|It seemed like forever that I was lying there. The pain I was feeling was more excruciating than any I had ever felt before. My knees were up into my stomach–in a foetal position, I suppose. I could hear people talking but I couldn’t take in what was being said...
By Susan Brown
They threw everything at us and we camped in our half, trying to keep the ball out of the net. Inevitably, the pressure told and we gave away a stupid free kick, about ten yards outside our penalty area. We quickly assembled a wall and I was in the middle. My nose began twitching and I wanted to sneeze. I rubbed my nose and then put my hand over my crotch, as everyone does in these situations.
The whistle blew and Thomas, their captain, replaced the ball about three inches to the left of the position the ref had put it and stepped back four paces.
He looked up and ran forward.
Then I sneezed and my hand automatically went up to my face. The next second I felt an explosion as the ball hit my unprotected crotch with tremendous force. I was pole-axed, going down immediately, and screaming with pain.
Seconds before I blacked out, I heard someone say from a long way away, ‘Shit, look at that blood!’
And now the story continues…
It seemed like forever that I was lying there. The pain I was feeling was more excruciating than any I had ever felt before. My knees were up into my stomach–in a foetal position, I suppose. I could hear people talking but I couldn’t take in what was being said.
After a while I was vaguely aware of being lifted onto what I presumed was a stretcher. Then, as someone tried to straighten my legs, I screamed and everything went dark.
I came round, not knowing where I was but I heard–almost in the distance–my daddy, saying something. ‘Don’t worry you’re on the way to hospital, they’ll sort you out––’
I can’t remember much more for a while after that–it was like a series of snapshots, where I drifted in and out of consciousness. One minute, I was in an ambulance, then in a corridor; when I next woke up, I was in a room with lots of people around me and somebody was sticking needles in me. Then I drifted off as the pain faded away and I slept.
I woke up gradually; the first thing that I became aware of was a bleeping sound. It got on my nerves a bit…bleep…bleep…bleep…I opened one eye–it was quite sticky–then the other one. Things were somewhat blurred for a moment and then I felt terribly sick. Seconds later someone was there while I heaved up into a metal dish. After that my tummy felt a bit better and I lay back again.
I must have fallen asleep, because when woke up again the room was light; vaguely I could see sunlight flooding the room and the curtains had been drawn back. I raised my head a little and looked around, blinking in the harsh brightness. I could still hear the bleep machine in the background, but what I noticed most was a nurse sitting at the end of the bed, writing something down on a clipboard.
‘Hello,’ I said, but it came out as a sort of grunt.
She looked up and smiled.
‘Hello, sleepyhead, how are you?’
‘Thirsty.’ I whispered.
‘What was that? Thirsty, right, hang on a moment.’
She got up, went to a table and came back with a plastic cup and a straw.
‘Right, lean up a bit and have a few sips of this water; not too much–it might make you sick again.’
I sucked up the water and it made me feel much better as it slipped down my parched throat.
‘Thank you,’ I said, my voice feeling a bit stronger after being lubricated.
‘That’s okay. How do you feel?’
‘A bit strange. What happened?’
‘You got hit by a ball and it caused some problems down below.’
‘What problems?’ I said, realising suddenly that I couldn’t feel anything below my waist.
‘The doctor will be around shortly and she’ll explain. There are a few people outside who would like to see you. Do you feel up to having visitors?’
‘Okay, I’ll go and get them, but they can only stay for a short while as you are still not very strong.’
She left the room then, making me wonder what she meant. I remembered snatches of conversations while I was writhing around on the pitch, something about blood, but I was in too much pain to take much in, so I stared at the ceiling. I could move my arms okay and was tempted to lift the sheets to have a look what was going on down below, but all I could see was a sort of tent affair above my middle section. One strange thing though, was the fact that I couldn’t feel much from my groin area. At first I thought that I might be paralysed, but I could feel my legs below my knees and I could wiggle my toes a bit. My arm had a clear tube running into it and I could feel the needle in my arm.
All in all I was in a poor state that wasn’t helped by the thumping headache that throbbed at my temple. I shut my eyes for a few minutes as the sunlight was hurting them.
The door swung open and I heard familiar voices. Smiling, I opened my eyes and there was Mummy and Daddy staring down at me smiling; Daddy didn’t look at his best.
‘Daddy, you need a shave.’
He felt his jaw and looked ruefully at me. ‘I think you’re right, but I’ve been up all night so I have a good excuse. What about you, that hospital gown is hardly the prettiest thing I’ve seen you wearing.’
I smiled at that. It was nice that Daddy was making light of things and trying to cheer me up.
