Thursday, March 31, 2016

Suffering in silence

When I was a child, and in the University of Chicago Hospital, I contemplated death more than life. At the age of 14 I was told I was infertile.  The doctor told me matter of fact, and never offered any sort of emotional support. I was told this at a time in my life when I felt I needed unconditional love more than ever. It was the coldest office visit I ever had. I didn't know what to do with that information, who was I to tell? I was asexual at that time, so the only person I could tell was my mom. I can't remember her response. All I remember is going home and attempting suicide. I remember feeling this emptiness within me that some part of me felt having a child, unconditional love, could fill. Once that was taken from me I had no reason to live.

I was being treated for Tuberculosis at time, something I had contracted from another patient at the hospital.  I went home and took all the medication they gave me. When I woke up that evening I cried. When I was asked what was wrong, I lied and said nothing! Who does a 14 year old Intersex child tell about the pain they suffer in silence? 

When I returned to school that Monday I was different, I had lost my flair for life. School was only a means to an end. That summer I tried marijuana for the first time. I didn't like it at first. It made me feel stupid, it controlled my thinking and caused hallucinations. But it was very successful at masking my pain. At the age of 17 I was smoking pot almost everyday. I was still doing good in school, so no one noticed.

Even though I still had regular visits at the hospital I started to skip my appointments more and more. Nothing the doctors said would help. I resented them. In 1981, when I was 18, I agreed to be hospitalized once more that summer.  This after being hospitalized for studies every summer from the age of 10 - 18. The doctors told me there was new drug that could possibly reverse me being infertile. This was a trial drug that had no positive affects on anyone, but they thought it would be great to try it on me. Of course it didn't work. I was more frustrated than ever. I grew angry at the medical establishment, and didn't trust any doctors.

I never returned to the University of Chicago Hospital again, until 2014 as a paramedic taking a patient to the emergency room.

I abused drugs for many years, escalating from pot to harder drugs. In February 1993 I signed myself into the rehab, and I've been sober every since. I made a promise to myself that I would never use drugs or alcohol again. I knew I had to find a way to deal with my pain. I knew I had to talk to someone.  Luckily I found a very good therapist, and I attended A.A. meetings regularly.  For years I tried to be what the doctors wanted me to be, and what my mother wanted me to be. It was time I decided what I wanted for myself.

On February 17, 2016 I celebrated my 23 year sober anniversary. Today my life is filled with spirituality, and my Intersex community. I am on the Board of Directors of AIS-DSD Support Group (aisdsd.org), and interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth (interactadvocates.org). I work hard for both organizations to prevent what happened to me to happening to Intersex youths.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What is Intersex?

I have a confession.

I am guilty of assuming that everyone already know what is the definition of Intersex. So often times it comes as a surprise when I meet people and they tell me they do not know the definition of Intersex.

Here is the definition of Intersex, from the UN Intersex Fact Sheet:

Intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, intersex traits are visible at birth while in others, they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically apparent at all.

According to experts, between 0.05% and 1.7% of the population is born with intersex traits – the upper estimate is similar to the number of red haired people. 

Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics, and is distinct from a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. An intersex person may be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or asexual, and may identify as female, male, both or neither.

Because their bodies are seen as different, intersex children and adults are often stigmatized and subjected to multiple human rights violations, including violations of their rights to health and physical integrity, to be free from torture and ill-treatment, and to equality and non-discrimination.

Here is a link to the full UN Intersex Fact Sheet document:
https://unfe.org/system/unfe-65-Intersex_Factsheet_ENGLISH.pdf


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Buddhism and Gaia.

I can't remember the exact moment I knew I would be Buddhist, but I do remember feeling a deep sense of serenity. I knew my path to being a Buddhist would not be easy, especially since my mother was a minister.

The problem was I never believed in a biblical God. I never liked the idea of suffering in this lifetime and not being held accountable except on Sundays.  It also upset me how organized religion was used to oppressed people of color.  And I never thought a loving deity should be feared.

The first book I read about Buddhism was "The Heart of Buddha's Teachings" by Thich Nhat Hanh. It explained the philosophy of Buddhism, and an cessation of suffering.

There are many sects of Buddhism, it's up to the individual and what your beliefs are.  For instance I am Mahayana, but I also believe in aspects of Tibetan Buddhism and reincarnation.  I've had too many past life experiences not to believe in reincarnation. Sometimes I think I am Mahayana only because I've been reincarnated so many times it may be my only chance at enlightenment. 

