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I'm intersex, says Miss Sundowns

By Julia Madibogo | 2017-02-07 11:36:02.0

Newly crowned Miss Mamelodi Sundowns Sharon Rose Khumalo has spoken out about being an intersex female.

Khumalo opened up to Glamour magazine about living with the condition.

Speaking to Sowetan yesterday from Mamelodi, east Pretoria, Khumalo said she was raised a woman and had no idea she had male sex chromosomes until four years ago when she turned 21. She did not get her periods during puberty .

"For me there was no reason my parents could think otherwise. I grew up seemingly like a normal traditional female. It was just the delay (in having periods) and even then it was never the first thing we thought of," Khumalo said.

Khumalo, 25, said a visit to a doctor discovered she did not have a uterus or ovaries. "After my first doctor's visit I was shattered and I remember I just wanted to go home and cry it out because I went to the doctor thinking that he will just say 'oh gain some weight, take this medication and then everything will be sorted', and now he just dropped this bomb on me and I didn't know who I was anymore.

"Sometimes I am okay and then on some days I look at other women who have children and I know I will never have that, but I have learnt to accept that this is the situation and I can't really change it."

Khumalo said her family had always been there for her.

The sexy Khumalo first burst onto local TV screens when she was a top five finalist in Miss SA 2016.

"The whole process of going through diagnosis was very lonely. There is only so much that support groups can do. So for me I started a blog for selfish reasons, it was just a case of dealing with that, letting someone know that 'listen, whatever you are going through whether its similar or different to my situation, we are still human at the end of the day'," she said.

Khumalo's situation is similar to mid-distance runner Caster Semenya whose sexuality was publicised after she ran in the World Championships several years ago.

"I can't remember when the whole Caster Semenya story came out, whether it was before or after [my] diagnosis, but for me it was a case of here is a human being who did not choose to be born this way and here she is being ostracised in public."

Khumalo, the eldest of two children, said being a beauty queen was always her dream and she disclosed her situation to the panels at Miss Mamelodi Sundowns and Miss SA and they were accepting.

"Personally I had fears that someone somewhere might say this and that and then it turns out into something nasty ... The judges supported me and it didn't feel like it in any way counted against me."

Miss SA's Stephanie Weil said the pageant had no rules against intersex females participating.

"It has always been done in big pageants around the world. No one chooses to be born a certain way and for us, she let us know her situation beforehand so the least we could do was [to] be supportive of her. I can't say if she was the first intersex female to enter the competition because some never divulge such information."

Counselling psychologist Claire Jaynes said Khumalo's situation did not put her at any advantage against other contestants.

"... it is not like a physical competition where they are judged on their physical performances. It is a beauty pageant and everyone had an equal chance to impress the judges."

Miss Mamelodi Sundowns project manager Kerusha Govender said the club was aware its reigning queen was intersex and would stand by Khumalo during her reign.

She said Khumalo's story was encouraging to aspiring beauty queens who struggle with personal problems.

Sexual orientation and gender terms explained

Wits Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity advocacy senior administrator Tish White defines the following terms:

Intersex - a person who does not fall into medically "normative" standards of maleness/femaleness, specifically with regards to their genitalia, chromosomes or hormones.

Hermaphrodite - an outdated and offensive term previously and incorrectly used to refer to intersex persons. In modern use, it refers to plants and animals, typically with both male and female sex characteristics.

Transgender - a person who does not partially or wholly identify with their gender assigned at birth. Transgender is an umbrella term that includes all those who are not cisgender (the opposite of transgender).

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