Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Other Life: Giving A Conference Talk On Software Development

In one life I'm Maya Posch: victim of severe discrimination and maltreatment due to having been born with an intersex condition. In that life I suffer from PTSD and continued harassment by worldwide medical systems.

In another life I'm Maya Posch: professional software engineer and highly knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects. In this life I'm highly sought after for my expertise and get asked for interviews, conference talks and praised for my useful technical blog posts.

It's that second 'me' who got asked to give a talk yesterday at the Google Developer Group Karlsruhe's DevFest 2014 [1]. Despite having heaps of media experiences and not shying away from doing a live interview on highly personal topics in front of millions of people, the thought of actually having to stand there in front of a much smaller group of people and pretend to be smart was in some ways more daunting.

The most important part was of course to get a proper presentation together after picking the general topic. After some brainstorming I figured that 'mobile game optimization strategies on Android' would be a nice topic. Then I'd be spending about three days slaving over the dozens of slides for the presentation. I knew I had about half an hour to fill, with another fifteen minutes for questions. I put something together which I figured would roughly fit in that timespan and off I went.

While my talk was in the afternoon, at 2 PM, I was there from the start, following a double talk on the Google Guava (Java) library which turned out to be super-detailed about a small sub-set of this library, i.e. kinda dull. After the decidedly tasty (vegetarian) lunch I followed another talk about wearable devices development which was quite interesting and talked some with the presenter for the talk after the wearables one.

I had the distinct honour of having the only talk at the conference in English. Despite this still about twenty people showed up (I didn't count, though. It could have been between 10 and 50 :) ), which was not too bad. Embarking on my presentation, I quickly found myself slipping into the usual rhythm I am so used to from doing TV recordings. In some ways it's not so dissimilar: in both cases you have to perform clearly and loudly in front of a sceptical audience.

A bit of minor shock occurred when one of the organizers sitting in the back of the room held up the '10 minutes' sign, indicating that I had to wrap up my presentation. Rushing through the last couple of slides I finished properly in time, without really skipping any of my prepared material, though I could easily have padded the presentation out to an hour or more. In total I got one question during the presentation, on whether one should just omit external dependencies completely and write everything oneself. This I answered by saying that one simply has to evaluate libraries to see what their dependencies, size and any other potential issues are.

There was another break after this talk, during which I had another bite and drink. I had received a bottle of wine after my talk as reward for my troubles. I'm sure I'll be saving it for a special occasion, like when I trip over someone who does drink red wine :)

I knew that the audience had filled in feedback forms after my performance and that I wasn't looking forward to knowing the results. I felt I had rushed through things and probably skipped about half of the jokes and gibs I had thought of beforehand. Then, as I was sitting there reading up on things on my mobile phone, a group of guys walk past me when one of them turns towards me and says to me (in English) how much he had enjoyed my presentation. After I thanked him they walked on, leaving me feeling noticeably happier.

I frequented two more talks after that break, one on Google Enterprise products and another one on Geolocation Information Services (GIS), something I had recent experience with thanks to a mapping project for a client at my job. It was still interesting to see some other applications in action, though.

Staying for another hour or so after the talks ended, I actually found one person I knew and met the other speaker I talked to before again as well. The three of us stayed there talking for a bit with a quiz and such going on in the background. I did this talking in German. Pretty much beyond my talk itself every other communication at the conference I managed to pull off in German without anyone so much as blinking at my pronunciation or horrendous grammar. Maybe I am getting better.

In the end it was a pretty okay day, even if it left me feeling completely exhausted by the time I got home. I do hope that this life of mine gets a lot more time in the spotlight compared to the other one. It was good to be the 'other' me for a day.



How Furniture Reflects One's Life Choices

Picking a place to live in was easy enough for me this year, as I was homeless and anything was better than having to mooch off other people's generosity. While my current apartment is not somewhere I could bear to live for very long - mostly because of the poor maintenance state and hearing everything of the upstairs neighbours - the times when it's quiet in the building and I'm sitting back for a moment I can appreciate living here as I entertain the thought that it would be a nice place to live for a long time if it wasn't for the noise. In the end it's just a shell, however, and changing shells isn't so hard.

