Cornerstone Content,  Writing

I’ve Lived A Life Less Ordinary

Today is the day that I’ve decided to write down all the things I’ve been holding back my entire life. Now is the time for me to finally write about black forests and wolves, the monster under my bed. This is my time, blessed, reverent, I understand.

I was born hermaphrodite; for the first few years of my life, doctors weren’t sure of my birth gender. My parents decided to name me Thomas, and as I grew, I was effectively raised as a girl, which would have been my choice if I had been asked.

Thomas Slatin
New York City
July 15, 1981

Although I attended pre-school as a girl, my father insisted on enrolling me in grade school as a boy, a decision that was not only damaging to me emotionally, but also extremely selfish on his part.

Thomas Slatin with her father, Harvey Slatin
New York City
Date Unknown

One of my earliest memories was just before my 6th birthday, my mother took me to the pediatrician and I told the doctor I was a girl. He smiled, proceeded with my check-up, then the doctor went to consult with his staff. There was an uncomfortable silence while my mother and I waited for the doctor to return. I remember the doctor asking my mom for clarification because my birth records didn’t mention a birth sex. I remember the nurse taking a sample of my blood and the doctor explaining that they needed to run some tests.

My father brought me to the follow-up visit to the pediatrician a few weeks later, and the doctor told my father that I had female chromosomes. I never saw that pediatrician ever again.

Thomas Slatin with her mother, Anne Slatin.
New York City
1980’s

When I was young, my father set very high expectations for me, and most important for him was to play the role as his son. I identified as a girl from a very young age, and much to my father’s dismay, I had a habit of correcting people when they used the wrong pronouns when referring to me. Instead of accepting that I was his daughter, my father, on repeated occasions, tried to have me treated by medical professionals in a feeble attempt to, “rid me of my female personality”.

It was an ordinary morning in third grade when my father made an unannounced visit to my school to take me out for the day. He told me that he was taking me to the hospital because I needed help. I didn’t want to go, but he said I didn’t have a choice, and it was for my own good. I was seven years old, yet I still remember the look in his eyes, and the car ride to the hospital, my father repeatedly reiterating that he was the lord and master of the household.

I still remember being evaluated by the psychiatrist. The long, brightly lit hallways with shiny lime green checkerboard linoleum floors. The questions the doctor asked me. The way my father sat in the corner of the room, silent and watchful.

My father repeatedly made the argument that I was his son, and I was merely pretending to be a girl, and cited my history of telling everyone I was a girl. He asked them if they could admit me for treatment. And because my dad was a very persuasive man – smart, charismatic, determined – they agreed to evaluate me further without hesitation.

I spent the entire day at the psychiatric hospital, while a series of doctors and psychiatrists took turns evaluating me. The doctors all stated that I had a genuine adolescent female personality, and that there was no need for me to endure any more evaluations.

When I returned to school, I was called to the principal’s office. She had been reminded by my father that I was enrolled as a boy, and that any nonsense talk of me claiming to be a girl should not be tolerated.

The principal was furious with me and tried to convince me that I was, in fact, a boy. When I looked her directly in the eye and told her I was a girl, she said that for the duration of the school year, I would be receiving special attention. She went on to say that I would no longer be allowed to have any contact with any of the students in my class, I would not speak in class unless a teacher addressed me directly, and at recess I would need to be separated from all of the other students. The staff was also instructed to force me to use the boy’s bathroom for the first time.

During recess, I would sequester myself to the far corners of the play yard, often talking to squirrels or pigeons. My mind would wander to a fantasy world of medieval times where I had an imaginary friend who would one day reveal herself to be my princess. My mind would wander to fields filled with grass and lavender, and that one day I would marry my princess and live with her in a castle on a hill. I was always lost in my own dream world, completely isolated from everyone. I remember the staff members coming over to tell me that I was bothering other students, even though in reality, I did my very best to remain hidden, distant, and secluded.

My parents moved me out of New York City at age 8, and I was forced to repeat third grade. I was enrolled in public school as a boy; I remember my father bringing me to the school to get registered and repeating several times that I was his son, I had a history of behavior problems, and no matter what I claimed, I was a boy. My father demanded that the school straighten me out. Predictably, this had disastrous consequences for me, as it flagged me as a problem child from the beginning.

