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What I’ve learned from having balls. | Emily Quinn | TEDxProvidence

May 30, 2021
I was ten years old when I discovered that I couldn't have children while other children were on the playground or at after-school activities. I was in the gynecologist's office


genital exams, cat scans, MRIs, blood draws. I discovered that I was born without a uterus. and inside my body I have testicles instead of ovaries. My doctors told me that I have XY chromosomes and that my body cannot process testosterone. If you need a second to take it in, imagine


it would feel like to learn that about yourself at that age. 10 was a lot and it didn't end there my doctors told me that unless they removed my testicles I would probably have cancer.
what i ve learned from having balls emily quinn tedxprovidence
I didn't know it at the time but this was something I would hear over and over again. Again, from many different doctors over the next 20 years,


I never heard from them is that I am intersex. Intersex is a word that describes people like me who don't fit the typical type of definition of men or women who are born with differences in their chromosomes gonads ovaries testicles internal organs external organs hormones the list goes on and on there are over 30 different ways in that someone can be intersex, but my doctors never told me any of that, instead they told me that I had a rare medical disorder that I would never meet anyone like me and that I shouldn't talk about it.
what i ve learned from having balls emily quinn tedxprovidence

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what i ve learned from having balls emily quinn tedxprovidence...

I should keep it a secret. I think they were trying to protect me from harassment. At age 12 we


about bodies in health class and my teacher told us that. girls had XX chromosomes and boys had XY I knew I was people to get this information. about my body, so like any millennial preteen, I turned to my best friend. The Internet was a terrible idea. I only had the language that the doctors had given me, which means that at 12 years old I was searching for sexual disorders online. Don't try that at home, please. The internet wasn't what it is today and I only found a few articles and forums that talked about people like me and it was so negative that everything made me seem like a horrible, horrible creature, not human, not good.
what i ve learned from having balls emily quinn tedxprovidence
I cried for hours that night and I didn't understand how this body I was born in could be so terrible at 14 I was hanging out with some girls in my dance group and one of them had just gone to the gynecologist for the first time and was telling us everything and they were so cool that they were older than me. I wanted to impress them, so I started bragging that I had already been to the gynecologist many times. It was a low point. I


