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Susannah Temko, 24

I found out I was intersex a couple of months after I had finished chemo. I had just turned 16. Initially, I had a panic attack, because it just threw everything I thought I knew about myself into the air. There was nothing to tell me what it meant.

Beauty Portrait of Susannah Temko
XY chromosomes don’t define me. I define me. I embrace my femininity in line with being intersex. I used to spend a long time wondering if I was 'woman enough' and what I've realised is there is no such thing. - Susannah, 24

It means I have XY chromosomes and streak gonads (which were removed), which is when the organs aren’t ovaries, and they’re not testes either. I identify as female, but I just got this idea in my head that I wasn’t a proper woman. It was miserable. At 18, I became clinically depressed and, at one point, suicidal. I developed a really serious eating disorder. I felt I had to be like a Victoria’s Secret model – that I had to be ultra-feminine and gorgeous, striving for what I thought was perfection. I couldn’t leave the house without a full face of make-up. 

Starting to write my blog was a turning point. It was about cancer, and the message I kept putting across was that there is nothing wrong with having a disease; you shouldn’t be ashamed about having a body that is ill – everyone is strong and beautiful. Just over a year ago I finally wrote a blog post about being intersex. I nearly threw up as I hit publish, because about 5,000 people would read the post, but it was the most freeing thing. Ever since, I’ve been so open about it and I came to the realisation that if people have a problem with it, it’s them, not me.

I feel stronger, though I don’t feel perfect in any way. I still have days when I look in the mirror, and I wish my face wasn’t shaped a certain way. But before there was a voice, a critic in my head, that was loud and it just drowned everything else out. Now I can tell the critic voice to be quiet. 

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