TITLE: The Meaning of Orchids
GENRE: Women's Fiction
After hiding underneath oversize sweatshirts and baseball hats for fifteen years, Shane Phillips, born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome—a genetic intersexed condition that left her physically female but genetically male—decides to embark on a journey of self-discovery to understand what it means to be a woman.
I was born healthy–technically. The doctor told my mother he had never seen such a well-developed baby girl. Ten fingers. Ten toes. And, as we later discovered, something else. My mother wanted a girl; my father, a boy. They both got their wish.
These thoughts bang around my mind as I step out of the shower and peek at my naked body in the partially fogged mirror, my 36 D breasts and hairless vagina—the body parts that suggest I’m a woman. But as I run a towel in tight circular motions across the surgical scar on my stomach, I feel less like my adapted gender.
I slip on a sleeveless black dress, apply a stroke of mascara, and dab on a lick of lip gloss. With every move toward preparation, I second-guess my decision to attend tonight’s event. It’s not any place I want to be–not in the mood I’m in. Feelings of dejection, confusion, and loneliness are unwelcome guests to a party.
Not that I’m not grateful for a night of superficial happiness. To the colleagues and clients who’ll be at the party, I’m normal–an average woman who can grow pubic hair, menstruate, birth babies, and pass gender tests. In some ways, I’m better than normal: I move with a ballerina’s grace and my statuesque body is the perfect accessory to any kind of clothing. I stand eye to eye with most men while my breasts compete with those of Playboy centerfolds—only mine are real enough, and close enough, for men to touch.