My name is Pol Naidenov. When I was born, I was registered as a girl. I was born in the main town of North-West Bulgaria in 1970. Since my early childhood years, I knew that I was different from the other girls, but I did not know why or how. In my early teenage years, my body began to change and I was diagnosed with Morris syndrome. At that time, I felt more like a boy than a girl, but I knew that I couldn’t be either one of these. I remember being hospitalized without explanation and spending too many days in the genetic department of one of the leading hospitals in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. The doctors would not tell me what treatment they were giving. My parents had given their consent to the treatment without being informed of all potential negative effects on my psychological and physical development. The doctors may not have known of these potential effects either. At some point, I was told that I needed to undergo a surgery in order, “to feel more comfortable as a young woman”. I remember begging the doctors to make me a boy, and telling them through tears that I do not want to grow up as a woman. The surgery was nevertheless performed and a dark period of my life began, which I do not want to remember. Taking female hormones led to severe depression and suicidal thoughts. I felt that something, which was completely wrong, had been done to me. After many years of living with a strong discontent with my legal gender, and with my “normalized” body, I finally found the inner strength to start a case for legal gender recognition as a man. I began self-identifying as an intersex person around 2010. The Bulgarian law does not allow for recognizing a neutral gender, that is why, I requested a change of my legal gender marker from female to male, since I felt closer to being a man than to being a woman.
Today, one of my main goals in life is to protect other intersex children from living in the hell that I’ve been through. I would like to help families and institutions raising intersex children understand that they should not start gender affirmation therapies until the moment when the intersex child is able to self-identify. I wish to make health practitioners understand that some of the conventional therapies for treating intersex children may do more harm than good. I wish to make lawmakers understand that some people cannot fit into the binary gender model and a neutral gender marker is needed. Last, but not least, I wish to make society understand that biological sex is a spectrum and intersex bodies are not abnormal – they are just different.
Bilitis Resource Center Foundation