Steph Lum: panel presentation at Health in Difference

Intersex panel participants at the Health in Difference conference, 2018

Intersex panel participants at the Health in Difference conference, 2018.

This speech was given in a panel presentation at the National LGBTI Health Alliance conference, Health in Difference, in Sydney, 12 April 2018.

Good evening everyone, my name is Steph.

My story is a story not often heard – it’s a story of just being a really boring everyday intersex person. Hey. Being intersex just does not affect my life on a day to day basis. I’m really glad I have my intersex variation. I can’t really imagine myself any other way. I would certainly never choose to have been born any differently.

What I’m told is interesting about me though, is that I’m a triplet. People seem to always be really fascinated by this. But unfortunately for my two sisters – they’re not intersex. I know, I feel a bit sorry for them too, but I guess you can’t help how you’re born.

I’m not sure who else here is part of the multiple birth party, but maybe those of you who are can relate a little bit to this experience of growing up in your own little bubble within your family bubble. In your own little echo chamber of thoughts and ideas and understandings about the world. Growing up in my triplet bubble just made me not at all in tune with societal expectations about things like bodies and relationships, so I really did just miss the memo that my body should be a certain way or that I should be able to have children or that being different in any way was considered weird. Looking back maybe that’s odd, because I guess growing up my body didn’t go through the same developmental milestones, as it were, as my sisters did, but honestly it just didn’t cross any of our minds that this could be an issue. Which probably goes someway to explain why I found out about my intersex variation relatively late in my life for what it was; I found out when I was 19, and by that point had moved cities and was no longer living at home.

And when I found out, it just never occurred to me that it was a problem. The doctors didn’t tell me I had a problem, they just described to me how my body was and that I could change things if I wanted to – but that I didn’t need to and that was a decision I could make in my own time. My family didn’t have a problem. I didn’t have a problem. So I carried on, doing my things, living my boring everyday intersex person life – until one day I finally discovered the problem.

The problem is that my story is the exception and not the rule.

The problem is that so many people have assumed that intersex bodies have to change for them to feel normal and fit in. The problem is that so many people are pressured to look a certain way as if to validate who they are. And maybe it’s thanks to my little triplet bubble, or maybe it’s thanks to having affirmative and positive initial interactions with healthcare professionals, or maybe it’s both. But I think if my story is anything, it’s that intersex people can be okay as they are. Our bodies don’t need to be forcibly changed – what we do need, is people to not problematise things that are not problems, we need doctors who are kind and honest and give us well-evidence information and choices, and we need access to psychological and peer support. Because I understand that we don’t all have our own personal triplet cheer squad, we don’t all have two people by our side all the time, agreeing with all our life decisions – so in place of that, we need access to well-funded, affirmative peer support, both for people with intersex variations, and their families.