Furniture is much harder and in many reflects one's current state in life. Each room makes clear a lot about what one's focus is in life and what's still lacking. After finally furnishing my apartment which took a mere eight or so months of agonizing over many details and saving up the money to afford it all, I think that a clear image has formed of where I'm at in life.

Starting with the most well-furnished room where clearly a lot is happening: clearly the office. With multiple desks, a great chair, lots of storage space and more electronics equipment than you could shake a stick at (and with more coming), it's clear that I practically live there. My life is work, essentially.

Moving on to the living room: mostly memories of what it used to be like to live in a proper home and flashbacks to good things from my youth. I fondly remember the solid wooden table and chairs we had so I had to get something similar, even if I'm unlikely to really use the table. Similarly with the couch, coffee table, comfy carpet on the floor and bookshelves. It's clear that it's a room nobody lives in. There are things in the bookshelves, but it's more of a storage room than a living one. Maybe some day it will be used.

The kitchen is just functional. Not too expensive and relatively spartan. No fancy decorations or such. It's just there to enable food storage and preparation.

Hallways are to walk through. Something to put one's jacket up on is nice, though.

Also quite telling is the bedroom. Maybe more so than the office, as there's the choice between picking a bed large enough for a single or for two people. In the end I did go with the latter choice, even though I have expectations that I'll ever share my life with another person. Having more space is nice. Seeing the empty pillow and unused table next to the other side of the bed is lonely, though. Maybe it was the wrong choice in that regard. Further the bedroom tries to go for a peaceful feeling, as I tried to establish something of that calm oasis feeling. Not that I can sleep without earplugs in, though.

So my purchasing spree which has enabled me to finally furnish my place has also given me a few uncomfortable insights in my current life and has made me think about my future. It's apparently a rather empty life, of large, empty tables. Of going to sleep and waking up in a bed that's always half-empty. Of not living in the living room, but spending almost every waking moment in the office.

It's lonely in a way. Just sleeping, eating, working, sleeping, eating, working... day in day out. Whether it's because I simply have no time for anything else right now or that I have already lost the possibility of ever changing my life in any meaningful way. Maybe it is better like this, though. The past decade I seem to already have lost pretty much everything that would enable me to trust people enough to consider friendship, let alone enter into a relationship. I would completely get rid of emotions if it were possible. Computers and technology are the safe heaven I have. Everything else is just blackness and pain. Happiness and joy are either cruel lies or merely reserved for normal people.

If you need me, I'll be over here in the office, working on something, while only dust settles on the unused furniture in the living room.


Saturday, 18 October 2014

My Dutch Legacy: Lawsuits, PTSD, Stalkers And Confusion

It's often easy for me to forget how much better my life in Germany is than it used to be in the Netherlands. Much of this may be attributed to me suppressing most of the negative memories of the latter. This week it became quite apparent to me just how much I have suppressed there when I got a call from one of my Dutch lawyers, regarding my appeal in a case started last year. At the realization that this case still hasn't been closed many associated memories came flooding back. Most of them exceedingly negative.

Being intersex in the Netherlands has to have been one of the worst nightmares I ever had the displeasure of experiencing. There's no medical help, politicians couldn't care less about you, there's no awareness in the population and generally you get the feeling that you'd be better off crawling away into some dark corner and quietly dying. As things went for me, I decided to not give into the dismissive, often scornful attitude by Dutch physicians and psychologists, bearing accusations of just being transgender, crazy, delusional and what not. When I got confirmation of my intersex condition by German physicians in 2007 this boosted my intention to get to the truth.

Looking back I probably should have given up on the Dutch healthcare system far, far sooner. Beyond one single Dutch physician (a urologist) at the MST hospital in Enschede, I didn't find a single Dutch physician who acknowledged my intersex condition. While I haven't found surgical help yet in Germany (or elsewhere), the diagnoses by independent German physicians at about five different hospitals are all consistent with each other, acknowledging my intersex condition and the presence of female genitalia while missing parts of male genitalia. This seems like a solid foundation to build a life on, rather than the scattered, wildly differing 'diagnoses' by Dutch physicians.