During the time I attended public school, I was called to the nurse’s office on several occasions, and the nurse would instruct me to take my clothes off and change into a hospital gown. I would be examined by a local doctor who would lay me on the exam table, look only at my genitalia, then instruct me to get dressed and return to class. There was never any explanation given as to why they needed to routinely examine my genitals, and because I was being examined by a doctor, I simply assumed that they had a legitimate reason.

Every subsequent visit to a pediatrician was the same. The doctors would rush through their exams in order to have extra time to look at my genitalia. Every time, I would ask why they were taking such interest in my genitals, and they would simply state that this was a normal part of an annual physical exam.

I was again singled-out by my principal and labeled a problem child. I identified as a girl, and was accepted as being a girl by my peers. All my teachers were told to give me extra supervision, and I remember all of them having some sort of inexplicable grudge against me. That is, with the exception of my fourth grade teacher; Mrs. Hubbard became my hero; I absolutely loved being in her class, and we remain friends to this day. Also, my music teacher, Mrs. Walling told my mom that I was one of her favorite students, though I have since lost touch with her.

Thomas Slatin
Grade 5
Stamford, New York, USA

It was during this time in my life that my father forced me to join the local Boy Scouts, which I absolutely hated. My father was told that I wasn’t participating enough in scouts, so he decided to become my scout leader. Whenever I wasn’t interested in doing the stereotypical boy activities, he would hit me in the back of my head and scream at me in front of everyone. Eventually, I decided to participate, but only minimally. Shortly thereafter, I was punched in the face by one of the other scouts and knocked to the ground. My father finally relented and let me drop out of scouting.

Thomas Slatin with her father, Harvey Slatin.
Stamford, New York, USA
June 1991

The summer of 1991 was my first time at summer camp, which became the highlight of my childhood. I attended camp from 1991 to 1994, then returned to work at the camp until 2000. I still visit from time to time, and come to camp reunions. Summer camp was the one place where I knew that I could be my authentic self, and be loved as the person I truly was. It is often difficult for others to truly comprehend how summer camp could have been so magical and have played such an important role in my childhood.

Thomas Slatin
Camp Chateaugay (Wilderness)
Summer Of 1994
Merrill, New York, USA

At age 12, I started going through puberty, and because I was going through puberty as a female, I got my first period. I had unexplained blood in my urine, and I had cramps in my abdominal area. My father noticed that I was holding my hands on my abdomen and simply passed it off as one of my friends must have simply punched me in the stomach as a joke.

My father took me to the family doctor that summer for my annual checkup, and accompanied me into the doctor’s office. My father tried to convince the doctor that I was lying about all of my concerns and that I was lying about being female. At this point, he was literally begging the doctor to do something. The following weekend, we went to see the same doctor at his residence, which was a regular occurrence, as my father was friends with our family doctor.

My father told me that our doctor forgot to administer a vaccination to me and that I needed to get a shot while we were visiting. At the time, I found this to be very suspect. My father proceeded to hold me down on the living room couch while the doctor gave me a shot in the side of my leg. I was later told that it was testosterone, and it was for my own good.

Puberty became more difficult for me at that point as my body was now suddenly flooded with both types of hormones for the first time. My voice deepened slightly and I had some sprouting of facial hair. The fact that my own father not only allowed this to happen, but participated in this medical abuse made me feel unwanted and I dreamed of running away.

I switched schools in 8th grade, then I was sent to an all-boys boarding school and started grade 9.

At age 16, I came out as a lesbian to my family, and my father decided that he had enough of me identifying as a female. His solution was to seek the advice of another doctor. After school one afternoon, my father took me to a nearby hospital, and the doctor ran a series of tests, including x-rays of my ribs and pelvis. Samples of my blood and saliva were taken, and another chromosomal test was administered. Every test that they performed came back showing female traits. When the doctors involved in my care arranged a meeting and explained to my father that all of the tests undeniably indicated that I was genetically female, he exploded in a fit of rage.

I continued attending boarding school, where I began developing female breasts and had obvious female curves. I was growing up hundreds of miles away from where I grew up. I was surrounded by strangers and tried to run away from school a few times, though there was nowhere for me to go, and nobody would help me escape. In my senior year, I thought that I might just not do my school work at all, and I would be expelled. My parents had sent me to a private school where the minimum grade was passing, so I simply gave up, realizing that no matter what I did or didn’t do, eventually I would graduate regardless.