‘How are you, honey?’ Mummy enquired.
‘I feel a bit weird. I can’t feel much down below. What happened to me?’
‘Don’t you remember, sweetheart?’ asked Mummy.
‘Sort of––I think I was hit by the ball and it made me double up in pain. Then someone said something about blood and I don’t really remember much else.’
‘Well, you got hurt badly in your groin. The doctor’s coming in soon and she’ll explain. You’d better prepare yourself for a bit of a shock.’
My blood ran cold at those words. ‘A—am I going to die?’
‘No, honey, but you came close because you lost a lot of blood. It was Melchester’s doctor who saved you. He was on the ball and was able to control the bleeding just in time. Look, we could tell you all about it, but it’s complicated and we might get it wrong. What I will say is that you are safe and you will get well again, really soon.’
‘What about the club, Daddy? Are they all right about it? They aren’t angry about me being injured?’
‘No, they’re only concerned about your getting well; and you saved them a point.’
‘What d’you mean?’
‘When that shot hit you, you saved a goal!’
The door opened again and a lady came in. She was wearing a white coat and had a stethoscope hanging round her neck. I suppose she was about forty and was very pretty. She was followed by the nurse I had seen earlier, pushing some sort of trolley.
‘Hello there,’ she said approaching me, ‘how are you feeling?’
‘Sore in some places and numb in others.’
‘Well, that’s a help,’ she said smiling, ‘now, let’s have a look at things down below, so if you don’t mind your mum and dad leaving for a minute?’
‘Okay, but don’t go far.’
‘We won’t,’ Mummy said, as they both gave me a kiss and then left the room.
‘Right, let’s see how things are looking, then we can have a wee chat, okay?’
‘Okay.’ I agreed, beginning to worry about what the “wee chat” would be about.
The nurse smiled at me as she lifted off the sheets. The doctor came up close and surveyed my middle. I couldn’t see anything because the nurse was holding the sheets up as a sort of a barrier.
‘Can you feel this?’ said the doctor?’
I felt a sort of pressure on my penis.
‘How about this?’
‘The same feeling,’ I said.
She prodded and poked me a bit more and I was able to gauge how much of me was numb, from just below my belly button to half way down my legs.
‘Okay, that’s fine,’ She said as the nurse rearranged my bed covers again.
‘You are healing well, and you should start getting some feeling back gradually. You will have a bit of pain, but we’ll try to control that with pain killers.’
She sat down by the side of the bed.
‘You’ve been very brave, but I need to talk about what happened to you. I asked your parents to leave it to me because I’m used to explaining this sort of thing. Do you want them to come back in?’
‘Have you told them yet?’
‘About what happened to you? Yes, they know everything’
‘Can they come in please?’
‘Yes, of course.’
The doctor turned to the nurse and nodded. She left and a few minutes later, came back with Mummy and Daddy. Mummy came and sat down opposite the doctor and held my hand. Daddy just stood at the end of the bed looking a bit lost. I felt sorry for him but I don’t know why.
‘Right,’ said the doctor, ‘first I’ve been very rude, not telling you who I am. I am Doctor Phipps and the nurse over there is Staff Nurse Robinson.’ The nurse looked up and gave me a little finger wave and a smile.
‘I think that you ought to be told about everything. It might upset you, but I find that when you have all the facts, you can think about things and then move on. Is that all right with you?’
I just nodded. I could feel heart beating so loudly that I was sure the others could hear it.
‘You came in as an emergency. You had lost a lot of blood and your blood pressure had dropped alarmingly. However, thanks to prompt action from the club doctor, it wasn’t critical. We stabilised you, gave you a blood transfusion and then assessed your condition. We were told you had been hit by a football in your groin area at close range. There was extensive bleeding and damage to your scrotal area and after cauterising the blood vessels we had an x-ray and MRI scan done on the area. To be honest, we were a bit puzzled because you had budding breasts and a rather feminine shape, so was rather interested in seeing what the scans would reveal. Your father had accompanied you and he gave me information about who your doctor was and what had been going on in your life and the fact that you see yourself as a girl and not a boy. I won’t go on about the pills you bought off the internet as you are by now, well aware how silly it was to do that.’
I nodded, my face getting hot and no doubt looking very red.
‘Having spoken to your doctor, she explained that you were due for some tests and that she was a bit concerned about your testicles. Anyway, events have overtaken that and I shared some information with her and she was in agreement with me as to the course of action, subject to the results of the X-ray and ultrasound scan.’
Mummy held to my hand tightly and Daddy looked rather serious. The nurse was still doing things with the trolley and I became aware of a pigeon making cooing noises, standing on the window sill outside.