Maybe I could have avoided suffering the mental traumas I went through in the Netherlands if I had done things differently. Maybe then I wouldn't be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which are the DSM-IV traumatic disorders I have been diagnosed with so far. It's hard to say what would have made a difference, yet I did get my official name and gender change through the Dutch legal system, which did make my life a lot easier. I'm not sure how I'd have felt if my passport at this point still referred to me by my old (male) name and as of the male persuasion. I had to explain my official ID not matching with my appearance so many times over the last years already before those changes went through.

That said, it's still hard to accept how easily my official name and gender change went through the Dutch legal system. In both cases my lawyer was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was, having expected a hearing or further evidence. With my first name change apparently all it took was including a photo of myself in the request to support the claim that I wanted to change my first name to a female one due to my feminine appearance. With the gender change the surgical findings of a vagina being present by the German surgeon - who also performed the required orchidectomy (castration) - the Dutch court in Alkmaar found no issues with my request based on a 1980s Dutch law aimed at intersex individuals by whom the gender assignment got botched.

I said 'hard to accept', because of how difficult the other cases went when I wanted to address the inhumane way the gender team of the VUmc hospital in Amsterdam and my insurance company Unive had treated me up till that point. For the former I went with my lawyer Yme Drost through a case at the medical disciplinary commission in Amsterdam, but my complaint was rejected. They had treated my case properly, despite the years of physical and psychological abuse and the ignoring of my obvious intersex condition, or so the commission decided. Similarly for the case against Unive at the human rights commission in Utrecht. Despite ignoring my request for full coverage under the same laws as transgenders (similar situation), the commission ignored this and Unive finally denied my request saying that the facial hair growth I wanted coverage for was 'too light to be noticeable', while looking at photos taken over four years after starting treatment.

Finally the current appeal I'm dealing with. In the original ruling I was absolved of most of the responsibility for what happened [1], but I would still get a criminal record and would have to pay thousands of Euros to the owner of some small statues who where present in the room where the incident happened, all of them uninsured. I appealed this ruling on the grounds that a) it was an alternate, DID personality fragment which did it, b) my DID is the result of years of psychological and physical torture and c) the GP's office where the incident happened triggered the incident themselves by refusing to make good on promises they themselves had made. I can only see myself as a victim in this case. There's nothing I could realistically have done to prevent the incident.

I also suffered a lot of punishment due to that incident already. The arrest by the police being quite brutal, with my mother observing that despite me cooperating, they were using a lot of force against me. I got beaten, had my head repeatedly rammed into a car door, got sat upon, forcefully stripped, denied of any comfort and forced to spend an entire night and most of the next day in a holding cell, unable to sleep and falling apart mentally. I still have neuropathy in my right hand due to the handcuffs being put on far too tight and regular pain in my right knee from the bruised bone I suffered there from the beating, probably when they threw me onto the ground. Memories of this regularly haunt me. It's why I'll not pay a cent to anyone as an admission of guilt. I have to pay over a thousand Euro to my lawyer for this appeal, but at least that's aimed at justice, instead of giving into the travesty of justice that is apparently the rule in the Netherlands.

Quite a nice list so far, I'd say. Traumatic disorders, lawsuits which further put me away as a liar and common criminal and general hostility among the healthcare 'professionals'. Another thing I sadly have as a Dutch legacy are stalkers. I'd say I have about five or six of them, with some given up or merely on a break. It's hard to say exactly. Some of them prefer to harass me directly, trying to break my spirit by pointing me at the 'fact' that I don't know what I am exactly, insisting that I'm merely a boy pretending to be a woman and really, really confused. Others stalk me excessively, one even going so far as to con me into renting an apartment together, then grooming me to behave like a couple while psychologically and physically torturing me.

When I escaped from that situation this stalker then saw fit to steal every single belonging of mine I had left behind as I fled the place in early 2013. Returning a few months later with a moving van to confront this woman and to claim back my belongings the apartment was empty aside from her own few meagre belongings. My mom was present there as mental support, but she got attacked and hit a few times by this mad woman. My mother decided to not file an abuse claim with the police - who were also present - as she didn't see the point of it. I had lost everything I owned and with Dutch law as it is, it could not get marked as 'theft' because it wasn't done by a stranger. Go figure that one.

