Intersex people are people whose sex characteristics do not correspond to traditional ideas about a male or female body - they are often bullied and abused. Many of them prefer to hide their characteristics. A resident of Makhachkala, Olga Moskvitina, tells how on May 1 she got into the police, where she was bullied, and then information about her physiological characteristics spread throughout the city. We asked Olga about her childhood, self-perception and how she lives after the outing.
I always knew that I was different from those around me. At birth, I had both male and female genitals - but both are underdeveloped. What is the reason is not exactly known: maybe a genetic failure, or maybe the result of an unsuccessful medical abortion. Once, as a child, while visiting, I overheard a drunken conversation between my mother and a neighbor. She told him in tears that during pregnancy she tried to get rid of me with the help of some illegal drugs. She did not succeed - I survived, but I did not produce sex hormones (some drugs taken during pregnancy can cause developmental disorders and congenital anomalies in the fetus; it is theoretically possible that due to such a means, the development of the reproductive system stopped before to go for a female or a masculine type, but this cannot be argued. Until there is scientific evidence for such a connection, such statements may increase the stigmatization of intersex people. Approx. ed.). But after some time, an excess of adrenal hormones appeared, and this led to Cushing's syndrome - a serious endocrine disease. Eventually I had to start taking synthetic hormones, and now I will drink them all my life.
I always knew that my mother did not love me very much: she did not hide that after birth she wanted to send me to an orphanage. But her grandmother strictly forbade her to do this. My mother left me, but our relationship was difficult. As a child, she did not particularly care for me - I mostly spent time with relatives and their acquaintances. As for my gender, my mother had a lot more doubts about her than me. I considered myself a girl from the very beginning. But my mother could not decide for a long time, she communicated with me as with some asexual being. And then she finally decided that she needed a son, and began to treat me like a boy. With a kind of religious fanaticism, she insisted that I was not a girl. By the way, in the birth certificate my gender was also indicated as male. It was determined very simply: the midwife in the hospital first saw the male genitals, so she wrote that I was a boy.
When my mother decided that she wanted to see me as her son, she began to buy me men's clothes, constantly asked me to fix something, to do a job that requires physical strength. She believed that such an upbringing would make me a man. All this was very difficult: because of my peculiarities, I have many different health problems and hard physical labor was not given to me. But when I complained about high blood pressure, my mother, as a punishment, forced me to dig up the beds in the country.
Mom, with some kind of religious fanaticism, insisted that I was not a girl.
She began to buy me men's clothes, asked me to fix something
Somehow in the late 90s, my mother went to a fortune teller, and she predicted to her that I would become president. And I really became - the president of the student council. But it seems that my mother was expecting something different. My career never made her happy, she always wanted more. She had the image of the "perfect son" - the one who would make her rich and famous. I didn't want to be a son and couldn't fulfill her dream. Mom thought I was stealing her chance for a better future.
Here is a typical story for our family: at the age of fourteen, my mother threatened me that she would kick me out of the house if I did not pass at least one of the school exams. The threat was not empty, once I already found myself in a thirty-degree frost on the street in slippers and home clothes.
As luck would have it, I got a bad mark in German: it was hard for me, and I got a difficult text on the exam. I was so terrified that I myself did not return home, but went to throw myself under the trolleybus. I don’t remember how it ended, the only thing that remains in my memory is that the sunset that day was bright red. Then a whole year simply fell out of my memory. Later, when I was in a mental hospital, I learned that I had bipolar disorder and after that ill-fated exam, I began the first episode of mania in my life.
Other relatives, unlike my mother, treated me well. My ancestors are Buryats, among them were shamans. There is such a phenomenon in shamanism: sometimes spirits during rituals order a person to change sex. In such cases, the shaman, if he is a man, must begin to wear women's clothing and behave like a woman all his life. A family legend says: one of my great-great relatives was born a man, and then, as a result of communication with spirits, she became a woman. Apparently, she also gave birth to children later - otherwise how would she become a great-great-great-grandmother? To some extent, for some relatives, this legend explained my peculiarities.
Family legend says: one of my
great-great relatives were born a man, and as a result of communication with spirits became a woman
Once, already in adulthood, my adrenal glands, which were producing sex steroids, failed. I urgently needed to start taking hormonal drugs. At that moment, the doctors presented me with a choice: to take female hormones or male hormones. For me, the question was not even raised, I'm a woman. I didn't want to go against myself and get gender dysphoria on top of all the other difficulties.
