepted him immediately and Jamie’s mental health improved rapidly. Jamie is looking towards the future and hoping to start testosterone and have top surgery in the next couple years.
The intersex community is a group that gets very little limelight. It is still a group of people that receive a lot of shame within themselves and from the outside world. Some people think that being intersex and being transgender is synonymous, but the reality is that most transgender people were not born intersex. For more information about being intersex please visit Intersex Society of America.