Anyway, this particular stalker got my computer plus medical files and everything else I had. She broke into my email accounts and that of my mother, using the information and (confidential) email addresses to send emails to journalists, my current boss and others with supposedly incriminating evidence based upon the stolen files. She pretends that I'm a scammer, forcing others into accepting my (delusional) attitude of being intersex. To what goal I'm not sure. They are rambling, incoherent, poorly formatted works of many pages. However, if anything this harassment merely makes people more sympathetic towards me. Nobody believes a word of such a stalker's claims, instead worriedly informing me about it, recognizing the potential danger of having such a stalker. Maybe I should be thankful to these stalkers in a way?

How to deal with a stalker? Good question. It really depends on the type. Some of my stalkers are the insidious, remote type who just enjoy watching you squirm and get miserable. Those are easily ignored. Those who really want to destroy your life by targeting those around you are trickier, but as I have demonstrated so far, being open and honest means that people will never believe a poorly written, rambling mail over your story. I can truthfully say that I have never lied at any point about what I know to be the truth about my body and intersex condition. I was raised in the belief that honesty lasts the longest and gets you the furthest. I will always adhere to that.

I have had to assure some journalists and others already that I'm not too worried about this latter type of stalker. Their attempts to discredit me are obviously ineffective, yet they persist, which suggests a certain kind of insanity. Some expressed worry that I might get physically attacked by one of them, even murdered. It's not impossible, but unlikely as it'd fully expose them for the lunatics they are, something they are afraid of. They prefer to hide behind anonymity, even though they aren't even nearly as anonymous as they may think. With both stalking and slander a (criminal) offence, they're just one mistake away from seeing their life ruined. If they have a life at all.

It's a lot to deal with, that's for sure. One might conclude that most people in the Netherlands must be mad, raving lunatics at this point. I'm sure that's not true, for most of them at least :)

Yes, there is still confusion regarding my intersex condition, but the 'I could be just a male' option got crossed out many years ago already. To address it again would be just daft. As for me strong-arming physicians and psychologists into diagnosing me with an intersex condition as also gets suggested at times, I wish I could do that. Then I wouldn't be dealing with severe psychological traumas, or be suffering through a lengthy lawsuit because fools trigger my DID even after being warned about it. It'd also means that German physicians are 100% susceptible while Dutch physicians are immune. Go figure that one.

I'd love to get closure on what the exact condition is of my female side and have surgery to accomplish what is possible. This regardless of the exact outcome. If only because it'd give me insight in what it is exactly I go through every month, with abdominal pains and extreme sensitivity/soreness in the vaginal and groin region. To live another 70+ years or so without having any clue about what is going on seems like utter madness to me.

At any rate, despite having suffered for a decade at the hands of the Dutch healthcare and political systems, I'm at least grateful that my sacrifice hasn't been in vain, with me having raised the level of awareness of intersex in the Netherlands and worldwide in a considerable fashion while exposing the many issues with the current Dutch treatment of intersex cases. As a humanist I know I have to be aware of what's good for humanity as a whole. I believe that my actions have made a significant, positive contribution to this, which makes it all slightly easier to bear.

Here's to leaving unpleasant legacies behind as quickly as possible.



Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Hedgehog's Dilemma

I have been meaning to write about this for a while already and I think in earlier blog posts I have already mentioned or referred to this. I think it still deserves its own article, though. Not to mention that after having been sick with the flu for over a week and only just beginning to recover I have had some time to think about this subject. Namely that of being lonely and alone in a world full of people who seem to at the very least not dislike you.

The first time I began to think about this issue in any concrete manner was while watching the (in)famous anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion (NGE), which - must be said - is not for the faint of heart. The main character in it (Ikari Shinji) grows up alone for most of his life, with his mother and father busy with a research project. His mother dies during experiments after which Shinji doesn't see his father for many years, until suddenly he gets called by his father. He's needed. The setting of the series isn't important, but what is important is how Shinji feels: abandoned, socially and emotionally insecure and uncertain.

