TODAY |

Utah family with intersex child intent on making world more accepting place

When doctors said her youngest child would be a girl, Amie Schofield chose the name Victoria. Then they said the child would be a boy, so she switched to Victor.

It turned out neither was exactly right. The blue-eyed baby was intersex, with both male and female traits.

And so she and her husband decided to call the infant Victory. The name is a hope for triumph over the secrecy and shame, the pain and discrimination suffered by intersex people.

Amie Schofield knows those sufferings better than most: This was not her first intersex child.

Some two decades earlier, she gave birth to another child whose body did not align with common expectations of boys or girls.

Schofield agreed to have that child undergo surgery that tipped the scales of gender to masculine. But the operation did not settle the issue of gender in the child's mind, or protect them from a savage beating decades later.

Now, with Victory, Schofield has been given an opportunity to try again. Her parents want Victory to be accepted for who she is; instead of changing Victory, they are intent on changing the world so it is more accepting of intersex people.

"I think as a parent, I have to be her advocate," Schofield said.

Amie first married when she was young, and had her first child more than 20 years ago. Instead of having one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, as men have, or two X chromosomes, as is typically female, the child had two X's and a Y.

Intersex people are not to be confused with transgender. Intersex is an umbrella term for a number of conditions where internal or external sex characteristics aren't exactly like typical male or female bodies.

They are a larger group than is commonly acknowledged; estimates range from about 3 in every 200 births to 1 in 2,000.

Doctors have long performed surgery and administered hormones to intersex kids to make their bodies more like typical boys or girls, but there's a growing pushback.

Five states have considered banning surgery until they're old enough to consent, citing serious potential side effects, but most bills have stalled amid pushback from doctors' groups who say the proposals go too far.

Amie took doctors' advice and raised her first baby as a boy, agreeing to surgery to bring down undescended testicles.

But the onset of puberty brought hips and breasts, something that didn't go unnoticed by other teenagers in the small Idaho town where mother and child lived at the time.

There were beatings and teasing. She aches when she thinks about those years with her first intersex child.

Like her half-sibling, Victory has XXY chromosomes.

She also has a separate condition that means her body doesn't fully respond to male hormones. Her genitalia are ambiguous, but due to the Y chromosome doctors marked the birth certificate as male, and encouraged Victory's parents to raise the baby as a boy.

Amie and her husband took newborn Victory home. The family lives north of Salt Lake City now.

They decided to raise the baby without pushing either gender. There would be no surgery. At 18 months, Victory began gravitating toward dresses and bows, and loudly insisting on wearing her hair long.

Today, Victory is a vivacious 5-year-old with a toothy grin, blond hair and a quick mind. She's mostly deaf due to a separate genetic condition, but communicates clearly with signs, some words and sheer force of personality.

Victory knows her body is different from those of her mother, father or brothers, but it doesn't seem to bother her, Amie Schofield said.

Victory's parents would like to change the designation on her birth certificate from boy to girl, but Utah law requires a court order and some judges in their area won't approve the changes.

So for now, her mother can only hope to teach her to be her own person and learn to deal with the struggles ahead.

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Amie Schofield hopes her youngest child, Victory, will be accepted for who she is. Source: Associated Press