The doctors told my mother about my decision. After that, our relations finally went wrong, she even tried to stab me. She also began to constantly tell me to hang myself. She believed that I killed her non-existent son.
Then I ran away from home and began to live on my own. When you’re an adult and take control of your life, it’s much easier to be yourself. If in childhood I did not have close people and I was constantly bullied, now I have friends and acquaintances: with age, people begin to relate easier to those who are not like them. I changed the name in my passport to a woman's name, and it became much more comfortable to live. Previously, every time I was asked to show my passport, this led to misunderstandings or scandals: people saw a man's name and could not relate it to my appearance. Now there are fewer such incidents. Although the gender in the passport remained male: until 2018, it was almost impossible to change it without a trial.
Gradually, I managed, if not to love, then at least accept myself. Separated from my mother, I began to live like an ordinary woman, many did not even know about my peculiarities. Of course, if I started a relationship with a new partner, I would tell that I was intersex. It used to be difficult, but gradually it became clear to me: the people to whom I am really important react calmly to such news.
In 2011, I visited Makhachkala: I had to quickly use my vacation at work and there was no time to deal with the passport and visa. I led an active life in LiveJournal, and many of my friends from there lived in Dagestan, so I decided to go to them - see Makhachkala and at the same time develop virtualization. I really liked the city: nature, sea, sun, fruits. In 2013, I moved there. By that time, I had met a local hipster, and we were going to get married after I had my final surgical correction. Of course, he knew about my peculiarities and accepted them. True, the fact that I am intersex was our shared secret.We understood that if someone found out, my fiance would have problems. Relatives will consider him a pervert, and maybe kill him. In this respect, it was easier for me than for him, because I have no Dagestani relatives.
It never came to the wedding with him: I began a deep depressive episode and it became impossible to build a happy relationship. He left me, and I decided to marry practically the first person I met. It was a kind of revenge on the previous groom. The next day after the wedding, he disappeared, and with him my last money and powerbank disappeared.
Although my personal life did not work out, I stayed to live in Makhachkala. I tried not to advertise my intersexuality. My old acquaintances from LiveJournal knew that I had peculiarities, but they also did not spread much. I began to lead a fairly ordinary life: I worked, walked the streets in a hijab. It was quite comfortable for me, because I am a Muslim believer. Many believe that Islam is a homophobic religion with no place for LGBT people. In fact, this is a false interpretation, the tendency towards intolerance has appeared in Islam only in the last couple of centuries. Many Muslims are very homophobic, but I believe that the problem is not in Islam itself, but in the people.
I began to lead a fairly ordinary life: I worked, walked the streets in a hijab. It was quite comfortable for me, because I am a believing Muslim
Considering that few knew about my intersexuality, it did not give me much trouble. The only major challenge is access to medicine. Many doctors refuse to work with people like me - intersex people with visible signs of the "other" sex. There are stories when people are thrown out of the ambulance. When you come to the doctor, he does not take into account your sense of self, it does not matter to him what your gender is. One day I had to go to the hospital, and I ended up in the men's department.
Many intersex children undergo surgery at birth - their "extra" genitals are removed. True, surgeons at the same time cannot ask a child who he feels himself to be - a boy or a girl, limiting himself to the decision of the parents. In half of the cases, doctors miss the mark. I know one girl who underwent 11 surgeries as a child to sculpt a "normal penis". But she still grew up a woman and changed her passport gender when she came of age. If a girl sticks a sausage between her legs, then she does not become a guy. Amazing right?
Once they also wanted to have an operation for me: at about ten years old I was admitted to the hospital with a broken arm, the doctors found out about my peculiarities and decided to "fix" them. I got scared and went into hysterics: I didn't want anything to be done to me. Then the mother found out about everything and made a big scandal for the doctors: she didn't need a daughter, but they wanted to cut off my male organs. In the end, I was left alone. Good or bad - I don't know. Perhaps, if I had only one set of genitals, everything would have turned out differently, but how exactly - no one knows.
Until recently, life seemed quite bearable. Only those to whom I myself told about it knew about my peculiarities, and the rest perceived me as an ordinary woman. But on May 1, everything changed. That day we were going to meet with a friend: go shopping, have a snack. Recently, I have been in severe depression and rarely leave the house. But on May Day the weather was good, and I decided for once and for all to get out somewhere.
