When she started going through puberty, Phoebe Hart realised she was different to other girls. While their breasts grew and they started their periods, she still looked like a little girl.
‘I asked Mum what was going on and she just said I didn’t have a uterus,’ says Phoebe, 38, of Brisbane.
Confused and unsure of what was happening, Phoebe was kept in the dark about the family secret until she was 17.
‘One Sunday mum took me for a drive, I knew it was about something big because she wouldn’t let my two sisters come,’ she reveals. ‘We parked by the beach and she told me I had male chromosomes. I remember asking ‘I’m a boy?’
‘It felt really crazy for a couple of seconds but I remember being relieved it was a medical condition which others suffered from. I was pleased to finally know the truth.’
Phoebe’s condition is called intersex and means she has parts of both male and female reproductive organs. It is said to affect up to 1 in every 100 babies.
Growing up she looked and felt like a girl, but she also had testes inside her abdomen. Within weeks of hearing the truth, Phoebe agreed to have surgery to make her more feminine.
Rather than sort the problem out, the surgery left Phoebe with a plethora of emotional and physical scars.
‘I told my friends I was going in for a hernia operation. Very few people knew the truth,’ she says.
She was even able to hide the truth from sexual partners, but when she met her future husband James at a party in 2002, she decided to be honest with him.
‘I told him before we were intimate for the first time. Then the next day I brought him some literature. I don’t think he fully understood until then.
‘He struggled at first, wondering what it meant for his own sexuality, but he realised he was falling in love with me, whoever I was.
‘He’s told me since he’s attracted to my bravery and is inspired by my ability to be so open about it.’
‘Right from the start we had to address not being able to have our own children,’ says Phoebe.
‘It was tough for James to give up fathering his own children, but we agreed to register to adopt a child,’ she says.
After a five year wait, the couple were blessed with an adopted daughter, Rachel, in 2009. She is now two., and Phoebe couldn’t be happier with her life.
‘Along the way I’ve really learned to accept myself,’ says Phoebe. ‘I learned to love myself and I’m blessed to have others love me too.’REAL LIFE: More stories here