Lovingly, a Utah family raises an intersex child - again
OGDEN, Utah — When doctors said her youngest child would be a girl, Amie Schofield chose the name Victoria. Then they said the child would be a boy, so she switched to Victor.
It turned out neither was exactly right. The blue-eyed baby was intersex, with both male and female traits.
And so she and her husband decided to call the infant Victory. The name is a hope for triumph over the secrecy and shame, the pain and discrimination suffered by intersex people.
Amie Schofield knows those sufferings better than most: This was not her first intersex child.
Some two decades earlier, she gave birth to another child whose body did not align with common expectations of boys or girls. Schofield agreed to have that child undergo surgery that tipped the scales of gender to masculine. But the operation did not settle the issue of gender in the child's mind, or protect them from a savage beating decades later.
Now, with Victory, Schofield has been given an opportunity to try again. Her parents want Victory to be accepted for who she is; instead of changing Victory, they are intent on changing the world so it is more accepting of intersex people.
"What I hope is what every parent hopes for their kid," Schofield said. "We don't want her to look at herself and think there's something wrong just because she's different."
Amie first married when she was young, and had her first child more than 20 years ago. Instead of having one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, as men have, or two X chromosomes, as is typically female, the child had two X's and a Y.
Intersex people are not to be confused with transgender. Intersex is an umbrella term for a number of conditions where internal or external sex characteristics aren't exactly like typical male or female bodies. They are a larger group than is commonly acknowledged; estimates range from about 3 in every 200 births to 1 in 2,000.
"I'm convinced every single person on this planet has met someone who's intersex," said Georgiann Davis, a sociologist at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas who is intersex and is the board president of interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth.
Some intersex conditions are known to run in families, though that's rare for XXY chromosomes, said Dr. Adrian Dobs, director of the Klinefelter Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Not everyone with the disorder is considered intersex.
Doctors have long performed surgery and administered hormones to intersex kids to make their bodies more like typical boys or girls, but there's a growing pushback. Five states have considered banning surgery until they're old enough to consent, citing serious potential side effects, but most bills have stalled amid pushback from doctors' groups who say the proposals go too far.
Amie took doctors' advice and raised her first baby as a boy, agreeing to surgery to bring down undescended testicles.
But the onset of puberty brought hips and breasts, something that didn't go unnoticed by other teenagers in the small Idaho town where mother and child lived at the time.
"It's not something I really thought about until they started making fun of me," said Amie's eldest, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fear of violence.
The teenager developed a kind of armor: binders and sports bras, then layers of shirts for bulk, followed by a jacket that never came off, all in a goth style to create a distraction. There were beatings, and the teen developed a strategy: Keep a straight face. Don't scream. Don't say anything. The startled bully might just back off.