So That’s Why


I’ve always known I was different.  From a very young age, I was into things that my brothers and friends were not.  I was definitely a “mama’s boy”.  I was my dad’s “weird one”.  Even in preschool, it seemed like I was addicted to melodrama, and flamboyance, and over-the-top, flowery language.  I was manic, as well.

No, this isn’t a “coming out” post.

In fact, I was “different” from the boys who grew up to be gay, too.  I was totally clueless in matters of dress, and socially inept, and I loved toy cars, toy guns, and playing sports.  When puberty hit, I loved girls, in fact you could say I was girl-crazy.  I had an attraction to females that was almost Clintonesque, and it continues to this day.  It is only through the grace of God that this hasn’t gotten me into trouble.

So, I was pretty much just plain different from everybody.  I had no explanation for this, I just accepted that I was “weird”.  Then, when I was 16 or 17, I was playing backyard football when I collided with my brother, and he fell on top of my upraised head, snapping my neck back.

This caused the most intense, prolonged pain I have ever felt in my life.  We found out later at the emergency room that I had bruised my spinal cord.  I was sent to my doctor for follow up visits.  The x-rays we took that day revealed something I had never known.  Most of you reading this have little, tiny bones in your neck, wrists, and ankles.  I do not – they are fused together, and it has been that way since birth.  It is a miracle that I survived the football mishap; my neck doesn’t bend like yours, and is much more easily broken.

We found other weird things, like the fact that one of my thumbs has no working nerves in it, causing it to have no muscle at all.  It’s a small thing, but once you know it’s there, you become self-conscious about it.  My ankles and wrists can go through periods of intense pain, if I hit or turn them wrong.  Then, there’s that other stuff. 

We’ll get to that in a minute.

I just assumed that all of this was just additional weirdness added to the weirdness of my behavior, likes, and dislikes.  Then, one day, my wife and I were in the waiting room of an auto repair shop, and came across an article about DES, and how they were just finding out that it affected sons as well as daughters.  First, a little background:

DES (diethylstilbestrol) was the first synthetic estrogen to be created (1938).  Years later, Sir E. Charles Dodds was knighted for his accomplishment. Never patented, DES was marketed using hundreds of brand names in the mistaken belief it prevented miscarriages and premature deliveries.

DES was prescribed between 1938 and 1971 (but not limited to those years). It was considered the standard of care for problem pregnancies from the late 1940s well into the 1960s in the U.S. and was widely prescribed during that time. DES was sometimes even included in prenatal vitamins so there are many individuals who were not actually prescribed DES but were exposed to it anyway.

Anyway, what got our attention was the description of symptoms of “DES Sons”.  They were almost exactly a match for “that other stuff”.  Go here to read them – I have almost all of them (except the microphallus one – and I ain’t just sayin’ that – my wife has no complaints)


Then, there is this.  Or, as Wikipedia descibes it:

Diethylstilbestrol can also cause feminisation of the male foetus, as DES undergoes metabolic epoxidation, and the epoxide product has affinity towards the estrogen receptors.

Now, Rachel can explain what all the big words mean, but I get the gist, and in reading that I finally had some answers. Especially after I talked to my mother, and found out that yes, indeed she was given “something” (she didn’t remember what) to prevent miscarriage when she was pregnant with me.

The science is not decided on this yet, but I am.  Half the time, I “relate” in a traditionally male manner, the other half, in a more female manner.  I can “tennis” talk.  I seem to have a more “caring and nurturing” nature than most men.  You can even get me excited about shopping for clothes, if you catch me on the right day.  I weep at Pampers commercials.  Yet, I’m capable of male “parallel play”.  I’ve had my share of conversations with women’s chests.  I like hitting things.  I like football.

When I was a teen, about 50% of my, ahem, “fantasies”, were purely romantic in nature, instead of sexual.  It didn’t know how weird this was until I got older and learned what is “normal”.  I am an incurable romantic, though.

It’s almost as if I had an equilibrium of estrogen and testosterone, don’t you think?

So anyway – that’s why, to many females, including my wife, I’m like “the gay friend” who is still a heterosexual.  I once had a female workout partner who told her husband he didn’t have to worry about her working out with me, because I “wasn’t like other men”.  This actually hurt my feelings a little, although I knew what she meant.  It’s interesting, and I’m honored to be looked at in that way.  It sucked when I was single, though.

I hope my mother never, ever feels guilty for my “birth defects”.  I have lived an incredible life, and I’ve had many friendships many males cannot have because they do not “speak female”.  After many years, I now accept and embrace my own weirdness.

10 Responses to “So That’s Why”

  1. Rachel Says:

    I’m actually using a 1971 study on DES as an example of a case-control study in a class I’m teaching in VT on Sunday. The CDC has a decent site on DES, by the way, with bibliographies of recent research and the like.

  2. Susie Says:

    Well all I can say is I thank God or DES or whatever it took to make you the way you are because I am PROUD to be your friend! And vocal match…lol

  3. Roger Abramson Says:

    This has an episode of “House” written all over it.

  4. nm Says:

    What, you want to subject Slarti to having bodily substances emerge from inappropriate orofices? That’s just mean.

  5. Rachel Says:

    nm, I was thinking we could fix it with steroids, after doing a brain biopsy. 😉

  6. nm Says:

    Treat it symptomatically, eh?

  7. Susie Says:

    How do you delicately ask someone if they happen to know if their mother took something that might have DES in it when she was pregnant with them? I have another good friend that actually fits alot if this criteria but I am afraid I would hurt his feelings if I were to ask him…

  8. Slartibartfast Says:

    Susie, that’s the rough thing. No matter what the drug did to us, we men are still men – and these things are very difficult to talk about for us. I still can’t believe I put it out there for all the world to see, but in a way, it’s a relief.

    Anyway, this is a good place to start:

    It’s s self-assessment test; even then, it’s a guessing game.

    Interestingly, because of how men are, most men don’t find out themselves; their wives and girlfriends are the ones who look into it for them. From

    Men traditionally are reticent to talk about the kind of highly personal issues that DES creates. It is often their mothers and wives who begin searching for information regarding exposure.

    Maybe I can write a funny, unrelated post in a couple of days, and you can point him here, and he’ll come across this post. Kind of like leaving a magazine open to an article you want someone to read. 🙂

  9. dolphin Says:

    Maybe I can write a funny, unrelated post in a couple of days, and you can point him here, and he’ll come across this post. Kind of like leaving a magazine open to an article you want someone to read. 🙂

    Except now you’ve exposed your plan in the comments!

  10. Why I Spent Last Night In The Emergency Room « Shoot The Moose Says:

    […] was a teenager again.  Even though I told them about the effects I’ve always lived with from being a DES baby, apparently seeing my spine is believing.  They did the CT scan (which was COOL!), and later, the […]

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