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Intersex film-maker tells of getting a period and a beard at the same time

Joseph McCormick April 24, 2016
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Intersex playwright Alec Butler has told their amazing story, including how they got their period and a beard at the same time.

The Canadian film-maker, director and playwright, writes for the BBC on getting their period and the beard at the age of 12.

They wrote: It was really confusing for me. My parents were a little freaked out. They took me to some doctors, but no-one knew about being intersex in the small town where I grew up in Canada.:

Butler says they were bullied as a child, and raised as female at first.

Doctors said they should be placed “in a mental institution… until she learns how to dress like a girl and put on makeup”.

They noted that even at the age of 12, cisgender females aren’t required to do that.

“The message I want to put out to my community – intersex, non-binary and native – is, be proud to be mixed gender and mixed race. That’s what I’ve learned to be – proud.”

Despite the calls from the doctors, Butler says their parents said, “We’re not going to do that. We’re just going to love you, and you can choose how you want to be.”

Butler says “lots of intersex kids don’t have that”.

All they had access to in terms of reading was an encyclopaedia, which Butler says they read back to back.

They write of remembering that they could “entertain people with my Elvis Presley impersonations”.

“I felt pressure to take female hormones to make me more feminine, even though I wanted to be more masculine – I wanted to be a boy,” they continue.

“When you’re in a body like mine, it is trouble. People get upset. I had problems because I liked a girl, and she actually liked me too. But it all went terribly wrong because I was intersex and not really a boy I guess. I was called lesbian, lezzie, dyke… ” Butler recalls of going to school.

“I was passed notes in class, stuff like, ‘Why don’t you just kill yourself?'”

After graduating school in 1978, Butler said they struggled to find work, and didn’t even know the word “intersex” then.

“Life wasn’t easy. I had people threaten me with death on the street. I had things thrown at me. Somebody tried to throw me under a street car. And at a Gay Pride parade, I was surrounded by gay men who threatened to pull down my trousers. It could be really scary.”

They continue: “Butch lesbians get a huge amount of hatred directed at them, even to this day. One of the reasons I pass more as male now is because psychologically, I couldn’t deal with the violence and the expressions of hatred.”

In the 90s, Butler remembers they and their partner both came out as trans, saying “from lesbian lovers, we became brothers!” adding: “It was quite a shock to the community.”

The only change Butler made was to their name, saying: “I like my body the way it is.”

“I had no desire to change it. I like having a beard. I like having breasts. I just like it. It works for me most of the time. It’s hard to start a relationship though, because it is different. Sometimes it’s tough for lovers to get their heads around, but I appreciate people who reach out and try to break down those walls.”

“It’s really problematic for people to understand the concept of being intersex. And intersex people have had a hard time of it.”

Check out Butler’s full story on the BBC here.

Related topics: intersex

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