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Dawn Covino Opens Up About Being Intersex

The childhood

Dawn Covino Opens Up About Being Intersex!: Covino grew up in Long Island, New York, she had two siblings and was in the middle of three daughters. Her parents Carol and Thomas, weren’t the kinds of people who talked about feelings – and not about bodies.

As a kid, she was a happy and outgoing child. But as soon as she turned 12, she began to feel out of place. When her friends discussed their periods, she felt out of business cause she had not got them yet.

Over the next few years, she eventually developed breasts, but yet not having periods or body hair made her feel different.

To conceal the fact about her different body, she would hide in the changing room after gym classes. She would even hide her body at home.

The First Doctor Appointment

In 1989, when she was 15, her mother knew something was wrong and had arranged her first doctor appointment. She was traumatised that the doctor had called three more doctors after examining her.

She didn’t get a clear idea about what was going on but only understood segments from the conversation. She didn’t have a uterus and would never be a mother. Instead, she had to remove gonads because they were pre-cancerous. She went in for surgery a month before her 16th birthday.

After the surgery, doctors advised her to take estrogen pills for the rest of her life. Though heartbroken from learning that she would never be a mother, she yet tried to shut the whole thing that went in her life.

Her Life Post-Surgery

She went to university in New York to study criminal justice and psychology in 1991; she began having casual sex. Though this made her unhappy, she wanted to feel validated.

In February 2002, she met Robert, and they hit it off soon after. They got married on August 13, 2004. There were yet the uneasy feeling if not being able to become a mother.

In 2005, she and Robert began to look into adoption. They adopted one-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.Β She finally had her dream come true.

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The Reveal Of Her Identity

When she was doing a DNA test on her twins to find more about their health historyΒ and more about them, she even did a DNA test on herself, to discover more about her heritage.

Two weeks later, DNA company, telling her that something was wrong with the sample.

She had written on the forms that she was female, but her sample showed XY chromosomes, which are male. Assuming that there had been a mix-up, she just sent off another piece.

After having a conversation with the doctor of the company, she found out that she had CAIS – complete androgen insensitivity syndrome.Β The doctor explained that it’s when babies are born with an external female genitalia without ovaries and a uterus. Instead of these, they have internal testes and XY chromosomes.


She was relieved discover what was wrong in her and about why she had felt different for so long. She searched about unisex and more about her syndrome.

The Confrontation With Family

She called her mother and her mother burst into tears, revealing that all she wanted to do was protect her child. Her mother had planned to take this secret with herself even if it meant taking it to her grave.

She didn’t tell Robert until she had visited a geneticist herself and had the diagnosis confirmed. She talked over dinner and told him about her discovery about herself. He felt relieved that it wasn’t cancer she wanted to speak.

She found InterConnect, an online support group, through which she became friends with others who were intersex.

Intersex And People Understanding

Approximately 1.7% of the population is intersex, but so many are scared of the judgement that comes from being open about it.

Intersex means the difference in sex traits or reproductive anatomy. Moreover, CAIS is a condition that comes under it, and affects one in 20,000 people.

Dawn had concluded her story by saying:

“Telling my story feels liberating. The ones in a similar situation should know they are not alone. I don’t want others to suffer the way I did.”

She continued, “CAIS doesn’t define me – I’m a wife, a mum, a psychologist and friend. But, I’m not ashamed of my body or who I am any more.”

About the author

Sameeksha Rawat