I felt a lot of sympathy for Shinji the first time I watched this series, and I still do. Despite the best efforts by those around him to make him feel welcome, they quickly decide that he's an unruly, unsympathetic boy who will just never get along with people. The truth of the matter, however, is that this is the complete opposite from the truth. Years of solitude have led Shinji to build up a shield around himself to protect against the harsh, unforgiving world around him. Trapped inside this shield he cries out for warmth, for a loving embrace, for someone who'll break through his defences.

Yet every time someone comes close enough, these defences ensure that this person will get hurt, resulting in them concluding that Shinji doesn't want them to be close and thus they retreat again. Every time Shinji is thus abandoned, further increasing his loneliness and feeling of being abandoned. This continues until finally one person understands what is going on and manages to break through his defences. She calls what Shinji is dealing with 'the hedgehog's dilemma'. The moment someone comes close, one can't help but raise one's defences, which will inevitably injure that person.

After the decade following the first time I watched NGE I have come to recognize a lot in another character in this series: Rei. Due to her background as a (medical) experiment and being raised in a sterile environment, she has virtually no emotional side or feelings despite being intellectually very mature. This in many ways reflects my own youth and move into adulthood: detached from my emotional side, unable to connect with others in any meaningful way. In many ways these Shinji and Rei characters overlap, which is why they begin to turn into good friends as the series progresses. Who else can fully understand what it's like to be so lonely than another person who is just as lonely?

Growing up I found myself unable to associate with children of my own age. I found solace in intellectual pursuits and the consumption of hundreds of books, preferably as difficult as possible. With the internet I read up on anything related to science and technology, making me intellectually far more capable and well-versed than people many times my age. Yet I was still lonely. Nobody came to me to hang out. I never went to anyone to hang out either. At school I wanted to belong with others, but nobody was really interested in hanging out with me, or gave up soon after I showed little interest.

I dislike being lonely. I like being alone at times. I often think about what it would be like to have friends, before realizing that I have never been capable of actual friendship. Anyone who tries to be friendly to me inevitably ends up getting hurt or gives up on me after a few attempts.

Maybe it's a feeling of not really belonging. I can be plenty friendly to others and yet there is only one person in my life I would consider to be an actual friend, incidentally someone who has gone through the same kind of loneliness as myself. Maybe that's at least part of what's required: a matching life experience. A kind of compatibility which becomes more rare the more unique one's life experiences become.

Not to mention the prickly (hah!) topic of relationships. I can honestly say that I have zero interest in a (romantic) relationship at this point. The past decades have involved a series of painful lessons realizing the many sources behind what I thought was 'attraction'. Much of this was merely a desperate search for myself in the faces and bodies of others, trying to glimpse fragments of that which I had lost or perhaps never known. The other part was disgusting, instinctual carnal lust, something which still fills me with a sense of loathing at the mere suggestion.

In the end what it all comes down to is finding at least one friend with whom one is compatible in terms of life experiences, mutual understanding and intellectual goals in life. Anything beyond that is mere decoration and the subject of irrelevant details.

To just about everyone I'm still a hedgehog: cute to look at from a distance, but don't get too close or you'll injure yourself. And I'll feel as ever so terribly sorry and lonely for causing so much pain and hurt in this world.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Difference A Mirror Makes

Mirrors have for a long time been both a friend and foe to me. They have shown me on many occasions what this body of mine truly looks like. The first hint about my body being intersex came from this. On the other hand there are times when I cannot see clearly any more and seeing my hideous visage in a mirror at that time is torture, with the pain inside my mind twisting and distorting what the mirror shows me.

Since I moved to Germany I haven't seen a lot of mirrors, as my apartment at this point is practically devoid of them, aside from one I had in storage. After some recent moving around of items due to maintenance, this mirror unintentionally ended up standing near where I get changed. As a result when I got changed that night before heading to bed I glimpsed my undressed body in said mirror and felt shocked.

The body I saw in the mirror was that of a female. A slim, attractive female, with curving hips and narrow waist. At this sight I felt quite a dissonance as my self-image tends to drift towards the 'squat, rotund and ugly' kind of image. For all intents and purposes I might as well have a male body, as that's how it feels to me. To then see this self-image shattered like that, swift and brutally, by the image reflected to me, it felt both terrifying and joyful.

