This post is likely to get personal and the reason I’m writing it is so that those of you that don’t understand my disorder might take the time to Google and gain a little understanding. I have a “disorder” called polycystic ovarian syndrome otherwise known as PCOS. A symptom of PCOS is Hirsutism. Which pretty much makes me a modern “Bearded Lady” of sorts. What it really means is I have a hormone imbalance that causes irregular hair growth mostly mimicking that of a man due to high levels of testosterone. Growing up I was always called horrible names, like Erika-Bear-ika and Gorilla Girl. My hair growth wasn’t so bad as a child ages 3-10. My hair has always been dark thanks to my Hispanic heritage but once puberty hit it was a whole new kind of hell. I started growing hair on my upper lip and under my chin. Basically I was growing a beard at age 11. Not cute. The hair on my arms and shoulders got darker and coarser. I felt as if I was turning into some sideshow freak and there was nothing I could do about it.
By the time I was 12 or 13 years old my parent’s started taking me to the doctor to see what was wrong. I was then passed from my pediatrician to a dermatologist and they suggested I have the hair laser removed. So, my parent’s then dug deep into their pockets and started purchasing laser hair removal procedures. I had about 5 or 6 before I couldn’t tolerate the pain any longer. It was over the course of about a year and a half and each time became more and more painful. I then caved in to waxing and using Nair almost daily.
I was in my freshman year of high school when I started plucking my facial hair and shaving my arms daily. I wanted to fit in or not stand out for being the super hairy freak girl. Kids in middle school and high school didn’t understand my medical issues, nor did my doctor’s for the longest time. I can’t remember how but I came across a website that explained what PCOS was and what symptoms it included. I had every one. When I went to my doctor at 18 she passed me along to an endocrinologist that performed a lot of blood work and analysis of my hormones. The results came back and I was diagnosed with PCOS immediately. With the diagnosis I received bad news, worse news, and horrible news. Nothing good came out of that visit.
The doctor started off with the not to so bad news, stating that I could take birth control for the rest of my life to level out my hormones. (This I found humorous because I am a lesbian and do not need to take the pill at all.) Then she moved on to telling me that the disorder was a partial reason for me being overweight and that it would be extremely difficult for me to lose enough weight to be healthy and PCOS free. Then she continued to kill my soul completely and told me that I would most likely never have kids because PCOS is the leading cause of infertility in women. Now if you know me in the slightest I planned on having 6 kids when I was almost 10 years old. I have and continue to want to have children of my own. I could deal with being a hairy ape lady but I couldn’t deal with the probability of never having my own children and I became depressed. Very very depressed. I cried for hours and hated my life. I cursed my parents for having me and my genetics for making me so messed up. I was inconsolable and angry at the world. And for a while I gave up trying to fix myself because I figured I could never do it on my own. The medication made me nauseous all the time and the birth control only worked for a while.
The torment I went through in school only continued in my daily life and still does at times. I have taken drastic measures to look “normal” on a day to day basis, but I still get stares and second glances. I can see perplexed looks on some naive individuals that question if I am a male trying to pass off being a female or if I’m a female trying to transition into being a man. From time to time I see people staring at my face looking at the stubble that may be showing through my make up. I get questions about the stubble on my arms and I often times go summer after summer in 3/4 length sleeves because the hair on my shoulders and back grows too fast for me to continually afford waxing. It’s a rough life and at time I get so overwhelmed and upset.
I plan on fixing this. I have to. I can’t continue on this way, overweight, unhappy & having to deal with the pains of society’s beauty standards that I don’t fit in to. I am going to lose the weight and get over having PCOS. I will have my own children and I will some day be just as “normal” looking as the next person. Sans beard. I am promising this to myself because I don’t want to continue letting myself down. Modern medicine can only do so much and I know that it is up to myself to get this hormone disorder under control.
So the next time you might find yourself staring at a woman at the grocery store or in an elevator and your eyes linger a little too long on her jaw line because you can’t figure out why she has stubble and not the smooth complexion you think she should have. STOP BEING SO IGNORANT & spread the word that “bearded ladies” have feelings too.