Irene Kuzemko grew up in Ukraine and Russia and had medical tests done when she did not go through normal puberty. That was followed by surgery that she was vaguely told was related to cancer. Kuzemko suffered depression when her body didn't become normal afterward. Years later, she watched a YouTube video about what it's like to be intersex, and only then realized what had caused all that misery. What upset her most was how her parents and doctors kept her intersex condition, diagnosis, and treatment a secret from her, and how she was robbed of the right to make decisions about her body.
A few months after first confronting her father, Irene asked again, “Why didn’t you tell me?” This time, she says, he answered differently and admitted to keeping it all a secret from her on purpose. “I told him, ‘Do you understand that you destroyed my life?’”
Irene says he was unwilling to apologise, and that he instead said that two child psychologists had advised him not to tell her anything. This, she has since discovered, is common advice in Russia and other countries. But her father told her something else, she says: that he should have thrown her medical records away so she could never have known the truth and blamed him for it.
Three years later, Kuzemko is sharing her story with the world, and advocating for the rights of intersex people. Read what she went through and how it has affected her at Buzzfeed.
(Image source: Irene Kuzemko)