‘The X-ray and scan results came back fairly quickly, for once and the results were not very clear,’ continued Doctor Phipps, ‘and I have to tell you that yesterday evening you went into surgery and due to the fact that your testicles were badly damaged, we had to remove them.’
I breathed in sharply as Doctor Phipps continued.
‘On removal of the testicles, we found that beneath the scrotal sack, was an opening. Without getting too technical, we found evidence of female reproductive organs. While you were still under, I called in one of my colleagues–who possesses a high degree of expertise in these matters–and he confirmed what I suspected. You are what is commonly termed as being intersexed. In other words, you have both male and female reproductive organs.’
‘Oh!’ I said, feeling a bit faint.
‘Are you all right, love?’ said Mummy with concern. Daddy had come over and was standing close too.
‘Y—yes, I s’pose so, but what does it mean?’
‘It means, that you are neither a boy nor a girl, but a bit of both. Judging by your body shape, the female side of you has the ascendancy and even if you had not had an accident, something would have had to be done in the very near future. My colleague and I discussed things with your parents and decided on the best course of action. We noted that you had expressed a wish to become a girl at some stage, although you didn’t want to make any mistakes that you would regret in the future. Tell me, had you had any bleeding from the area over the last week or so?’
‘Yes, I was going to tell Mummy about it, but…but I got frightened and then the bleeding stopped so I just thought that it might have been some sort of infection or something.’
‘Well there was evidence that you were having a period hence the amount of blood. It wasn’t only damaged blood vessels but also menstrual blood that had been trapped inside. Anyway, it was decided that we should rectify things as best we could on a temporary basis until we could get your feelings on the matter. At the moment, you still have your penis and we have cleaned things up a bit down there, but what we want and need to know urgently is do you wish to keep your penis as it is or would you prefer sexual reassignment surgery to become a complete woman?’
‘Mummy, Daddy, what should I do?’
‘Look, we’ll leave you for a minute to have a private chat,’ said Dr Phipps. ‘Call me when you have decided.’ She and Nurse Robinson left us and for a few moments it was quiet.
Daddy came and sat down on the chair that the doctor had just vacated.
‘I—I don’t understand. Have I got a vagina down there then?’
‘Yes, dear.’ said Mummy.
‘And a penis?’
‘Gross! I want one or the other, but not both.’
‘Well, it’s your decision, love.’
‘What about my football career?’
‘What about it?’ said Daddy.
‘How will it be affected by all this?’
‘I don’t know, but you must look after your health first and then we will sort out the other things going on in your life.’
‘I—I don’t want to be part boy and part girl. I can’t be a proper boy without all my boy bits, can I Mummy?’
‘Not really, love. You won’t be able to have children.’ She looked sad.
‘Will I be able to have them as a girl?’
‘Probably, they’ll have to do further tests to see if you are fully functioning, but the specialist did say that as far as he could see, you should be able to bear children.’
I thought about my life up to this moment and how I loved being and dressing as a girl. I recalled how sad I was always when I had to dress as Mark on occasions and how happy I was to revert to being Susan. I loved my football, but I could only be a player for another fifteen to twenty years–if I was lucky enough to be injury free–then I had the rest of my life to live. I could stay as I was and pretend that I was one hundred percent male, but I was sick of the deception. I didn’t want to look over my shoulder for years wondering if I would be found out or exposed in some cheap tabloid newspaper.
I wondered if I could fight my corner and become the first girl to play in league football. How would they treat me, as a girl or boy–or even some sort of weird freak? And how would the fans react? All questions to which I had no answer.
I looked at my parents and then I made my decision. I took a big breath.
‘Mummy, Daddy, I want to be a girl and I want to try to be the first girl to play in the Premier League and if I can’t do that, there are plenty of places in the world where I can earn a good living doing what I love.’
I was moved to a private hospital for the procedure because it had a reputation for secrecy and I could afford it. I had to see a psychiatrist for some reason and she went through the reasons why I wanted the procedure. Well, doh! I was a girl, wasn’t I? Anyway, I didn’t feel like had much choice because no way was I going to be an in-betweenie–neither girl nor boy but a bit of both.
Andrew was sweet; once I was able to get my mobile back we spent a lot of time talking. He was back at school now–as was Claire–and wasn’t able to visit as much as we would like and that was so boring. Claire and Andrew came as much as they could but it was difficult because they also had to visit their mum. She was getting better but it was a slow process. They were still staying at our house.