"You're just a feminine-looking boy."

"I think that you're deluding yourself [about being intersex]."

"You're biologically completely male."

"You suffer from autoparagynaecophilia."

"You're not intersex, but transgender."

Phrases like these - uttered by Dutch physicians and psychologists over the past decade - keep resounding inside my mind. They either never saw me as possessing a female body, or were lying to me. Am I truly biologically male? Am I intersex or not? Which organs do I actually have? Why am I not getting answers? Why did two Dutch judges agree to have my official gender and first name changed based upon being intersex and looking female respectively, if I'm neither? What is going on?

What people say to me about my appearance makes little difference to me. People are biased and too many have lied to me over the years. A mirror doesn't lie, however. Only one's own mind can deceive oneself at that point and I know in how far I can trust it.

People cannot be trusted, let alone physicians and psychologists. A mirror can be trusted. I'm not entirely sure what it is exactly that I see in the mirror, or what it means, but even with my limited medical and anatomical knowledge I think I can safely make the assessment that I have a female anatomy, including secondary characteristics. Considering the rest of my anatomy it can from there be reasoned that I have to be intersex.

That's as far as a mere mirror can take me, though. It cannot examine me internally or explain why my body is the way it is. It cannot tell me whether this monthly cycle is something to worry about and how to manage it. It cannot get me this final surgery to fix up my female side where it's closed off. For that I would still need the same people who have proven to be completely unreliable so far and whose hurtful phrases still torment every minute that I'm alive.

Or I could just gaze forever into a mirror, imagining the many ways my life could have been more pleasant.


Friday, 3 October 2014

Dealing With Chronic, Unknown Pain

This morning started off pretty okay, with me feeling motivated to get some real work done for a change on the many projects I have encumbered myself with this year. Unfortunately before I even got to eat breakfast I began to feel all too familiar stabbing and cramping pains in my lower abdomen. At first I ignored the pain, thinking it'd subside pretty quickly as it usually does, but not this time.

The pain kept getting worse for the next ten or twenty minutes until I had to admit that it wasn't getting any better. Half walking, half crawling, I made it to the mattress I use as a bed, still, and sank down on it while gritting my teeth in agony. I tried to position myself as comfortably as possible and distract myself by reading some in my current book, but at many points during the hour that I was lying there I had to put away the book because I could barely focus on it through the pain and tears.

This particular time was one of the worst cramps I have felt since the first time I remember from when I was 11 years old and I thought I was dying. It's a raw, unrelenting pain, somewhat like when you have really bad indigestion with hints of kidney stones, but focused on the front of the lower abdomen, descending down to the groin. Though I'm used to pain, I broke down in tears a number of times and was more than grateful when the pain finally subsided after about an hour.

It's been suggested that this monthly abdominal pain is due to some food intolerance (like gluten), but considering the nature of the symptoms, the cyclic occurrence and it happening regardless of whether I have eaten anything at all in the hours before it, it seems quite unlikely that this is the case.

In the end I don't know what this pain entails, just that it's there every month, both numbing and cramping up my abdomen for about a week, and sometimes putting me out of commission for a while, like today. I wasn't at the office today because it's a national holiday here in Germany, but otherwise I would have collapsed at my desk in sheer agony. I'm not looking forward to this happening next week or at any other point in the near future. Because it's embarrassing and because I'm so utterly frustrated because I don't know what this pain is or what could be done about it.

If only there were doctors on this planet who cared about patients, but after a decade of trying to find one, I have given up on such a ridiculous proposition.


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Intersex: All About Maintaining Control

Of all the things which have affected me in my life, the two major ones are things I was born with. The kind of intrinsic thing which you either learn to live with or not at all. The first one to become apparent was my giftedness. This one was the type of thing to have which is both a major curse and blessing, as it both allows me to do things the average person cannot, but it also made my life exceedingly hard in other ways. School being one of those things and later on with jobs and such. Hereby it looked like for a while that during my school period that I would lose control over my life.

