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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Judging the Gender

Parents' Decision Causes Sexual Confusion

[EDMUNTON, AB] - Marsha Black could have been a boy or girl. At birth, she was both.

Black was born a hermaphrodite -- meaning she had both male and female sex organs. A doctor successfully advocated surgery to make the infant a boy.

Now the Edmonton transsexual is about to go under the surgeon's knife again, this time to become a woman.

"What's being done, I want in the worst way," said Black, 46, who lives and dresses as a woman and asks to be referred to as "she."

It was only six years ago the computer technician discovered she'd been born a hermaphrodite. At that time, Marsha was Marshall and had all medical records pulled to apply for a job.

Reading through scant medical records, Black learned of the surgery done at eight months of age. Details of the surgery are sketchy, but Black's been told female organs were removed. It helped the former flight instructor understand the sexual orientation confusion and cross-dressing that began in junior high.

"It kind of explained a few things, the way I am, the way I feel. For 20 years I didn't have that," said Black, who was interviewed while clad in a fuchsia Spandex tank top, short black skirt and sandals.

She harbors no ill feelings toward her parents for making what they thought was the best decision.

Babies born with ambiguous genitalia occur as frequently as one in every 2,000 births, said Barbara Neilson, a social worker for Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

Such babies undergo intensive testing to determine gender. Depending on the parents' wishes, treatment may include surgery and hormone medication. Black doesn't dwell on the past, but she wonders what life would be like if the operation had gone differently.

"Most hermaphrodites can never have children. It depends on the degree and how things are done and when it's dealt with. Maybe I could have been a happily married woman with a couple of kids to call my own. I love kids."

While she won't be able to conceive, Black's hoping her fresh start as a woman will include a man.

"I'd like to find myself a boyfriend and a husband-to-be. I'm not getting any younger. Whether that'll happen, I don't know," said Black, who moved to Edmonton from Victoria at age 19.

At 6-foot-2 and with a deep voice, Black knows many view her as a man in woman's clothing.

"I'm going to have to live with this the rest of my life," said Black, who has natural breasts thanks to hormones.

But she fully believes the decision for her gender reassignment surgery is the right one.

She's been living as a woman for four years and sees a psychiatrist, required for the operation. Her family is supportive of a decision that follows decades of turmoil.

"I've been straight, bi, gay and now I'm straight again. It's the evolution of finding your way through the muddle."

Along the self-discovery path Black had a common-law wife for five years.

The pair split up after Black decided to become a woman.

Black will undergo surgery to become a woman in Montreal on Sept. 30.Black's penis and testicles will be removed and a vagina will be surgically created. Doctors will also shave Black's Adam's apple and implant breasts.

She's looking forward to her new life.

"How many people do you know who can honestly say they're going to be a virgin twice in their life?"

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