#HerWorldHerStory: This artist embraces being intersex

by Hayley Tai & Cheong Wen Xuan  /   August 3, 2020

She’s advocating for diversity and hopes to spread awareness on being intersex


Tan Ya intersex artist

I am an intersex person – a female with male chromosomes. Those who are intersex can have a variety of differences in genital and chromosomal makeup. It is estimated that 1 in 1,500 births may be born intersex.

Dating has always been open and transparent for me. My experiences have been positive and empowering. It’s always about listening and understanding that all women are different. When I was a teen, puberty came at a slow pace. I was insecure of my small chest size and biological differences. My period was a “mystery” – it was almost non-existent when I was younger. I only experienced occasional abdominal cramps. But I knew there was a huge difference in my biological system.

My family didn’t know what was going on at first. But they were aware of my confusion about my body. I went through multiple medical check-ups between the ages of 17 and 24.

The medical specialists were passionate about understanding my condition, as every intersex body is different. They detailed my variation and I finally came to terms with my condition… it allowed me to discover my identity as an intersex person.

The tests revealed that I was born with the atypical male XY chromosomes, and that was part of the reason why I experienced puberty slower than most girls. It helped me to resolve all the inner conflict, self-doubt and insecurities I once had about my body.

Tan Ya intersex artist

Some of my friends whom I have known since I was six have been with me through this journey of self discovery. All these souls have taught me empathy, kindness and compassion. These are the qualities I live by.

My family has been very supportive and they are with me. My godmother told me in Mandarin: “As long as you’re happy, we’re happy for you.”
I count myself lucky to have a good support system to help me get through the confusing times. As an artist, it definitely inspires me to see the world as limitless when I’m creating art.

My artworks are like journals, where I document the human condition and how I feel about it through sketches and photographic images.
I hope my voice and narrative carry through my works to help spread awareness and acceptance of being intersex.

Now that I have chosen to come forward, I hope it will open up more safe spaces for those who have experienced it quite differently, to know that being different is the truest representation of diversity.

This article was first published in Her World’s July issue. Grab a copy today!