College was a non-negotiable obligation my father forced upon me. Although I was accepted to several universities, my father picked the one that was furthest away from home. I attended Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. By this time in my life, I was dressing gender-neutral when I was around my family, though in mostly female fashion when I was in college. I liked to paint my nails with blue glitter nail polish, much to the dismay of many of the professors.

Thomas Slatin
Marshall University (Hodges Hall Dormitory)
1998
Huntington, West Virginia, USA

My first year of college was a disaster, and I was determined never to return. My by-then elderly father threatened to take away my inheritance if I didn’t complete college, so I was forced to return. I petitioned the university to place me in a female dormitory my second year, though my request was repeatedly denied. The college set up a meeting with me and my mother to discuss dormitory arrangements. My parents had paid extra for me to have a dormitory room by myself, and I later submitted a modified request and I asked to be housed in a coeducational dormitory. This request was also denied. The university cited the medical reports that stated that although I was genetically female, I still had a penis, and therefore, as far as the university was concerned, I was a male.

I left college after my second year, when the college had obtained the roster of students who belonged to the local LGBTQ support chapter. Many of my professors dropped me from their classes, and with no classes to attend, I was asked to drop out of college.

My parents did not know how to react to me leaving college; my mother accepted it after awhile, though my father reacted badly. I started seeing a therapist on an almost weekly basis, and started asking for female hormones. These requests were denied by my doctor, who required letters from two different psychotherapists, while the psychotherapists wanted the doctor to decide the best course of action. I was caught in an endless loop, all the while my father was making repeated threats about taking my inheritance away, and kicking my mom and I out of the house.

My father continued to hit me and to tell me that me living my life as a female was a ludicrous idea that I needed to get out of my head. I resorted to staying at my friends houses in the area, sleeping on their living room couches, or sometimes on the floor. On other occasions, I would sleep in the attic of my parents’ detached garage, other times I would camp out in the woods for days at a time with my dog.

Thomas Slatin
Summer of 1999
Schoharie County, New York, USA

My father finally gave me the ultimatum and said that if I didn’t attend college, I would need to find an occupation. When I said I wanted to be a photographer, or ideally, a writer, his answer was that these choices weren’t masculine enough. I joined a nearby fire department to gain training and experience, in hopes that this might one day become an occupational opportunity.

Thomas Slatin - Hobart Fire Department EMT Firefighter - 1999
Thomas Slatin
Emergency Medical Technician and Firefighter
2001
Delaware County, New York, USA

At age 20, I lost my virginity to a female friend. I absolutely adored her, and we are still friends to this day. That summer, I went to work at my old summer camp as a counselor, and she was heading out to basic training in the military. A series of lesbian relationships would follow; mostly women I had met through work, though the relationships never lasted more than a couple of months.

Shortly after September 11th, 2001, I was offered work in New York City and Long Island. In 2002, I met Angie and we moved in with her sister in Long Island. I worked at the fire department and at a local home improvement store for a few months. I then landed a job as a Paramedic and Firefighter, serving New York City and Long Island, and worked there for almost two years.

Thomas Slatin
New York City / Long Island
2002

At work, my co workers weren’t sure if I was male or female, though it was only brought to my attention once, and my only response I provided was that I was engaged to a woman named Angie. It didn’t matter; the medical director knew I was born intersex and regarded me as a skilled and experienced medic, one of the best, in fact. I worked 6 days a week, up to 18 hours at a time, learned a lot, but I saw, heard, and experienced far too much. The company announced that they were considering a merger with another corporation, which would change the way in which they operated, and I respectfully resigned shortly thereafter.

Angie and I then moved to Plattsburgh, New York, where I was offered a good job working with the fire department and local hospital. It was part-time, which gave me ample opportunity to be near my old summer camp, and to live a good life in the middle of the Adirondacks. Life was simple then; we rented a studio apartment, while I worked the early morning shift at work. Eventually, my supervisor suspected that I was intersex and made my life difficult. I reported my supervisor to the union, who did nothing at all. After my supervisor found out that I had reported him, my working hours were cut back to one day a month. Without work, there was no longer a reason for me to stay.

In 2005, I purchased my first house in Schoharie, New York. I was just 25 years old at the time, and had saved enough money to buy a former 1-room school house in cash. I lived in the house with Angie and worked 24-hour shifts as a Paramedic and Firefighter in Ulster County, New York. At first, the drive was the worst part of the job, though after working there several months, I realized that the administration was abusive and one day after I had suffered enough of their abuse, I simply walked away. I returned my uniforms and issued equipment the following day.

