From age 8 until 18, I spent at least a month every summer in the hospital with doctors experimenting on me and all the time asking, “Don’t you want to be normal and have a bigger penis, so you can be a man?” They never asked permission about whether they could examine me. I even tried to commit suicide at 14.

From my birth to age 30, I was raised as a boy. My name was Stephen. Almost immediately after my birth, the doctors performed corrective surgery on my genitals—I was born intersex. That means I was genetically a male, but from the outside, it was difficult to see if I had a small penis or a large clitoris.  The doctors made the decision for me and made me a boy.

I never looked like a boy. I was a boy who loved playing with dolls and girls in the neighborhood. Because of my genetic mutations, when I started puberty, my hormones were not able do what they were supposed to do and my penis did not grow.

The next 18 years I spent trying to find myself. I started with drugs.  

Then I got sober. The reason I stay sober is because I have nothing to hide any longer. I finally found a doctor who listened to me and asked me what I wanted. I wanted and want to be a girl.

I changed my name to Lynnell. I became an intersex activist. I have lectured all over the country and have been on Oprah. I could have blended into society. I didn’t have to be an activist, but I hated to see other people suffering.

I started to study Buddhism. I learned that the cessation of suffering is to accept my mistakes. I was so angry that I had been born intersex. I learned that to do something great, I had to be whole—I had to show compassion to myself.  

How do I feel an intersex child should be treated? Those parents should not make a decision for the child. They should wait until the child is old enough to make the proper decision for herself. 

This is an excerpt from a comprehensive interview.