The Buddha in me was awakened around 23 years ago. It was around that time that I got sober and started to explore religion seriously. Maybe because in A.A. there is a lot of God talk.  I didn't think I could stay sober if I can to believe in a God.  However I did believe in Goddess.

I've always thought God was a woman. When I was a child I had dreams of a woman protecting me. So I studied paganism, and fell in love with the notion of Mother Earth, Gaia. When I became Buddhist I thought I had to let go of Goddess, but Buddha, unlike the Christian God, never said thou shall have no other God before me. So when I pray and meditate it is to Buddha and Gaia.

They both work for me.  In times of trouble I say, "Buddha walk for me". Or "Gaia speak for me".  That way I always come from a place of love and compassion.

Gassho
(meaning I respect the Buddha in you)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Growing up Intersex in the black community

I started to pick an easier topic in which to discuss but I have never been one to take the easy way out. I was the kind of kid that always snatched off the band-aids instead of peeling them off slowly.

I grew up on the south side of Chicago, in an all black community. I liked to call myself honorable child number 6, my mother had eight children. My medical career, as a patient, at the University of Chicago Hospital, began when I was around 8 years old. My mother originally took me to the hospital because I wasn't growing as fast as other kids my age.  Turned out I suffered from Growth Hormone Deficiency. One of my many diagnosis I was given.  Others include Panhypopituitarism, hypoadrenalism, hypogonadism, gynecomastia, and several others.

There was never any difference between the way I was treated by people in my community until the hospitalizations started. While I was originally treated for growth hormone deficiency once I hit puberty the madness began. ( I will write about this at another time)

I'm not sure if I was made to feel different from others, or if that was some internal fear, but being hospitalized for weeks at a time, every summer, for 8 years, can take a toll on anyone. I think instead of breaking, and losing it, I lost myself in books. To be honest I think I was treated different because I talked different, and acted different.  While I was hospitalized I socialized with a lot of people outside of my race, so my diction - the way I spoke - became proper. To me it was just another reason to be picked on.

Growing up Intersex in the black community was not easy being intersex.  No one could identify with me because I looked different.  Even though I was raised male the boys couldn't identify with me because I had breast and acted like a girl.  Some of my female friends were cool.  In a way I felt protected by the girls in my class. They prevented me from being harassed and beat-up just for being different many times.

When I first got involved in intersex activism I was sent to the University of San Diego, by the ISNA (Intersex Society of North America). I, along with several others, were to educate medical students about Intersex. It would my introduction to life as an intersex person, let along life as an intersex person of color. I was scared, and felt very intimidated.  But I knew, I've always known, the work we do as intersex activist is very important.  It's important to end the shame and secrecy of being intersex.  It's important to stop intersex genital mutilation.

When we left the University I felt a sense of accomplishment.  I knew I could do that again, stand in front of a crowd and say, "My name is Lynnell Stephani Long and I am Intersex". One thing I learned early on is when you are speaking to a crowd of people it's important to look them in the eyes.  You want them to see you as a human being, not a specimen. I wanted people to see me as a survivor, not a victim.  What happened to me, and countless other Intersex people, is devastating. That is why I do what I do.  That is why I out myself as Intersex over and over again.

I think in a way I was always destined to be an activist. To fight for those that do not have a voice.  I remember playing on the playground as a kid and defending those weaker than myself even though it would bring attention to me.  But someone had to do it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Introduction

March 2, 2016

I've decided to make a blog.  Even though I've never blogged before I do journal.  Although I do not anticipate my blogging to replace my journal.  Somethings are just too private.

I never wanted to be an Intersex Activist. I only wanted to find the support I needed. When I first met Bo Laurent it was she that convinced me to be an activist.  There weren't many people of color fighting for intersex rights, so somebody had to do it.  In the beginning I was the only black intersex activist I knew. Can you imagine the pressure.

But I stood up to the challenge again and again. There were things happening to intersex children that not many people knew about.  Things like Intersex Genitalia Mutilation, and kids forced to live with PTSD without the proper tools to heal and grow.

After awhile I never looked back. It was like it was Goddess' mission for me all along.


Next time I will talk about my first time speaking in public.