I started seeing a therapist again to deal with my PTSD and feelings of being female. I was diagnosed with gender identity disorder and gender dysphoria again, which only confirmed the same diagnoses of every other therapist I had seen since I was 6 years old. I begged for a letter that would allow me to take female hormones, but my requests were repeatedly denied by both my therapist and my doctor.

My next job was working as a Paramedic and Firefighter for Schoharie County. It was there that I worked for over a decade, and although it was part-time, I was always on call whenever I was in the area. Life was good, though I faced my own challenges. The house needed major repairs, and I ended up doing the vast majority of repairs and upgrades on my own. Angie never found work, and the money was scarce. I worked a lot simply to make ends meet, and invested whatever I could. Eventually, I was promoted to Lieutenant, though stress at work caused me to resign.

It was around this time that my health began to deteriorate. The decades of pushing my body to its limits started to catch up with me. The doctors, although fully aware that I was born hermaphrodite, focused solely on the results of my blood tests, which showed that my body didn’t produce adequate levels of hormones. And yet, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that proved that I needed female hormones, the doctors and therapists refused to write a prescription for them.

By 2020, my relationship with Angie had become truly toxic, and she told me that she would never allow me to take female hormones, even if my life depended upon it. I met Amelia on Twitter, after responding to her writers lift by sharing A Little Ghost For The Offering. We talked for months via direct messages, then texting, and then finally by phone. In July of 2020, I packed my car with my most important possessions, left her and temporarily moved into my mom’s house.

In September 2020, I purchased my forever home in Vermont. The sellers were eager to sell, and I paid for the house and former farm in cash. Amelia and I moved in, and an hour after the closing, we wrote our names on the wall in the basement. We were finally home, and we soon married here at our farm under our favorite tree, dressed in ribbons and bows, which currently stands in the back yard.

Thomas Slatin & Amelia Desertsong
2020

Some time later, I discovered that my father secretly collected a canon of paperwork on me, which included reports and letters from therapists, teachers, and even doctors. In 2022, my mom came across the stack of documents and gave them to me.

After going through these hundreds of pages, I found that a doctor had written the word, “hermaphrodite” on my original birth record. This one word has followed me my entire life and made getting healthcare, especially hormone replacement therapy next to impossible literally my entire life. Growing up, doctors treated me like a specimen for study, a living example of something that they only briefly read about in medical books, dismissing the fact that I’m a human being. I hated my body growing up, and hated going to see doctors because all they wanted to do was to examine my breasts and my genitalia. We need to classify WPATH as a hate organization that only seeks to gate-keep and prevent intersex and gender nonconforming people from getting care. In my case especially, hormone replacement therapy is literally the only thing that is keeping me alive. Without it, I will likely die as my body doesn’t produce enough hormones on it’s own.

What I found were hundreds of pages of written notes and reports, mostly from doctors and therapists who all stated that all the tests they were doing, both medical and psychological, had strong indications that I was a normal adolescent female. There was one report that casually mentioned that I might be a hermaphrodite, and the advice was to wait and see how I identify later in life.

The paperwork included report cards dating back to kindergarten, and ending when I was in my senior year of high school. Teachers wrote truly awful things about me; things that I am fairly certain never actually transpired. There was a letter from the principal of my school in New York City, citing concerns that no matter what the staff did, I was not interested in school, and I was acting too feminine. The teachers made horrible accusations against me, calling me a behavior problem and a disruptive student who pushes, pulls, hits, kicks, and bites others.

I felt personally attacked, even though it had been decades since these events happened, and I felt compelled to travel back in time to help and comfort the little girl I once was.  I wanted so badly to reach out from across the decades, if only to let her know that one day, she would grow up and she would be far away from here and that she would become beautiful, brilliant, and successful.  I wanted so badly to bridge the miles to help the small child so isolated, so alone, and forced to remain silent.

Colophon
It all started with an idea, then a Tweet, and finally, the loving unconditional love and support from my wife, Amelia.

Asides
When Is It Time To Let Go | Fame Itself Is A Cancer And Ego Its Seed | In Another Set Of Chances I’d Take The One’s I’ve Missed | A Little Ghost For The Offering | I Was An Underestimated And Impatient Little Girl | Somewhere I Feel Free | Chasing Cars | Summer Comes For Everyone | Sculpture Of Hermaphrodite | Intersex Awareness Day

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