That day in the center of the city there was a "Monstration", and we decided to first go there for a short time: look at the posters, take pictures. I got to the right place by taxi, and when I got out of the car, I saw a policeman swearing with a participant in the action, journalist Svetlana Anokhina. She was filming, and he threatened her to stop. I decided to intervene: I began to explain to him that since he is on duty, according to the law, he can be photographed and recorded on video.The policeman told his subordinates to take me to the paddy wagon. While I was trying to get my bearings, he grabbed my cell phone. It was a lot like a robbery, and I announced that I would be filing a robbery report.
After that, we with other detainees spent several hours in the ROVD. There were eight of us, two of them were minors. During the arrest, everyone was treated very rudely: the guys were beaten, and I was so abruptly grabbed by the hand that a bruise appeared. Due to the fact that I sat on a cold iron bench for a long time, my kidneys ached - I began to have an exacerbation of pyelonephritis. Doctors came to the station and measured my temperature - it was increased, but they gave me only analgin.
Summoned to the investigator. They asked: "Shall we write a statement?" I thought the conversation was about a stolen mobile phone. But it turned out that under the guise of a statement they want to formalize a confession that I had participated in an anti-state rally. We started arguing, they shouted at me. And then they began to punch my previous passports through their databases, they saw that I was changing my name from male to female, and then it began. They shouted that I was a freak and they could do whatever they wanted with me. They said they could kill me right now, but they don't want to get their hands dirty. Then they threatened: "We will stab you and blame everything on the Wahhabis." At the same time, they laughed, grinned.
They shouted that I was a freak and they could do whatever they wanted with me. Said they could kill me right now
but they don't want to get their hands dirty
Then it got worse, they began to question me in detail about my body. They wanted to know what genitals I have, what size, shape, and so on. They forced me to undress. I was scared, I thought that they would kill me now. Local police usually treat people as their property, especially women. It is not unusual for people to be abused at the police station. Once I had already been forced into oral sex, and now I thought that something worse could happen. I was so scared that I promptly answered all their questions, even the most humiliating ones. One of the policemen sat opposite me, legs apart, and I saw his erection. It was scary and unpleasant, I felt my own helplessness. It was clear that no one would intercede for me. Although I have not been touched, after all this I feel raped.
From time to time one of them left the premises: I heard how the police laughed together with their colleagues at what a "freak" they got. It never came to physical violence. But I was threatened: "We will post your photos and your passport on the Internet, and the locals will kill you."
In the evening we were taken to court, and before that all the confiscated things were returned. And I and the other detainees immediately turned on their phones and climbed to check social networks, read the news. I saw that I was receiving dozens of messages: “You need to burn such people”, “Go to your geyrope”. It turned out that the police had fulfilled their promise: they posted my photo and passport to local publics, sent me to some chats in WhatsApp, and from there all the information was scattered across the Internet.
In court, I was accused of participating in an illegal march. The indictment was at 11:50. But at 11:20 am I was already detained and taken to the police station, so this could not be true. In any case, I was fined ten thousand rubles.
Now I sit at home and cannot go anywhere, medicines and food are delivered to me by delivery. True, this does not solve the problem. Recently, one of the couriers recognized me and said that he would no longer bring me anything. I think now he will try to tell the whole city where I live. I really do not want to leave Dagestan, but I understand that this should be done as soon as possible. Threatening and insulting letters come one after another. I had increased anxiety before, I often could not leave the house for a long time. But now even the thought of looking out into the street causes panic.I can imagine how strangers will point their fingers at me, laugh - just like those police officers.
How can I leave, I do not know: my depression does not go away and I have very little strength. Besides, I have a lot of cats, and I don't know what to do with them. Everything happened very unexpectedly, it never even occurred to me that one day I would have to think about an urgent move. People with gender differences often tend to go somewhere abroad. They can be understood: Russia is not the most tolerant country. But personally, I never dreamed of emigration, around the world the situation with intersex people is not much better. Adults in different countries now and then discover that they once had an "extra" set of genitals that were removed in childhood. For example, in Germany there was a loud story about a man who, during an operation to remove appendicitis, also had his ovaries removed without asking for consent. Previously, he did not even know that he once had female organs. It was largely thanks to this story that Germany began to abandon "corrective" operations in childhood.
If I had my way, I would continue to live in Makhachkala and not tell anyone about my peculiarities. I didn't need such fame at all. But now that the police officers outlined me and threatened me with death, I decided that the situation should be made public. I don't know if they are really going to make their threats come true or if they are just flaunting their power. In any case, now that I have told my story, maybe they will think before doing something. If I do get stabbed, it will look suspicious.
Photos: phanasitti - stock.adobe.com (1, 2)