Am I a he? Am I a she? Oliver Roberts speaks to three South Africans about the torment of achieving identity when you are both male and female.
Sally Gross has been many things in her life, including a revered political activist, a philosophy lecturer and a Catholic priest. She also spent time in the Israeli army.
Gross was born a man and still is; but she’s also a woman. At least, she decided to become a woman in the early ’90s. She went into hiding in the south of England to adapt to wearing dresses and makeup and turning right instead of left when visiting a public bathroom.
She didn’t have any surgery to change her sex, though — it wasn’t necessary. Gross doesn’t really have a gender. She is both. She is what’s commonly known as a “hermaphrodite”, though the preferred term is “intersexed”.
This condition — atypical sexual differentiation — occurs in about one in 50 people. These figures make it feasible that between 45000 and 90000 South Africans are intersexed. According to www.intersex.org.za, we have one of the highest occurrences of intersexed people in the world.