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Unformatted text preview: ew cells Michael’s lie was hiding.
The doctors could barely contain their excitement. They asked Michael to go to a medical center at UCLA for further testing. He agreed,
and spent eight days undergoing all sorts of tests. And then he waited.
When the results finally came back from the lab, Michael was no
longer a man, not yet a woman, and more than he had ever imagined.
Michael, it turned out, was a true hermaphrodite—a 46,XY/46,XX
chimera. At birth, he had both ovarian and testicular tissue, a penis,
a uterus, and labioscrotal folds that the doctors had cut and stitched Where Our Sexes Come From 81 into something like a scrotum. He had become a chimera, literally,
when two individuals fused into a single being, the result of what doctors call a “tetragametic fusion” event—meaning that when Michael’s
mother became pregnant, she carried two fertilized eggs inside of her
that would have become fraternal twins—one boy and one girl. Instead,
those twins joined and became a single being. Michael even had two
blood types—B-positive and O-positive.
That day, inside Michael, Lisa May’s heart began to beat a little more
This was about the time Mother got a hare-brained idea that the
DES was the cause of my cancer. She convinced me to join a
class action. And that’s when the lawyers got all of my records
from her, including all the medical records that described all
the things done to me up to that point.
The lawyers quickly realized that Michael’s true hermaphroditism
(a term Lisa May prefers to intersex) and chimerism eliminated him
from any consideration for reimbursement by the courts. At that point
the attorneys turned all of Michael’s records over to Michael.
For the first time, Michael saw that not only was he not like the
other males he knew, but he was the last of many to know this. Inside
his medical history, he saw for the first time that his parents and doctors—not his chromosomes, not his hormones, not his genitalia—had
made him a him. For the first time he understood the web of lies his
parents and doctors had spun around him.
At his birth, everyone saw the ambiguity. There had been arguments, discussions, and surgeries, and where there had been doubt,
the doctors had sewn the seeds of certainty. A few stitches to pull the
labioscrotal folds together into a sort of scrotum, covering the rudimentary vagina and uterus, and some work on the urethra, and the deal was
done. Michael’s parents’ silence sealed the few remaining cracks, and
Michael became a boy, to them at least.
At the time he made these discoveries, Michael was a practicing
Catholic. He explained to his priest what he had found and how it 82 Between XX and XY made him question himself and God, and even entertain thoughts of
suicide. His priest responded that even though the Lord generally condemned those who committed suicide, in this instance He might make
All but two of Michael’s friends dropped him. Suddenly he was
alone, scared, and uncertain about even the most basic parts of himself.
But somewhere beneath all of that, Lisa May was opening her eyes, taking long deep breaths.
Everything changed. What had once been solid ground shimmered
It was after I . . . found out what I was that I began feeling
sorry for myself and tried to bury everything in my work, that
I confronted my mother. She told me everything she could or
was able to, but she was at best hostile to me. . . . But she did
remind me she had taught Lisa May everything she knew, and
if I desired I could always be Lisa May since I had no male
parts left to speak of. At the time I, of course, got offended at
her. But over the next few weeks, I got some makeup and girl
clothes and started to practice being Lisa May again. And, wow,
to my surprise, everyone really liked her, and I made a new
bunch of friends. Mostly they were TSTGs [transsexuals and
transgenders] and lesbians. They didn’t seem to care what I
was. That made me happy. So at twenty-two years old, I started
to become Lisa May again.
Lisa May’s rebirth happened so quickly that some aspects of womanhood caught her off guard. One night at a party with some of her
newfound friends, a drunk man came on to her. Lisa May didn’t understand that she was being propositioned, and her discomfort was mistaken for rejection and ridicule. The man shot her in the leg with a
twenty-two-caliber pistol. As it turned out, that was one of the more
minor events her intersex would trigger.
A few months later I was at another party, and a different guy Where Our Sexes Come From 83 hit on me. But this one really got mad. By then I belonged to a
dyke. She was my lover and companion. Melissa [not her real
name] was my whole world. . . . . After a while, he came back
and walked up behind me. He called me a bitch and a whore,
and as I turned to see what was happening, my lover tried to
shove me out of the way, but he fired his .38 snub-nose revolver
at me. The bullet hit me just under the left eye. . . . I had...
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- Spring '14