Thanks to support from my mother I was able to find a way to deal with my giftedness. Unable to deal with the regular education system, I was able to study on my own, studying a wide variety of subjects, mostly focused on technology and science. As an auto-didactic, visual-spatial learner the main issue I have is that of getting bored. Without a challenge of sufficiently high level, I get bored, become demotivated and lose all interest in the subject. Only by keeping myself stimulated with difficult assignments can I keep my focus. This tripped me up at school, and still does to some extent today now that I'm working a day job. Being so different from others makes life harder.

It's not just about challenges, either. It's also about this unrelenting need to improve things. When I have seen and analysed something, I then move on to figuring out ways to improve on it. That's not a very useful thing in most teams, however. Most of the time I have to hold myself back, while forcing myself to focus on and accept the limited solution being implemented. I try to keep myself motivated by doing difficult projects next to my day job for that reason, like writing my own CPU architecture in VHDL and expanding my knowledge of electronics in general. I also want to move more into AI research and robotics. Because it's fun and motivating. Enough to keep myself occupied there at least.

By having challenges like this I keep my intellectual, gifted side happy and content. Under control, or in control, depending on how you look at it. That's what it's about in the end. If I feel that I'm not just being lived, but am actually in control, everything is fine and happy and there's no stress or conflict. Take away the control and everything goes south, however. This is the problem with the second thing I was born with: my intersex condition.

It's beyond question that my intersex condition has affected me from a young age in a direct and traumatizing manner, causing emotional, developmental and social issues where - even with my giftedness - there shouldn't have been any. There never was any control over it. First because I didn't know it was there, then because I didn't know what it was. Neither did my environment. It was out of control.

Then, when medical specialists should have been helping me regain control, things just got made worse. Even after ten years of asking questions, I don't have a single clear answer about what this body is or how it's put together. With contradicting diagnoses by physicians it's clear that some of them are either lying or incompetent and in the face of this confusion I do not have any control over my intersex condition. It also doesn't seem like I will regain control over it for as long as I live, as the medical problem simply won't be resolved at this rate.

This issue is what has forced my emotional and intellectual side apart from a young age, stunting my emotional development and nurturing my intellectual side thanks to the intellectually stimulating environment I grew up in (growing up on a farm, lots of books, computers, internet access, etc.), but also because of the ever-present need to get away from the constant emotional pain I felt.

The dream I woke up from yesterday was telling in that regard. In it I was being held tight by a man, with my back pressed against his chest. I was struggling weakly, but unable to pull loose. The man whispered with his mouth next to my right ear that he would kill me, brandishing a knife. From my peripheral vision I could see the knife moving from the right towards my throat until it was resting against my skin. I just remember giving up at that point. As the knife cut into my throat's skin from left to right, it burned, then it felt weird to breathe. As blood flooded my lungs the all too familiar pain of choking to death began before I passed out.

Being murdered in one's dream can indicate a lot of things, if you believe in it. While I'm relatively sceptical in such matters, I do accept that since the brain generates the imagery, there is likely some meaning to it. In this particular case combined with how I felt at the time I think that the explanation that it symbolizes the cutting away of one's emotions, to distance oneself emotionally. It's similar to my response at various points by trying to kill this body of mine as response to the lack of control over this intersex situation, but then not aimed at the physical.

Similarly, it's why I hate dealing or reading about intersex in any form or shape: it reminds me of the fact that I have no control over this intersex aspect of myself. It's why I am so incredibly jealous of other intersex people who do have some semblance of control over their condition. Every time I am doing a media interview it feels better for me, as it's a way to regain some control. After the interview and once the publication or broadcast goes live it all fades again, however, and the dance begins anew.

Control is also why nobody else should ever decide in any fashion or form about intersex individuals, whether a newborn baby, teenager or adult. The moment anyone takes away control over our own bodies, our own fates, away from us, they may as well tear our heart from our chest. If we're dying due to some medical complications, by all means save us, but otherwise the only 'help' we require is that which we cannot provide ourselves, such as the answers to medical questions about our own bodies. Beyond that there's nothing more we require to be happy. Definitely no other interventions. In that regard we do have a lot in common with our non-heterosexual brothers and sisters: the urge to maintain control over our own bodies and minds.

We're not broken. We don't suffer from a disorder. We may have questions, but those can be answered. Please don't break us by taking away this control we so desperately need.