An intersex who was born with a vagina and testes has revealed she doesn’t identify as a man or a woman despite ‘looking female’.
Alicia Roth Weigel, 30, from Austin, Texas, spent most of her life hiding the fact that she had been born with a vagina and testes but no uterus or ovaries and used to pretend to have her period to fit in at school.
‘When I had boyfriends, I told them I had fertility issues so I couldn’t have children,’ she said. ‘What kind of man would want to date a woman who was born with internal testes?’
Alicia, who had her testes removed in infancy, explained she had ‘no idea’ there was a term to describe being intersex, which is used to describe anyone born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that are not distinctly ‘male’ or ‘female’, until she read an article aged 27.
Today Alicia said she does not identify as a man or a woman despite looking like a woman.
Alicia Roth Weigel, 30, from Austin, Texas, spent most of her life hiding the fact that she had been born with a vagina and testes – but no uterus or ovaries
Alicia had her internal testes removed when she was less than a year old, in a procedure which she called ‘castration’, and didn’t hear the term ‘intersex’ until she read a Vogue magazine article about intersex model Hanne Gaby Odiele in 2017
Alicia was born with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS), a condition that means a child has XY, or ‘male’, chromosones, and internal testes, but presents female.
Experts believe that around 1.7 per cent of the US population is born with intersex traits, which is comparable to the number of people born with red hair.
Her parents took the decision to have her testes removed when she was a baby.
She said: ‘Essentially they castrated me. When you take away someone’s testes without their consent, it is castration.’
As a result, her body was sent into a hormonal imbalance.
What is androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS)?
Androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) affects the development of a person’s genitals and reproductive organs.
There are two types of AIS: complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) and partial androgen insensitivity syndrome (PAIS).
The genitals of a person with CAIS appear female, while those of a person with PAIS may appear female or male.
Sometimes PAIS is discovered because a baby’s genitals are not as expected for a baby boy or baby girl.
It is caused by a genetic alteration that is passed along the female line to the child.
PAIS is usually noticed at birth while CAIS can be more difficult to spot, as the genitals usually look like those of any other girl.
It is often not diagnosed until puberty, when periods do not start and pubic and underarm hair does not develop.
Alicia continued: ‘My body does not respond to androgen hormones which are what most people consider “male” hormones.
‘Even though I have XY chromosomes, my body converts a certain level of testosterone to estrogen.
‘So my testes would have produced those hormones and my body would have converted it into estrogen.’
But because her testes were removed, Alicia relied on hormone medication.
‘I basically grew up in hormone withdrawal,’ she said. ‘The most similar thing I can describe it to is the menopause.
‘Women going through the menopause get mental fog and osteoporosis and hot flushes – which is what I experienced.
‘I grew up with depression, I had to get my bone density checked all the time.
‘All of that was not medically necessary. It was a decision that could have been delayed and probably avoided. My body is now reliant on external hormones to be okay.’
Alicia was advised by doctors not to tell anyone that she was born with both testes and a vagina.
She added: ‘Doctors said that people would make fun of me, so I should lie and make up stories to fit into the normal paradigm.
‘When I was in middle school and my girlfriends started getting their period, I carried tampons even though I would never need a tampon because I don’t have a uterus or ovaries, so I don’t menstruate.
‘When I had boyfriends, I told them I had fertility issues so I couldn’t have children, but I didn’t tell them the truth.
‘What kind of man would want to date a woman who was born with internal testes? You end up creating a whole false narrative to fit into what society deems normal.
‘My brother didn’t know, my grandmothers didn’t know, my friends didn’t know.’
Alicia and came out as intersex while testifying in front of the Texas senate (pictured right, with a friend) in a public hearing on the failed bathroom bill
Throughout her childhood, Alicia relied on hormone medications and grew up in hormone withdrawal, leaving her with symptoms she described as menopausal as well as depression and having to get her bone density checked
Alicia said that, while she presents as a woman, she also identifies as non-binary.
She added: ‘I use both she and they pronouns. I was never given the choice on how to identify.
‘One day we won’t even know gender. We won’t have these male and female and non-binary boxes. It’s all about thinking beyond the box.’
Alicia now uses her experience to campaign on behalf of the intersex community.
She testified in front of Texas’ state senate in a public hearing on the failed bathroom bill.
Alicia said: ‘The legislation said that you had to use the bathroom that aligned with the sex on your birth certificate.
Alicia said she was advised by doctors not to tell anyone that she was born with both testes and a vagina, adding they told her people would ‘make fun of her’ and she should ‘make up stories’ to fit into the normal paradigm (Alicia is pictured right with a friend)
Alicia now advocates for greater awareness for the intersex community and campaigns against doctors performing medical procedures on intersex infants without their informed consent
‘It was intended to hurt trans people, but it also propagated this lie that everyone is born male and female.’
She is also campaigning against legislation including a proposed bill that would class ‘gender affirming’ care as child abuse in Texas.
It would mean that parents who allowed their children access to hormone replacement therapy and puberty blockers – treatments commonly prescribed to transgender children – could lose custody of their children.
The legislation includes an exception allowing doctors to perform surgeries on intersex children.
Alicia added: ‘The broader issue is that this is anti-trans legislation but it also contains this loophole that you can perform surgeries on intersex children.
‘So really they are saying that we shouldn’t give this care to the kids that are wanting it but we should force it on the kids that do not want it.
‘My surgery was done when I was less than a year old. I couldn’t consent, I couldn’t even talk.’