in that process that I do tell people the good things. Things that maybe they wouldn't have to discover about the bat at 15 years old.
what i ve learned from having balls emily quinn tedxprovidence
I kissed a boy for the first time. I went on my first date, but then I had nightmares about what would happen when I told him my secret. I had this whole fantasy. I resolved in my head that we would fall in love and he proposed to me and that's when I told him the truth and every time in my head I told him the truth about my body, he broke up with me. I rarely told the boys my secret. I just couldn't risk what would happen if they found out and telling girls was hard enough as at 17 I told a friend of mine or I was dating a friend of mine and her boyfriend when my secret came out and it turned out. that she had already told him everything without my consent or knowledge and I felt so betrayed that this was my deepest, darkest shame, most personal secret and I had trusted it to her and again I felt like I couldn't trust anyone except myself .
I was a teenager and that didn't last long. A couple of months later I told another friend and she started crying and told me that if I were her she would kill herself. I consoled her and cried with her. I gave her a hug. I understood that no. You don't have to tell me. that I was worthless that summer I turned 18 and I went to another gynecologist and he told me that unless I had surgery on my vagina I would never be able to have sex this was a couple of weeks before I left for college he moved hundreds of miles away from home and I was so overwhelmed by everything that was happening that I decided to postpone the operation.
This turned out to be one of the best decisions I made because I later found out that she was completely wrong. Not at all true but since she didn't understand my body because it was different from her that meant it was broken and I needed to fix it this wasn't the first time I had all the doctors tell me I would get cancer unless they removed my testicles that It was also a lie or it was a lie unintentionally they did not understand them my body was broken it was wrong it was different and they wanted to fix it but I don't know what my risk of testicular cancer is, it is lower than the risk of breast cancer and a typical woman xx without predisposition or history relatives, but they never understood my body in college.
I had a doctor present in my class on transgender issues and then I approached her and asked her if she knew about my intersex variation when she said yes I started crying because for the first time in my life I met a doctor who understood my body in the college when I called to set up a date she was booked for months but I knew it would be worth the wait and Meanwhile I started dating the perfect guy he was sweet funny nice and creative. I knew he was the one, but when I told him my secret, he casually broke up with me, five days later was my appointment with that doctor, five days later. breakup and needless to say I was a mess, but when I walked into his office I was surprised because he didn't ask me to strip down and put on one of those scratchy paper robes, a genital exam was standard procedure for me every time I saw a new doctor and when I asked him about it, I was confused and his word still hit me in the gut, he said no, you have androgen insensitivity syndrome, the term they used to describe my body.
I know everything I need to know and it was at that moment that I realized that all the genital examinations that had been done on me were completely unnecessary, how violating it was, how absurd that my first instinct upon entering the doctor's office was to undress as I could go. going to the gynecologist wasn't something to brag about at about age 14 or ever, for that matter, if we're being honest, she wasn't sure I had cancer and wanted me to explore my options. She still wasn't sure and she referred me to two people, a therapist. and a surgeon, when the day of my surgical consultation arrived, I arrived at her office, entered the room and performed a general examination on me.
My recent revelation hadn't sunk in yet, so it was still standard procedure. I didn't question it. It wasn't until I was getting dressed later that I realized that it was a doctor who was going to remove my testicles, inside my abdomen, nowhere near my vagina, and I realized that he was doing a genital exam, he was exploring, touching, looking at my genitals just out of his own curiosity. Every intersex person has stories like these, but unfortunately most intersex people are not as lucky as I am to have escaped all the unnecessary medical interventions that these surgeries and practices caused intersex people, lifelong consequences, pain, scars inside and out, emotionally, physically, without any medical reason.
These surgeries are completely unnecessary and this experience with the doctor was unnecessary, but luckily I was seeing the therapist the doctor had referred me to and she suggested I meet other intersex people, so the following summer I flew all over the country and for the first time Once in my life, 13 years since I discovered that I am intersex, I met other people like me and not just a few people, but hundreds, it turns out that even though most of us were told that We were the only ones or we wouldn't know other intersex people. They represent about 2% of the population, which is about 150 million people worldwide, and we all have similar experiences with doctors. shame, loneliness, pain.
I thought back to that time when I was 12 and searching for sexual disorders online hoping someone would talk about my positive body in a positive way and Looking around me, I was surrounded by so many beautiful, amazing, inspiring, healthy people, and I didn't understand that if my body was broken, that didn't make sense because that would mean that millions of people around the world would also be broken, so one year. Later I did the only thing you can naturally do when things need to change and I came out publicly on MTV, you know that's what you do, I guess at the time I was working with Interact, the leading organization here in the US. fights for the rights of intersex children and worked to develop the first intersex lead character on television.
It was groundbreaking to be able to see your story represented in the media to know that you are not alone or that you have something you can show. other people to validate who you are or to explain what it would be like to live in your shoes. Life has changed since then. It's been five years and I have been using the media and speaking out to raise awareness about intersex issues and fight for the rights of intersex people. and visibility Can I just say I'm tired? I am. It's exhausting when you tell someone you're gay or vegetarian.
People generally know what it is when I say I'm intersex. That takes at least 20 minutes and one drinker to not pour. drinks for me or probably both and when you've spent half your life embarrassed hiding this deep dark secret telling the whole world it's still scary, even today there's a voice in the back of my head saying don't do this, people won't like you, you'll get hurt, but how many more intersex kids will have to get hurt before things start to change before the rest of the world realizes we don't need to be fixed? The idea that difference automatically means evil is what it really is.
It scares me, our society is so afraid of people who are different from each other than ourselves, that we shame or avoid anyone who doesn't fit our definition of normal. , this leads to doctors lying to families, parents choose cosmetic surgery on their babies. Genitals and intersex people go their entire lives sometimes without talking to another person about their life, their story, their body, it scares me and has taught me that the only thing that really needs fixing is the way we treat people that are different from us. we can do better

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