Coming from an Asian background I always lived with a fear that I could never be accepted and would be banished from my community if anyone ever found out. I could barely accept myself – I never would have imagined that there were millions of people out there who were in a similar situation to me.
When I was younger, I would have done anything to have a different body – to be anyone except myself. When an auntie would comment on how dark my skin was getting, I’d be sure to buy lightening cream the next day. If someone made a remark about my weight, I’d spend a few days counting calories. Every six months, when my doctor would tell me to undress and then confirm that my body was still “abnormal” compared to other boys or girls, I would agree to the next set of treatments. I would fake a smile to hide just how alone I felt and pray to be anyone else.
At 14 years old I was confident that I was better off dead and so I took 52 pills of whatever I could find around the house. I don’t remember much from this time in my life besides the crippling feeling of hopelessness. It was all perfectly hidden from most of my friends and those outside my immediate family. I was admitted into hospital and whilst there I remember finally feeling hungry and so I reached for a packet of crisps. The curtains around me were closed and I overheard a nurse talking, she knew I was lying about what happened. (I had told them taking the pills was an accident). She was discussing my case with someone else and said: “Well, to be fair – I’d probably kill myself too, especially if I had a body like that”.
By ‘body like that’, the nurse was referring to my intersex traits – the parts of me which were not clearly male or female at first glance. I was born with XY chromosomes but a body which did not naturally look either male or female – not without medical intervention. Looking back, I fail to remember why she even saw my naked body – especially as I was in there for an overdose. Perhaps it was just curiousity on her part and compliance on mine.
It’s moments like those mentioned above I have experienced throughout my life which led me to my current goal – to raise awareness about intersex issues. I publicly came out via Buzzfeed last year and I’m now working towards my own short documentary for the BBC. I am hoping that speaking out and educating others can help my intersex siblings and I survive and succeed.
The past few years has taught me that not everyone will be prepared to join you on your journey but for those of us that are lucky, our family and friends will be on the sidelines cheering us on. I am grateful for the kindness and encouragement of my family and friends who supported me.
I remember planning to “come out” via YouTube whilst I was studying abroad in Sydney. It was my perfect plan to achieve freedom for myself without having the added complications of gossip and abandonment that I feared would be inevitable. Fortunately, this video never happened – I somehow found the strength to come out to my family and friends in person.
Coming out as intersex can be a very different experience to any other LGBT+ identity. With intersex it is mostly invisible, we have the element of surprise – at least, some of us do. Most of my early experiences with coming out involved teaching a definition of what it means – it’s not as easy to understand.
People had often wondered what box to put me in as I’ve never really been masculine or feminine – I have also usually been very vague about my sexuality. So, one day when I sat my friends down and told them “I need to tell them something”, a few people thought that they knew what I was about to say. They couldn’t have seen it coming.
Trying to find someone I could trust, that was willing to tell my story in a non-sensationalist way has proved difficult over the years. I have always been determined not to make myself, or other intersex people, be victimised and misrepresented for entertainment. Through the vision of Emily Dicks, a producer at BBCR1 and director Geej Ower – I was able to completely change my life. I met intersex people from around the world and even helped to organise the first march for Pride in London. My film is all about the incredible journey I’ve had over the past year. From very personal video diaries and surgeries to heartbreak and friendship. It is a unique exploration of a point in my life that I can’t wait to share.
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Anick’s story is coming soon to BBC iPlayer and BBC Radio 1 but a preview will be screened at an Intersex Awareness Event. Buy tickets here.