September 13 2014 / Genova, Italy
Translation by Alessia Valenza
Hi, my name is Claudia Balsamo, I am 54, I am Italian, and I am a woman with a difference of sex development. I was 26 when I first had a clear idea of what happened to me.
I went to the gynecologist to find out why I couldn’t have sexual intercourse. He informed me that what I had been told about my body was nothing but lies.
The first lie was that my gonads were removed because of malignant ovarian cysts. In truth, my body does not respond to the testosterone my body produces. I could not have sexual intercourse because my vagina was only one centimeter wide.
So, what did I do? I abandoned the lies my father and doctors told me, and with the help of my gynecologist I started to expand, to enlarge my vagina. I had the emotional support of a psychologist as well. My gynecologist also suggested I reduce the amount of estrogen I was taking since I was 11. The high dose of estrogen was very unhealthy. Once my vagina was wide enough to have sex I wanted to know more about my history, my life. I started looking for other people like me.
I finally met other people, other women like me in 2006, and I also met parents of children who were born like I was. We started a peer support organization called AISIA (Associazione Italiana Sindrome Insensibilita Androgeni). It was around that time I learned my true diagnosis: 5-alpha-reductase deficiency.
In my life I have made two good choices: the first (more luck than choice) was meeting two very serious, conscientious, and human doctors who helped me. The second was taking control of my life by insisting on learning every truth about it.
I can tell you my life hasn’t always been good. I couldn’t talk to my family. I couldn’t talk to anyone, and this was very difficult. Instead, I want to tell you, if you are in the same situation, ignore people who want to tell you what you are, what you are not, what you have to do, or how your life should be.
You know very well how your life has to be, how you want it to be, and you must fight for it. I think I am beautiful because I accept the person I am: I am tall, but I’m certainly not a model.
My breasts are quite small, and I am a bit heavy but I am happy because all of it is me. I am not the person my doctors or my father wanted me to be.
Now, I have a happy sex life - definitely not the one that my doctors wanted for me (who not only removed my gonads, but also my clitoris) or that my father wanted for me.
I feel good about myself. This is the most important thing. I really hope you will be able to do the same!
Oh wait! I forgot! I want to tell you something very important and I’m speaking now to parents:
Do not rush to fix your kid, your child is not damaged, your child is not imperfect, your child is your child, your child is perfect.
Do not allow surgeries on their bodies. Give your child the time to decide. Let them live a serene and good life and protect them from those who want to hurt or change them. Your child has every right to be who they are and to become the person they will be. You can’t know it but they do. Let them decide. Don’t make a hasty decision that could easily result in a future more painful than you can imagine.
And don’t forget: No Body Is Shameful®, no body is disgraceful, no body is shocking, no body is ugly.