05 Aug Chapter 24: Barbaric
It’s the last day of the conference and I’ve just finished my talk. It went well enough; I tried to keep the crowd engaged and they seemed to laugh in the right places.
Cocteau Twins – The Itchy Glowbo Blow
Laik and I make our way to the hotel lobby to settle up for our rooms. I see Gavs sitting in one of the plush chairs there.
“Gavs, hey. Is everything okay?” I haven’t talked to either of them since yesterday; I hope that doesn’t mean things are going to be awkward between us.
“Oh good, you’re here. Hi, I’m Gavs.” He and Laik trade introductions. “I’m so glad I didn’t miss you—a couple we know told us about this doctor who’s pressuring them to agree to surgery because their baby is indeterminate and—”
I can’t help but interrupt. “Surgery? That’s barbaric. Where is this doctor?”
Gavs is really animated now. “When I heard about it I immediately thought of you. He’s at the inland hospital, there’s a meeting with parents going on now—”
“Take us there.”
Laik touches my arm. “What about the rooms?”
“We can deal with that later. I feel a project coming on.”
Laik lights up. “A project? Oh goodie!”
We pile in Gavs’ tiny car and quickly reach the hospital. The man at the front desk points us in the direction of the meeting.
A doctor in a white lab coat is talking as we enter the conference room. “Medical opinion varies but the suggestion from experts I trust is that adjusting your infant leads to better, happier childhood outcomes. Fitting in with others is really invaluable at this developmental stage—”
“Excuse me,” I interrupt. It comes out more loudly than I expected.
The doctor looks startled. He turns my way and asks, “Can I help you with something? Are you here for the meeting?”
“Yes I am. What are you telling these people?” I count five couples in their twenties and thirties, some holding their new infants.
“I was just explaining that children are happier if they fit in with the other girls and boys. Genital surgery at this stage—”
“Surgery?!” I’m pretty much yelling now. “Cutting off or mutilating indeterminate genitals just so the child can ‘fit in’ is monstrous. Anyways it’s usually done more for the parent’s benefit than the kid’s.”
“Well I wouldn’t say—”
“And preying on these helpless parents. You know they can’t make up their own minds! You probably just do the surgery that’s the most expedient too, don’t you? ‘It’s easier to make a hole than a pole!’ Let’s just have them all be girls, how simple.”
The doctor raises his voice. “Now wait a minute. Why are you here again? Do you have an intersex child?”
“No, I am intersex.” The couples all look at me and start noisily chatting with each other. The doctor is losing control.
“I’m sorry but you’re going to have to leave, this is a closed meeting—”
“Wait, we want to hear more,” says one of the fathers. Two others voice their agreement. The doctor tries to object but the couples make it clear they want him to sit down and be quiet.
One of the new mothers asks, “Were you operated on?”
“No, my parents smartly didn’t have assignment surgery done. They let me decide when I was older if that’s what I wanted.”
Another asks, “Were you teased?”
“A bit, but not more than any other kid. It’s still much better than having mutilated genitals and being assigned the wrong gender.”
One of the new fathers speaks up. “Has being intersex held you back at all?”
“I don’t think so. I have great friends, relationships…” I look over at Gavs and he grins.
“What kind of work do you do?”
“I’m the head of a chemical conglomerate.” The room erupts again.
The doctor tries to speak over the din. “I’m a well-respected doctor at this hospital. I’ll choose the treatment options that I think are right—”
Laik stands up. “Not if I can help it.” He charges out of the room.
There are lots more questions which I try to answer as best I can. The doctor gets fed up and leaves. Some of the parents come and thank me. Eventually Gavs and I extricate ourselves and make our way back to the hospital lobby.
We find Laik there on the phone. He hangs up and looks satisfied.
“I just talked to Gian—she’s going to call her friend at the medical review board. There’s a good chance they’ll review that charlatan’s license… and maybe even suspend it.”
I tousle Laik’s hair. “Tell Gian I owe her one.”
He gets back on the phone to tell Rills what happened. Gavs and I walk outside.
The warm air feels good on my skin. I focus on a bird that’s circling above. “You know I’m leaving tomorrow morning.”
“Yeah, I know.” He looks at the ground as he rambles along. “Jalea said she talked to you about her and me.”
“She did. It’s so hard, I don’t know what to say. I just don’t want things to be weird between us.”
“They won’t be if I can help it.”
“Keep in touch?”
Gavs gives me a big hug, which I needed. He kisses me and holds my head in his hands even after he pulls away. “I… I was hoping the three of us could meet up again this evening. Though please say no if it doesn’t feel right.”
Why would I want to say no?