san francisco, california, u.s. / july 19 2014
My name is Betsy Driver. I was born in Buffalo, New York in 1964. I now live in New Jersey, happily in New Jersey, happily married, two kids. When I was born in Buffalo I was treated at a hospital there, one of the children’s hospitals.
My mother who also happened to be a nurse was not ever really told what was going on with me other than I was a sick baby, and I was born with a clitoris that was considered to be bigger than what is socially acceptable. At the age of eight months they cut my clitoris off. It actually says in my medical records "the clitoris was amputated to the nub." I then had many more surgeries growing up, many hospital stays growing up and nobody ever really talked to me about what was going on.
Eventually I somehow managed to negotiate teenage angst and dating as a young adult. It was very difficult because I had a body that was very different from the women I was dating. Part of the problem was that I did not have the language to describe what was going on with my body. Nobody ever told me. And, ironically, nobody ever connected my body and my unusual genitals with the CAH (congenital adrenal hyperplasia) for which I take medicine for. I was in my 30s before I discovered exactly what happened and made that connection.
I was able to get my medical records and I opened them, got to page 2, and when I saw "clitoris was amputated to the nub" I put them away and set them aside for a very long time. It was a very difficult thing for me to comprehend. It was also very difficult to understand why nobody ever shared this information with me, what was unusual about my body.
I now do consider myself as an adult an intersexed female. I was born with an intersexed body but I do identify as female. I was stunned to find out that there were thousands and thousands of us out there with a body just like mine. That was such a turning moment in my life that I was able to find other people, I was able to talk to other people, and I was able to find out that I was not alone, and that there was nothing weird or freaky about my body. I was just born a little different.
I also founded with another person the Intersex Awareness Day. I believe that was in 2003 or 2004 we started that. I'm so proud to see everybody celebrating it around the world and go, "Yeah, it's kinda mine," and I like that. It was actually named Intersex Awareness Day on October 26 to commemorate the Hermaphrodites with Attitude protest that other people were involved with.
One of the things that is so important to me is that I still get email from people who track me down on Facebook or somehow see my name somewhere and I still get email from people saying "Oh my God, you saved my life." That is so important for clinicians, doctors, parents just to understand you're not alone in the world, and if you're doctors aren't introducing you to other people you need to find a new doctor.
You need to find a new doctor and when that baby is brand new and you're holding that newborn baby whose body is different, understand that that child is going to grow up one day and want to be a sexual human being. Any decisions you make that day as far as surgeries, hormones, and other treatments will affect that child when that child becomes sexually active. I don't think my parents ever recognized that. I don't believe my doctors recognized that, and I was just left out there to founder on my own, and learn it on my own.
It's kind of upsetting but I now see other people speaking out. I see a whole new generation speaking out. I'm very proud of all those people, all those young people who are out there speaking. I would encourage if you're a parent, speak out, seek the support, and if you're a young person find other people that are like you. Join a support group. There's thousands and thousands of us out there.
Once you realize that there's other people out there you'll also realize that the shame that may be foisted upon you by clinicians is so unnecessary. There's no reason to be shameful of who you are or what your body looks like. There's no reason to hide. The more people who speak out I think the better life will be for people born with intersex bodies.
I’m thrilled to be doing this for The Interface Project. I'm just absolutely thrilled to be doing it because their slogan being 'No Body Is Shameful' and that is so true. You have nothing to be ashamed of. I've been now speaking out since 2001 and I have no regrets whatsoever about doing it, and I would encourage you to do it both as an affected individual as well as a parent. If you're on a medical team please please please make sure that you find the support that your patients and your kids need. It's so important. ©