I sat down with David Cameron Strachan to reflect on intersex and LGBTQ history, the meaning of “non-binary” gender, and a recent court victory—The San Francisco Superior Court granted David’s petition for non-binary gender markers** last Wednesday. He is now the 5th legally non-binary person in California! David has been an intersex activist for over 20 years. He enjoys coffee cakes and stands seven feet tall in shoes.
When I was 13 I didn’t develop like other boys. I was raised a boy. My body didn’t develop, and my mother wanted to look at my genitals. She was concerned. I was taken to the family doctor. The doctor took a look at me, poked and prodded—mind you this was in 1960, so they didn’t have as much knowledge about sex chromosomes—and he didn’t do any tests or anything. He said, “don’t worry, Mrs. Strachan. Your son will grow up normal and you’ll be able to have grandchildren.” That’s what they told my mother.
When I was in Thailand in my 20’s, I was engaged to be married to a woman. She was having trouble with birth control. I remembered my sophomore biology textbook, which said “giants are usually sterile.” Well, no one’s ever called me a giant, but I’m always the tallest person everywhere I go. I went and had a semen analysis in Thailand, and it came back that I didn’t have any sperm. I thought, “Well, I guess I am a giant!”
When I had health insurance and was living in San Jose, CA I went to Kaiser Hospital’s infertility clinic. They told me that I had Klinefelter’s Syndrome and XXY sex chromosomes. I was sterile. They offered me testicular implants and breast reduction surgery, and I said, “no way.”
It wasn’t until 1994 when Dr. Susan Stryker was teaching a class at Harvey Milk Institute. She told me I needed to meet Cheryl Chase, who had started as group called the Intersex Society of North America. And I’d never heard that word before, intersex. I contacted Cheryl and we talked on the phone. She invited me to a support group meeting. I told her what I’d been diagnosed as, and she looked at me said, “that’s intersex!”