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Doctors Performed A Sex Change Operation On Me At Two-Days-Old. I Found Out Decades Later

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At age 22, during a routine trip to the doctor’s office, my entire reality changed in the blink of an eye. I learned I was born wholly male — an XY chromosome — and doctors made the decision at my birth to remove my split penis and testes and directed my parents to raise me as a female. 

Under the guise of psychological protection, the doctors told my parents I must never be told of my birth sex. Now, at 37, I want to share the learnings from my search for answers and the journey I undertook to make peace with myself and my body.

Childhood

Born in the North of England in 1986, I spent my childhood as a young girl trying to navigate complex urological problems caused by, what I was told was, a rare birth condition. 

Credit: Sophie Ottaway

Despite the condition, my childhood years were fantastic. I have fond memories of wonderful friendships and spending the bulk of my spare time rollerblading in the local streets, playing football and hide and seek. I didn’t have a care in the world.

At age 11, I was told I would not have periods and I’d have to take a daily synthetic estrogen pill. My doctors and parents told me the mistruth that I’d been born with ovaries, but due to my condition, they’d been damaged and removed at birth. They said I’d need the estrogen to provide my body with the hormone it lacked.

Credit: Sophie Ottaway

As I progressed into my teens, I became more aware of the limitations of my birth condition and my differences to the rest of the children. I fought hard to manage my bladder incontinence and to hide my use of pads from school friends. Though I had been told I had a rare birth condition, I was confused as to why so many issues seemed to plague me.

I started to understand how my lack of vagina would impact my future relationships. At the same time, I knew I had very little interest in the boys around me and struggled to come to terms with the idea that I was most likely gay. I spiraled into a dark period of depression and in my college years began to find an outlet for my pain in drink, drugs, and heavy metal music.

A Routine Visit To The Doctor

When I was 22-years-old, however, during a routine trip to the doctor’s office, I accidentally stumbled upon the answers to the questions that had consumed my entire existence. As I sat side-by-side with my mum and the locum clinician — a temporary physician —, we faced a computer screen which displayed a letter from my medical notes. In bold type towards the top of the letter were the following words:

46 XY birth. Previous ectopia vesicae, bifid phallus imperforate anus and prolapsed bowels through abdominal defect — bladder reconstruction, testes and phallus removed, vaginal construction.

While I had limited medical knowledge, I knew enough to understand that XY chromosomes are male and that a phallus and testes are male sex organs. In those few moments, the world around me came to a standstill. As I processed the words I had just read, I felt a wave of pain and anger overcome my entire body. “Holy s**t. I was born a boy?”

I looked over to my mum who had clearly realized what I had seen. I then focused my attention on the clinician who seemed oblivious to the situation — assuming I already knew.

In complete silence, I held my emotions inside as we left the doctor’s office. As I got inside my mum’s car for the drive home, I hit the roof. 

My dad returned early from work and my parents tried to hold a conversation with me. I did not wish to hear any of it. I knew if I tried to process that information, I’d very quickly be in suicide territory.

I was not offered any psychological support or explanation by the medical system to process the trauma I’d inherited. For self preservation, I buried my newly acquired knowledge into a locked corner of my mind, never to be opened again. This sparked the start of 13 years of complete denial.

Severe Abdominal Pain

In my early thirties, I began to experience severe bladder pain and was referred to a specialist in Manchester, where my parents and I learned for the very first time the medical name of my birth condition — cloacal exstrophy.

Cloacal exstrophy, also known as OEIS syndrome, is a rare birth condition which occurs in around 1 in 400,000 live births. It is a severe birth defect severely affecting the lower abdominal organs. The child can be born with their bladder and intestines on the outside of their body. The penis can also be either flat or split into two halves, which was the case with me.

In later years, as I began researching medical papers on my condition, I discovered that in the 1980s it was common practice for surgeons to reassign the gender of male babies born with cloacal exstrophy. In many cases, the penis and testes were removed and a pseudo vagina created in its place. Patients were often never formally told of their birth gender and were left to discover the information either by accident or never at all.

Credit: Sophie Ottaway

Credit: Sophie Ottaway

Knowing it’d be difficult to form a long-term relationship and impossible to have my own children, I began to define my success in life in terms of money and material goals. I built a small business contracting digital services with the government. I focused on the soulless acquisition of things — a house, a nice car, and expensive holidays. You will not be surprised to hear this brought me very little happiness.

As with anything we bury in denial, I was eventually forced to pry open the Pandora’s box in my mind.

In December of 2021, I became very sick. After many days of feeling bloated, full and unable to eat, a fistula opened in my genital area leaking brown putrid fluid.

Fearing for my life, I was admitted into hospital completely alone due to the restrictions of the COVID pandemic. After a series of MRI and CT tests and a colonoscopy, doctors determinedI had a 25cm mass inside of my abdomen and that had led to sepsis.

I told the consulting team that surgeons had reassigned my gender at birth. At first they did not believe me. Upon obtaining some of my medical records, however, the consultant approached my bedside in complete shock. He apologized for having questioned my story and told me the leading theory around the mass in my body — a failed pseudo vagina had been left in my abdomen from an earlier surgery.

Thankfully, my parents had always maintained a dialogue with the retired surgeon who had conducted my birth surgeries, assuming the surgeries had been necessary for my survival. As the only person on the planet with an in-depth knowledge of my anatomy, I reached out to him asking for answers.

While he claimed not to remember the finer details of my case, he did tell me about a pseudo vagina that may have been put into my body when I was just two-days-old. It was then my parents recalled for the first time how this had prolapsed into my diaper — what we call a nappy in the UK — several weeks after the surgery and the consultant had put it back into my body to be reabsorbed.

