Developing differently

Even though an estimated 1.7 percent of babies are born intersex, there’s still a general misunderstanding as to what it actually means.

Cindy Stone was tired of hearing about mammograms, Pap smears, and other “required” yearly doctor checkups.

At 35 years old, the Indiana University professor didn’t think she had much to worry about. Her body felt fine, and she was infertile, anyways, so gynecologist visits seemed silly to her. And when she was 17, right before heading to IU for college, she was told by her doctor that she had no need for other doctors or checkups. In fact, they insisted she not see another doctor after they told her about her infertility.

She had gone to that gynecologist because, although she was 17, years past the typical starting point for menstruation, Cindy never had a period. Back when she was 13, the doctors had given her “vitamins” meant to jumpstart her cycle—a monthly supply of different colored pills, 21 of one color and seven of another—

but it had yet to appear. After exploratory surgery and several tests, Cindy and her mother returned to the office for the results. Cindy was called in first, and the male doctor told her one thing: You’re infertile.

You’re a normal girl in every way, but your ovaries just don’t work, so that’s why you haven’t had a period. And you never will.

Cindy was shocked, but it seemed to make sense to her. She didn’t think anything of it when the doctor told her to never see another doctor about the issue. She was infertile, and that was that. He even told her that, because of her diagnosis, she could go ahead and have sex with any boy she wanted, risk-free. She was going to college, after all, and it was the ‘70s.

But Cindy thought about that doctor’s “advice” for years. Why shouldn’t she get a second opinion? Why would he tell her to not see anyone else? She had more questions than answers, and so at the age of 35, she decided to see a new gynecologist. The recent death of her father made her want to pay closer attention to her own health. She wanted answers.

After the initial tests, Cindy heard back from her doctor; he had reserved two hours for her to come and talk about the results. Two hours. During that time, he explained the real reason Cindy had never had a period. Yes, she was infertile. But it wasn’t because her ovaries didn’t work. It was because she didn’t have any to begin with.

Her chromosomes weren’t XX, like a typical female. They were XY.

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