By Danny Baggott @dan_baggie
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Adja Gildersleve
Producer: Danny Baggott, James Thorne
Editor: Beth Angus
Until now, Jyoti Gambill-Read has lived with a variation of the condition ‘intersex’ - something she defines as ‘not having the typical binary sex organs or parts.’
Starting to develop as a boy in utero for the first 12 weeks, Jyoti’s growth suddenly halted and since then, she has identified as female and started to take oestrogen in her early teenage years.
Jyoti, who resides in Hopkins, Minnesota, has never let her condition hold her back - but just a few weeks ago, she decided to have complex surgery that will enable her to have a more conventional sex life going forward with a new vaginal opening and canal.
Jyoti told Barcroft TV: “Being intersex has definitely impacted my self-esteem and my confidence.
“The surgery has basically matched up my body to what I believe it should be.
“I’ve never really felt like less of a female, less of a girl, because I don’t have a vagina. That’s just part of me that I had control over – but I feel like I’ve taken control of my body now.
“During the process, and initially going in, I was both nervous and excited.
“I mean, no one really knew how it was going to go!”
But thankfully for Jyoti, the surgery was a success and she couldn’t be happier with the results and her recovery so far.
She said: “I’m feeling good. I’m very happy with the results – and I’m happy to start this new chapter in my life.
“I’m still pretty sore, but after 10 days of recovery in the hospital, I was pleased to get out when I did.
“The first couple of days were really hard for me, I was pretty out of it and in quite a bit of pain because the dilator wasn’t something my body was used to.
“Obviously I was under anaesthesia for all of it, but what I heard was that it took my surgeon, Dr Aliabadi, three attempts to try and attach a piece of my intestine to the opening.
“So what was supposed to be a four hour surgery, took around eight hours.
“From what my mom said, he was completely drained afterwards, but I appreciate him so much, I’m so thankful to him.
“I can’t express my gratitude enough.”
Dr Hossein Aliabadi is a paediatric urologist who has been in practice for some 30 years.
Very experienced at this level, Dr Aliabadi was also pleased with the outcome of the surgery.
Speaking before the operation, he said: “Jyoti was essentially born with male chromosomes and therefore, there were no internal organs of a female.
“At this point, essentially, she is having reconstruction of a vagina so that she could become more fulfilled as a female and have a more normal sexual encounter.
“Of course, with any major surgical procedure, things can go wrong. But it has been quite successful for us in the past.
“The surgical procedure is complex, but well defined in which a portion of the intestinal tract, either the small intestine or the large intestine, is used where a graft has been made to provide a vaginal vault for future sexual activity.
“Our hope is that by the end of this project, Jo will have a functional vagina with minimal degree of discomfort.”
And that’s exactly what Dr Aliabadi managed to achieve.
Jyoti recently added: “The heart feels uplifted, I would say, and just kind of relieved because this is something I’ve wanted for so long.
“I wanted the surgery so I could explore more of my sexuality as I get older and I head into my early 20s.
“I wanted to have more freedom and not have to be as awkward with dating.
“It’s my body, it’s my choice and I don’t regret it whatsoever. It’s my DNA, I can feel it in my bones and in my soul that I’m a woman.
“The surgery now acts as my means to an end for that.
“I know people are going to hate on all sorts of reasons of like, why I shouldn’t have done it.
“One of the biggest reasons why I felt comfortable making this decision, is that I knew I had so much love and support from my parents and my grandma.
“I’ve gotten a lot closer to her and she visited me a couple of times in the hospital, which is really nice.”
Jyoti was adopted from India when she was an infant by parents Susan and Patrick – it is understood that the reason her birth parents surrendered her for adoption was due to her condition.
Due to Patrick being transgender, him and Susan were faced with a few roadblocks throughout the adoption process – but they eventually managed to bring Jyoti and her younger brother, Krish, into their family.
They have been with Jyoti every step of the way and couldn’t be more proud of their daughter.
Jyoti also thanks her best friend of 10 years for being her rock throughout her journey.
Mom, Susan, said: “For me, it was like taking care of a baby all over again.
“It’s been a really stressful few weeks, but we got there together.
“I am so relieved it’s done, this was a huge hurdle to get over for Jo and it took a lot of our time as well.
“I’m just really happy she’s got what she wanted. It’s up to her now to keep the opening flexible and remain healthy.”
Going forward, Jyoti needs to make sure to dilate her new opening in order to allow it to expand and not heal over itself.
She said: “So the hole they made, to keep it from closing I have to dilate it.
“I need to expand it so it’s functional and so it stays as it is because the muscles will otherwise retract and close up again. And all of this surgery would then be for nothing.”
Besides her medical recovery, Jyoti is now looking forward to her future – attending college in the fall and going on more dates that she hopes will be less awkward thanks to her surgery.
“I know, for me, the surgery is going to make things much less awkward at the beginning of the dating process,” Jyoti said.
“I’m still going to address it early on in any potential relationship, because I’m not going to lie to myself.
“It just give me a lot more confidence to put myself out there, to showcase myself and be open with people.
“I can only hope I meet someone and I meet other people who have that same kind of mentality.
“I am bisexual/pansexual, as I find men, women, and anybody on the gender spectrum attractive. I don't care about what someone identifies as, to be attracted to them or to date them.
“I’m just very grateful to share my story to the world and to hopefully inspire others to be themselves.”