Credit: Sophie Ottaway

Credit: Sophie Ottaway

And that’s when a switch flipped in my brain — enough was enough. Not only had surgeons conducted unnecessary gender reassignment surgeries on my childhood body — I’d spent a whole lifetime without a vagina only to land in hospital with sepsis caused by a failed fake vagina that I never knew existed.

If those birth surgeries were legitimately conducted to help me, then why would I be facing a critical illness due to a vagina a baby boy should never have had? What value could a pseudo vagina ever have been to a two-day-old baby? Was I part of a medical experiment?

My Quest For Answers

After I was discharged from the hospital, I approached my doctor for a full copy of my medical records. I received records from age 12, which detailed just enough to have an idea of what they did to me.

I logged a formal complaint with the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust demanding answers as to why they conducted gender reassignment surgery on me. The response to the complaint was pitiful. Nobody within the Trust was willing to have a conversation and they claimed to have a policy that destroyed medical records after 20 years.

As official channels granted me no answers, I took matters into my own hands. First, I exchanged a series of heated emails with the retired surgeon from my birth. This eventually led to an in-person meeting where he maintained he was just following the medical pathways for my condition defined at the time.

Next, a work colleague suggested I research a deceased psychologist named Dr. John Money, specifically his John/Joan case. I quickly learned how Money had developed theories around gender identity. Money speculated gender to be completely independent of birth sex, and he hypothesized that gender was defined not by “nature” — a child’s chromosome or genitalia, but by “nurture” — the environment in which the child is raised.

I learned how Money had tested his nature versus nurture theory on young twin boys, Brian and Bruce Reimer. Because of a botched circumcision, Bruce’s penis was severely damaged. His parents were desperate to help their son and Money confidently speculated they could remove Bruce’s penis and testes, create a pseudo vagina, and raise him as a girl.

Following the surgery, Bruce became “Brenda” and was asked to regularly attend consultations with his twin brother and Dr. Money. During these sessions, Money forced the twins to enact “sexual play,” which haunted the twins for many years afterwards.

After experiencing severe depression in his teens, Brenda’s parents eventually told him the truth of his birth gender and Brenda became “David,” signifying his transition back to male presentation.

In 2002, after years of depression, David’s twin brother Brian sadly passed away due to an overdose of antidepressants.

Several years after going public with his story, David held a final interview, which he ended with the following quotation about Money’s theories:

I’m living proof and if you’re not gonna take my word as gospel — because I have lived through it — who else are you gonna listen to? Who else is there? I’ve lived through it. Is it gonna take somebody to wind up killing themselves, shooting themselves in the head for people to listen?

In 2004, two days after his wife requested a divorce, David tragically shot himself.

While the Reimer case was clearly a failed experiment, Money nevertheless continued to promote the case as a success to the worldwide medical profession. I began to speculate that my surgeries were a direct result of the pathways informed by Money’s failed ideologies.

As I continued my search for answers, I found another individual born with the same condition who had also experienced my journey. Together, we unanimously concluded that we were products of a medical experiment.

I began to contemplate a possible detransition back to the male presentation. Such a task, however, would mean further interactions with the medical system that created the problem in the first place — a system I now call our “National Homicide Service.” Even if I were to receive care privately, I concluded the reality of the process would be further genital mutilation to create a non-functioning penis and ingesting stacks of potentially dangerous synthetic testosterone hormones. However, I fully respect anyone in my situation who has made an informed decision to take that path.

Would any of these surgeries change the inside of my mind? However much I change the outer shell, any problems in my heart and my mind will follow me everywhere.

For me, the answer was to look inside myself and fix the underlying mental trauma.

Making Peace With The Past

I concluded the value I can offer to the world comes from my actions and my interactions with others. In taking time to understand what I can offer the world as a human, I took a close look at my morals. I found myself relinquishing interest in material things and chasing money and I changed my mindset from serving myself to serving others.

I made peace with the fact that the past can never be changed and in allowing the past to define my future, my soul could become nothing but darkness. I realized the path to my mental freedom was in reaching a place of forgiveness and to use my experiences to drive positive change to the lives of others.

Credit: Sophie Ottaway

Credit: Sophie Ottaway

To find that place of forgiveness, I learned that not every situation is black or white — we must focus on intent. Did my parents want the best for me? I have absolutely no doubt they did as they have been amazing throughout. Did the doctors have a positive intent? Perhaps at the front line they were just following prescribed medical pathways.

This led me to conclude that the source of the bad intent was in the creation of the medical pathways — and for me, all roads lead back to John Money and his institution, Johns Hopkins University.

Yet today, in 2023, we find ourselves in the heart of a “gender dysphoria” epidemic where pathways for care are built around Money’s discredited hypothesis that a child’s gender is a result of nurture and their environment. To me, this is absolute madness. As a result, he’s created an inevitable situation where some humans feel like they don’t fit in.

We would be better off addressing the root cause of the gender dysphoria epidemic and adopting solutions which favor mental health pathways over pharmaceutical and surgical intervention.

In my opinion, Money created the concept of gender ideology in order to later introduce highly profitable gender reassignment surgeries. According to Grand View Reports, the sex reassignment surgery market in the U.S. was worth over $2.1 billion in 2022.

There is so much evidence discrediting Money’s theories — the stories of David Reimer, that of my own, and of a growing number of detransitioners.

As Reimer so rightfully said, “I have lived through it — who else are you going to listen to?”

* * *

Sophie Ottaway spent time working in tech, designing user experiences for U.K. Government services, but could no longer morally support the Government agenda. Sophie is currently campaigning for the change of medical pathways. Visit Sophie’s Story to learn more.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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