By now, you’ve thought about what your condition/variation means to you. You might have already talked about it with others—your family or good friends—and you might want to know what to say to a boyfriend or girlfriend.
In this section, we will talk about why to talk, what you can talk about, and when.
But first, these conversations are not just about “DSD.” We talk more about conversations each couple should have before and while getting physical in this section . For lots of us, what DSD means for us is linked to typical conversations about periods & sex, contraception (choosing methods like condoms or other tools to have safer sexual intimacy,) and preventing pregnancy.
For stories about how these conversations have happened for some of us in relationships, click here.
For more about linking your sexual health to your condition and what you need to do to keep healthy (especially info on STI risks and steps to keep healthy), click here.
Why talk about it?
Many people have had positive experiences sharing with their significant other. It can deepen your relationship, help you both grow closer, and help you better understand one another. When you open up, the person you share with might even share something about themselves,too. You develop trust and mutual respect.
Most of all, sharing is a way you can grow closer with someone—sharing part of your life or your body with someone else.
When you are telling someone, you should be at the heart of it and should be the person who benefits from it. So, think about what you want out of sharing.
Maybe it’s to help you feel less worried about dating this person—to bring you closer together.
Maybe it’s to have a friend to talk about some of the parts of your condition that it’s hard to discuss with others.
Maybe it’s because you are thinking about sexual intimacy and you want to share something that will affect how you are intimate with them (like wanting to take it slow at first.)
Maybe it’s because you potentially want to build a life with this person, and you want to talk about how eventually you could help grow a family with them.
All of these things (and many more) are things that might pop up from time to time and in different ways.
Remember: sharing is your decision. You don’t have to share if you don’t want to, and you don’t owe it to anyone. If you decide to share it, you control when and how you share it.
Something to do before sharing-Advice from K
“Before I shared, I wanted to ask my boyfriend if I could share with him something that is a pretty personal subject for me. I wanted to see if it was okay to share it with him. I could tell by his body language and the way he looked at me that he was comfortable and listening closely. It helped me relax and made me confident that it was the right time to share.”
What to share?
Myth: Sharing is about giving someone else information, plain and simple.
Truth: Sharing is a process—Sharing is an exchange. Your partner will hear what you say and respond to it. It’s an experience you share together.
When (and before) you share, think about what your condition means to you and what words you like to use when talking about it with your family, doctor, and others.
Then, once you’ve thought about once your condition means to you, think about some key sound bites that are easy for you to understand and remember. These can be things you talk about with your parents
“I was born with this thing that means….”
“I don’t have periods because…”
“As a baby, my body took a different pathway to becoming a girl (or guy.)”
“My body can’t hear Testosterone (T)—it’s like trying to call a phone that is turned off.”
“It’s like trying to put mail in a mailbox that is locked shut. My body can’t use that hormone or respond to the message it sends.”
“My body didn’t make a lot of hormones (like T), so baby-me grew as a girl.”
My body doesn’t have ovaries or eggs, so it can’t give one to make a baby.
My body doesn’t have a uterus so it can’t be an oven for a baby.
(We know! You get the picture! 😉 )
Also, with your parent, a trusted friend, or with a doctor, think of follow-up questions you might be asked so you are prepared to handle whatever comes your way.
Tip: Keep the first ‘shares’ focused on your body.
You might talk about having children—if you cannot have kids and if you want to adopt. You may talk about not having a period and that’s natural for you. And then your partner will respond to it. Or maybe talking about a ‘vajayjay’ that is a bit small, and wanting to take things slow. Maybe with a nod and a smile—or maybe with a question.
Like everything, we can’t predict their response. It can feel scary—but one thing we can promise is that the more you practice, the easier it will be. Once you open the door a little bit, you’ll see how it feels.
Remember, you can always share more later on. Sharing is a process, and you can do it in different stages—not all at once. So take the pressure off and share step-by-step in the way and time that works for you.
Other great phrases to practice to prepare
I don’t know how to explain that right now
We can talk about it another time, if that’s ok.
If you find yourself out of words, just take a deep breath, smile, and say one of those two things. You can always come back to the conversation later.
When to share?
Some people choose to talk about it early on for a variety of reasons. A DSD could be something you really enjoy sharing and something you’d like to talk about more with your partner.
It could also be something you feel like you want to share before being sexually intimate with someone, particularly talking about not getting periods, not needing birth control, safer sex, and testing for STIs.
Some people decide to talk about it when they can see a long-term future with the person they date. Other people discuss it when they feel comfortable in their relationship. There is no specific time you need to tell someone. It’s up to you whether you feel ready for it.
From M: “I felt more comfortable sharing my story with my boyfriend when he also shared something personal and serious about himself with me. It was wonderful to know he trusts me, and that I can trust him, too.”
Where to share?
Here, what matters is that you feel comfortable wherever you are sharing. Sometimes, sharing is spontaneous and happens when you see an opportunity, and the moment feels right. Other times, you might prepare to share with someone—a special friend or family member/s—and you may want to set aside some time beforehand.
Some people like sharing while going on a walk—it’s easy because you aren’t face-to-face, and you can move your body forward. This is a part of your journey, after all!
Some people like talking on a roadtrip, sitting side by side and having lots of time to interact and also be quiet.
Some people like to talk about it face-to-face, sitting down at home or at a café. It’s all preference and what feels best for you.
After you share, consider doing some of these things:
Thank the person for listening. You care a lot about them, and it’s important to show it.
Ask for them to keep this information between the two of you for now and not to share it with others– you may decide to share with others but that’s not for someone else to do.At the same time, they might need some support themselves and want to share it with a good friend or a parent. It might be good to have a conversation about who they might want to share with and if that’s okay with you.
Check in with them from time to time to see how they’re doing and if they have any questions. It’s helpful for them to know you are always there if they think of something
Give them a chance to breathe and have a break. It’s not always easy to just listen, and they may want some time to zone out and process what you’ve talked about.
Think about one or two websites or brochures that you think do a good job describing your condition that you might feel comfortable sharing with your partner. Check out the other resources section for a good start.
And remember to smile and take a deep breath yourself. You are amazing!
Some videos and stories from people who have shared:
- Imogen’s (Real-life sharing) Fairytale
- Emily’s video on DSD, sharing, and her experiences
- Sarah’s Thoughts on Sharing
- And even Faking It, Season 2 Episode 8 “Zen and the Art of Pageantry” where Lauren (who has CAIS) shares her condition with Theo. It’s at the very end of the episode 😉