That’s how many children with bodies like ours live through their youth. The medical protocol of the concealment centered approach ~ still utilized by many physicians ~ encourages secrecy. Parents and children are often not provided with the full view of the conditions that are present in addition to the obvious atypical genitals. Additionally parents are encouraged to gloss over answers to their child’s questions. Since they may not have been given all of the facts themselves, this is not hard to accomplish. Even the youngest of children innately understand there is something seriously wrong with their bodies. Something so terrible that no one will talk about it, a child’s mind wanders to dark places seeking answers no one wants to (or can) give. Often pediatric psychologists cannot effectively break through the protective silence a child creates for themselves. By voicing doubts and fears a child feels more vulnerable, not more protected. Children with bodies like ours are taught shame and secrecy until it becomes their own. This is our frame of reference as we are establishing our sense of self.
While psychologists have been on the forefront of changing our overall views on how we think of our bodies, what is shameful and what is not, what is acceptable and age appropriate, these teachings have not been applied to children and adults born with atypical genitalia. It is not uncommon for a therapist to counsel a patient for years before the issue of what was done to them surfaces, often in an indirect manner. We have been told we are “normal” and fine and on some levels either accept that notion, or want to. We have learned that trying to talk about our bodies has been met with resistance, and often blank stares. We want so desperately to believe that we are “normal” that we often don’t even broach the subject with our most trusted friends or mental health care professionals. The model of shame and secrecy remains imbedded in our psyche and proves to be a hard mountain to move or reshape.
The newly developed Patient Centered Protocol will keep these mountains from forming in the first place. Honesty and openness replaces shame and secrecy. For the parents and children with bodies like ours, the acceptance of this Protocol cannot happen soon enough.