The private hospital was more like a hotel–carpets on the floor, soft bed, a digital TV on the wall and Sky TV too! The food was excellent with a menu similar to that which you get in a posh restaurant. Mind you, I wasn’t very hungry sometimes because the painkillers made me feel slightly sick.
It was strange not having any dangly bits down below. The funny thing was, sometimes I felt like I still had a willy. Mummy said that some people who lost legs and things felt the same for a while so perhaps it wasn’t so strange after all.
It was about ten days later that I was allowed to go home. I was still very sore, but happy in the knowledge that I was a complete girl now. After some tea, I was feeling tired so I went upstairs to bed. The surgery had gone well and although I was still in some pain and everything looked puffy, red and sore down there, I was pleased that things had turned out okay and there weren’t any complications. I was still rather washed out when I got home, so I spent a lot of time in bed and sleeping. The pain went away gradually and I was left feeling a bit sad somehow. Mark was gone now or the physical person that was Mark anyway. I wasn’t always sad being Mark. I had my football and sometimes I enjoyed doing boy things, but now my life had changed and I had to look to the future. The major thing that was giving me sleepless nights was what would happen when knowledge got out that I was a girl and not a boy.
One day, while I was still in my hospital room watching The Simpsons, Daddy came in. ‘Hi, Daddy,’ I said as he came over and kissed my forehead.
‘How are you feeling, love?’
‘Sore and bored.’
‘Never mind you’ll soon be home.’
He sat down by the bed and I used the remote to switch off the TV.
‘Look, we have to talk about what we’re going to say to the club.’
I was dreading this. ‘Mmm,’ I said.
‘I think we need some expert advice so I’ve brought along John Prentiss to talk about it. I’ve told him everything–I had to–I hope you don’t mind.’
I sighed. ‘No; it had to come out sometime, I suppose. How did he take it?’
‘Funnily enough he smiled.’
‘Yes; he said that he knew that there was something about you that didn’t seem right. Anyway, he clammed up like a shell after that and just said that we needed to talk.’
‘That’s what I thought. Anyway, he’s just gone off to get some coffees for us and he’ll be here in a minute. Do you want a drink?’
‘No thanks, I just had a coke. I’ll be glad when I can get rid of this catheter, it’s not nice.’
‘According to the doctor, it’s coming out tomorrow, then you can forget about standing up to wee, you’ll make a mess!’
‘Daddy, don’t be rude, I’ll tell Mummy!’
‘You would too––’
The door opened and John Prentiss walked in, carrying the drinks.
‘Hi, Mark––sorry, Susan.’
‘That’s all right, John, even Daddy gets it mixed up sometimes.’
John handed a cup to Daddy and then sat down beside the bed.
‘How are you feeling?’
‘Okay, I suppose.’
He looked at me carefully. ‘You look very pretty for an ex-boy.’
I smiled. ‘I wasn’t ever really a boy in the first place, just a girl with boy bits.’
‘I can see that. Look, we need to talk about where you see things going from here. What would you like to happen?’
‘I want to be a girl but I also want to play football–it’s my life.’
‘I know; you’ve got a rare talent and it would be wasted if you couldn’t play at the highest level.’
‘But can I?’
‘Play at the highest level.’
‘FIFA won’t allow girls to play with men, I’m not sure about people who are intersexed. It’s in the rules that mixed teams are not allowed and I don’t know how they would react to your rather unique situation. As far as women are concerned, a few have tried to join mens’ teams and their requests have been rejected out of hand.’
‘’t’s not fair.’ I whined.
‘Life isn’t fair, Susan, but we have to make the most of it.’
‘What can I do?’
‘There are a few options: option one, you pretend that you’re a boy and hide your girl bits and play on as before.’
‘But that’s dishonest.’
‘Well, technically speaking you are still, on paper anyway, a male; so from a legal standpoint we could argue that you can play because of that.’
‘That’s just silly. I have breasts and I don’t have a penis. I can get pregnant too so how can I even technically be considered a male?’
‘It’s just the legal formalities. Your birth certificate and other legal documents declare that you are male. Until that changes, in the eyes of the law you are still a boy.’
I looked at Daddy; he seemed as confused as me.
‘What are my other options?’
‘You tell Melchester that you are intersexed and see what they can come up with.’
‘Come up with?’
‘Well, as an intersexed person, they might try to argue the case that you were brought up as a boy and you have–or did have male parts, as it were and as such, special dispensation should be given in your case.’
‘Would they do that for me?’
‘Let’s put it this way. As a male, looking purely in financial terms, you are probably worth at least fifty million pounds to them on the transfer market. Also, your impact on the team is such that without you, they will struggle to get much silverware this year. So, yes, I think they would at least try to argue a case in favour of your staying.’
