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.