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2 comments | Monday, July 14, 2008

You may be scratching your head trying to figure out exactly what the term "intersex" means. I'm slightly embarrassed that I wasn't familiar with the term until I saw a familiar face in Atlanta's Southern Voice along with a very unique story by SOVO reporter Dyana Bagby.

Officer Darlene Harris is the Atlanta Police Department's LGBT liaison and is making a bold move and exposing her journey from living her entire life as a woman to now coming out as intersex.

Numerous medical tests earlier this year revealed Harris’ testosterone levels were much higher than the range for even the average male. At first, the doctor worried Harris may have brain tumors because her testosterone levels were so high. Harris then began months of medical testing with an endocrinologist that eventually concluded with a chromosome test that revealed Harris had the XY chromosome — the male chromosome. But she also had female reproductive anatomy.

For Harris, who has identified as female her entire life, finding out she is a male genetically felt like a heavy burden being lifted from her shoulders. Finally, she had an explanation for why she felt so different from everyone else, even sometimes within the queer community.

“When I came out as a lesbian, the women I dated would say something’s not right. I’d say I’m fine, you’re just small,” Harris said, referring to her anatomy. “Of course, I said that to feel comfortable with myself.”

After being diagnosed as intersex, “I cried and cried,” Harris recalled. “But now I knew what it was.”

Being intersex, Harris explained during a pre-Pride event held July 3 by Atlanta City Councilmember Lamar Willis, is when “your body is in direct contradiction to what your insides say. You may have a female body, but inside you are male, or you may have a male body, but inside you are female.”

As a child, Harris said her mom used to tell her she was “supposed to be a boy” because that’s what an amniocentesis test revealed. And while her father called his other daughters “pretty,” he always said Harris was his “handsome daughter.”

“And that used to bug me. I didn’t understand,” she said.

Harris shared childhood memories of being potty-trained and always standing up to use the restroom. Her mother begged her to sit on the toilet, telling her that life would be hard if she went into a female restroom and someone saw her standing to urinate.

In the sixth grade, that happened. The incident so embarrassed Harris that she finally learned to use the restroom sitting down.

Then there was the attraction to other girls.

“I knew I was always attracted to females growing up. It was natural to me. Mentally, when I dated women, I thought in male terms,” Harris said.

Since Harris was in junior high school, she has been able to grow a full beard and moustache and now shaves every day. She said she also grows excessive hair on her chest and stomach — signs that someone might be intersex. But never knowing what being intersex was or having anyone to talk with about what she was going through caused Harris to keep her confusion stuffed inside.

“The reason I’m talking about this is this is a healing process for me. It’s important to share my story,” Harris said.

Read the full article here.

(Source: SOVO/Dyana Bagby)


<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

It is interesting that you should post this article about intersexuality because (1) I have finally started reading 'Middlesex' by Jeffrey Eugenides (a Greek family saga with a intersex main character) and (2) I have been listening non-stop to an album called "I am a bird now" by a band called Antony and the Johnsons. Antony, the lead singer, is transgendered and, although white, has the voice of a black southern woman. It sends chills down my spine every time. The album cover art is a picture of Candy Darling, Warhol's transgendered muse, on her deathbed and is written from her perspective. The first song, for example, is a chilling mediation on love and death. Truly amazing.

When I was fifteen, shit even twenty, I thought being gay was the worst thing ever. A curse. And then I read stories like this one and I can't even begin to imagine what it would feel like to be feel a stranger in your own body. Transgendered and intermix people are so courages I think.

Thanks for sharing.

July 14, 2008 4:47 PM

<$BlogCommentAuthor$> said...

I am writing on behalf of the Organisation Intersex International to add a link to OII, the largest grassroots intersex organisation in the world. ISNA is now defunct.

Our link is


Kind regards,
Curtis E. Hinkle
Founder, Organisation Intersex International

September 21, 2008 8:58 PM


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