Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Vallejo intersex poet Bryant finds truth about self, gender

By Lanz Christian Bañes/Times-Herald staff writer
-- Rocky Michael Bryant
Posted: 03/09/2009 01:02:25 AM PDT

Shortly after their new child was born, Sam and Marie Bryant made a fateful decision.

They cut off his penis.

They gave him a feminine name -- Rosland Marie -- put him in dresses and sowed the seeds for his lifelong search for identity.

The boy in the mirror

Rosland Marie Bryant, now legally Rocky Michael Bryant, was born with ambiguous genitalia. In a word, she was intersex, a term now used in lieu of the outdated "hermaphrodite."

"When I was a kid, I felt different," Bryant, 45, recalled.

He rebelled against the femininity his mother demanded of him, hating the dresses and hating the stares of the other children.

"I felt out of place, like I do now," he said.

His mother also made him take estrogen pills to encourage his body to become female.
Bryant spent much of his time in front of the mirror, examining his face and envying the bodies of her male relatives.

Then, at the age of 10, the revelation came as her reflection stared back at her.

"I'm a boy," he said.

The secret

Marie Bryant took her son's secret to the grave, never telling the truth to the person who she thought of as her daughter.

As the years passed, Bryant struggled as he attempted to bring himself fully into the masculine gender.

"I didn't have anyone to talk to about it," he lamented.

Family -- such as his sister-in-law -- swore Bryant was going to burn in hell for his supposed choice of lesbianism.

Being a man with female genitalia also created unique challenges.

"It's hard to get mates to be with," Bryant said.

Often, lesbians want to be with females who present themselves as women, he explained.
When his mother died, the estrogen pills stopped, creating a rush of male hormones that confused Bryant. In 2003, he began receiving testosterone injections.

He cut off his long hair and legally changed his name.

Though it has hard to find support, Bryant found she could seek solace with his sister.
However, she died in 2004.

It was at her funeral that her brother Henry finally revealed the family secret that had left Bryant confused for much of his life. Bryant was 40 at the time.

"He really didn't want to tell me," said Bryant, who begged his brother to tell him the truth at long last.

When Henry finally did, Bryant, shocked, had no response but to stare at his brother.

The poet

Bryant now lives in Vallejo with his friend Virginia Sabbagh, 50.

The past few years have not been easy on Bryant, who spends much of his time writing short stories and poetry. He has been published in several books.

He is often stared at in the grocery store or on the street as passers by try to disentangle the masculine from the feminine in him.

"A lot of people think that he's a freak of nature, but that's not what he is," Sabbagh said.
Sometimes, he would find the word "dyke" scrawled on his door.

Additionally, Bryant suffered a major injury. The same year his brother told him he was born intersex, he contracted a sinus infection that migrated to his brain.

He was in a coma for a month and still struggles with the slowness the illness left him.

After years of testosterone therapy, Bryant now sports a scruffy patch of facial hair.

His continuing transformation has not come cheap, and full gender re-assignment surgery might be out of reach.

"It doesn't matter what color your skin is, it doesn't matter what you look like or who you choose to be with -- everybody should be treated fair and equal," Sabbagh said.

Contact staff writer Lanz Christian Bañes at (707) 553-6833 or lbanes@thnewsnet.com.

Woman of Love

Woman love
Woman of peace
Can I hold you in my arms so close?
You're the one I'm thinking of
You're the one I dream of
Do you like being held tight
Under the stars at night?
Do you like being kissed goodnight?
I'd like to know
So I could do those things
Just right
Woman of love
With your lips
So sweet
You make my heartbeat real fast
You make desire want more
Woman of love
Woman of peace
You make my heart complete
Source: Click here
This is a service of the Organisation Intersex International

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