July 11, 2019
I Am a Woman, Even If I Do Not Menstruate

Born without a vagina and uterus, she has always felt disconnected from other women.

by I Gusti Ayu Aryoni
Issues // Politics and Society
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I am a woman, and I have never menstruated, nor will I ever.

When I hit puberty, I watched with envy as one by one my friends had their first period. My mother initially thought that I was just late bloomer. But when I still didn’t get my period in my last year of high school, my parents decided that I should see a gynecologist.

The doctor diagnosed me with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) Syndrome. It’s a congenital condition in which a woman is born either without a vagina and uterus, or with an underdeveloped vagina and uterus. This means that not only will I never be able to have a baby, I also cannot have a sexual intercourse unless I have a surgery done.

It broke me immediately. On the way home my mother kept telling me that I should be grateful that I still could live a normal life compared to people who don't have an arm or leg. My father told me that I didn’t need to get married because I couldn’t have a child. My brother refused to believe it. He tried to take me to a traditional healer, which only gave me false hopes.

While they meant well, their words actually hurt me. My mother just wanted me to be strong, but my father’s comment was meant to assure me that it was OK if I didn’t get married, because I couldn’t have a child. In our patriarchal society a child, especially a male child, is everything. Yet, I do not agree with my father. I believe a relationship or marriage is more than just a mere tool to reproduce.

MRKH Syndrome  made me feel disconnected with other women. It made me feel a lesser woman. I want to feel blood coming out of my vagina and I want to have a baby someday. I even longed to feel the stomach cramp that is hated by almost all women.

I hated it when my friends talked about their period because I couldn’t relate. When they asked which brand of menstrual pad I used, or if I suffered from stomach cramp during my period, I didn’t know what to say. I was ashamed of my condition, afraid that my friends would think I’m weird or not a girl, if they found out.

I did tell some friends and it baffled them. They had never heard of the condition.  One asked me, if I didn’t have a vagina, how did I pee? They couldn't tell the difference between a vagina and a ureter. Some pitied me, but the worst were those who didn’t think it was a problem.

In college I finally met people whom I could open up to and who understand and support me. They are my best friends, they told me that I would find somebody who would accept me for who I am. I want to tell people about my story without feeling ashamed, but one of my best friends told me that not everyone deserves to know my story. While some might be curious to know about my condition, others might not even care, my friend said.

Still, I want to tell my story to the world, not for their sympathy, but so they understand that there are women like me. Women who have no vagina and uterus. Women who have never experienced period. And that we are just as much a woman as others.

I Gusti Ayu Aryoni or Ayik is a twenty-something woman from a small village in eastern Bali who wants to learn more about the world.