‘Are there any other alternatives?’
‘Yes; you give up playing men’s football and play for Melchester’s women’s team.’
I thought about that. The women’s league was getting quite popular now. Melchester had fielded a ladies’ team for several years and had won a few cups and the league a few years ago. Women’s football was very popular now and if I hadn’t already been involved with the men’s team, I would have tried to see if I could play for them. I still felt bad about all this though.
‘’t’s not fair.’
‘What isn’t?’ asked John.
‘That there can’t be mixed teams.’
‘I agree. If you have the skill, and you have, why should it matter what sex you happen to be? But it’s an unfair world and that’s the way of it.’
‘What d’you think, Daddy, you haven’t said much?’
‘I don’t know, honey. It’s a difficult one. On the one hand I wonder how would other players–the men I mean–react to you and then again, would opposing teams just try to steamroller you and use rough tactics? On the other hand, if you have the skill and talent, you should not be held back by any concerns about gender–it’s your call though, your mother and I will stick by you, whatever you decide.’
‘What would you do though?’
He looked at me thoughtfully.
‘If I was in your position, I would tell Melchester all about it, say you want to continue playing for them and if you can’t, then ask if you can join the girls’ team. You would be surprised at how good they are. I went to see them last season in the FA cup and there’s a lot of skill in women’s football and the support was very vocal.’
‘What about you, John?’
‘Well, talking as an agent, I would do the same. Fight FIFA if you want and try to stay where you are. If you lose, join the women’s team. Because of who you are and what you represent, we can get huge money with sponsorship and raise the profile of the women’s game up even further. Another thing you have to remember is that some clubs in other countries pay women players very good money. Whatever you decide, financially you will be secure.’
I was recalling all this in bed at home. It was quite late for me, about ten pm; the painkillers I was still taking made me feel a bit washed out and sleepy. But I was, despite everything, quite happy. Tomorrow, Mr McPherson was coming to see me. He had been told about me and he wanted to have a chat. He was bringing the club’s publicity man with him and I couldn’t decide if that was good or bad, but I was content to wait until tomorrow to find out what was going to be done.
There was a knock on the door and a head popped around.
‘Hi, still, like, awake?’
‘Yes, come in’
Claire was in her nightie and she padded over and sat on the bed.
‘How’s your mum?’ I asked.
‘Not bad; she like, gets tired easily but she looks a bit healthier now they have her meds sorted out. How are you?’
‘But not good?’
‘I’m a bit worried. Some people from the club are coming over tomorrow and things have to be decided.’
‘Do you wish that you were still, like a boy?’
‘No, I’m happy as I am, it’s just…’
‘Well, I didn’t realise until now how much of a raw deal girls have. They don’t earn as much as men; they don’t often get the best jobs and worst of all, they are still treated in a lot of ways like a sub species to men.’
‘Yeah, I know what you mean. I want to be a nuclear scientist and head my own huge company, but I’m just a girl.’
‘Don’t you need to be clever to do that?’
‘Are you saying I’m not clever?’
‘I’ll have you know, I have like, talent. Only the other day, Miss Merchant in home economics said that she was surprised at how high my cake rose.’
She looked at me and I looked at her, and in seconds we were in the middle of a giggle fest!
My eyes were streaming and Claire was rolling about on the floor when I heard a cough. Looking up with watering eyes, I could see Mummy looking at us with a quizzical look.
‘Girls, please can you keep the noise down: the twins are trying to sleep, and so is Jeff.’
We calmed down a bit. ‘Sorry, Mummy,’ I gasped.
‘Mmm. Right, Claire, off to bed; you’ve got school in the morning, oh, and have you done your homework?’
‘Erm–like, goodnight, all.’ With that she shot out of the room like a rat up a drainpipe.
Mummy came and sat on the bed. ‘It’s nice to see you a bit more cheerful.’
‘Yes, Claire’s funny and makes me laugh; she cheered me up lots.’
‘You okay about tomorrow?’
‘Sort of. I’m wondering what the manager’s going to say.’
‘Well, just remember, you can’t change what or who you are. If others have a problem, it’s their concern, not yours, so don’t worry. Now you’d better get some sleep. Goodnight, sweetie.’
I yawned and she kissed me on the cheek and settled me down.
The light was switched off and as I cuddled my rabbit and thinking that I’d have preferred to be cuddling Andrew or Andrea, I fell asleep.
Please leave comments...thanks! ~Sue
My thanks go to the brilliant and lovely Gabi for editing and pulling the story into shape.
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