When you look at him, Joe Holliday is a guy like so many others. Yet, behind a beautiful smile he hides a troubled past. Joe did not have a normal childhood and adolescence. His psycho-physical well-being collided with the medical presumption that wanted to deconstruct his sexual identity.
The beginning of the story
In the nineties, the flag of gender ideology – an issue very well known by which public opinion today – was planted by an elite of progressive intellectuals on the head of this English child, “guilty” only to be born with an anomaly of the genital organs.
Specifically, the baby, born on 24 January 1988, was suffering from exstrophy of the cloaca, i.e. a malformation of the closure of the anterior abdominal wall that does not allow proper separation between bowel and bladder.
As the same Joe told Daily Mail in 2015, his birth was a shocking moment, for his parents and even for the medical staff. The mother – tells the young boy – has still impressed in her eyes gaze of horror of the midwives when they lifted the baby out of the womb.
Male or female?
“What is it? – Asked the woman – a male or a female?“. “Everything in due time”, was the lapidary response that was given to her a moment before wrapping the baby in a white cloth to hide the malformation.
“My mother, prone on the bed – tells Joe – could not have seen what others had already seen, that my abdomen, my pelvis and my whole central part were malformed and therefore nobody knew the answer to her question“.
The rare malformation made it not easy to verify the genital apparatus, even if the doctors agreed immediately that I was a male. The situation was however considered more complex. “He will have sexual impulses – said a doctor a few hours later, to the parents – but he will not be able to reply to them” and this “could cause him an unbearable psychological impact“.
The Great Ormond Street Hospital and the sexual transformation
After various analyses, one month before his first birthday, Joe’s parents asked an appointment to a well-known urologist paediatrician “to discuss the surgical operations which could help me”, tells the boy. The doctor in question worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital, the structure today which is under the spotlight for the story of baby Charlie Gard.
The mother and the father of the child, at that time nineteen years old, “simple people of the village of Pinchbeck”, entrusted themselves to this luminary being convinced that his recommendations would have saved him. But from that visit “my entire life was overturned”, Joe reflects today. The urologist, after having carefully checked the malformation, said to his parents that they were growing him up in the wrong way, and that they would have had to start to educate him as if he was a female.
“If Joe would have been born in one of my hospitals – added the surgeon – I would never have declared him a male. We would have treated the child as a female from the beginning”. These words disoriented the parents of the baby. The mother, after a few moments of noisy silence, exploded in an outburst of rebellion at this proposal deemed inexplicable.
Despite the fact that it was difficult to rationally understand the recommendation, the parents decided however to entrust themselves to the doctor. The beginning of the new and eccentric way to treat their son was on the day of the first birthday of the child. In that occasion Joe became Joella, replacing the blue clothes with pink ones and the toy cars with dolls.
“My parents – observe today Joe – did not know not that I was becoming one of the most known child of the United Kingdom, celebrated by the press and courted by famous personalities”. The small Joe, indeed Joella, had become an icon of the media, the social experiment to affirm the fluidity of the sexes. For certain epigone of progressive culture, “Joella” more than a child in the flesh and bones with feelings and fears, had become the banner to brag in order to feel more advanced, cooler.
The battle of her mother to obtain the exchange of sex on the documents was embraced even by the Princess Diana, that sent her a letter of support. His girly face appeared often in British tv broadcasts. But the public resonance did not succeed to heal a malaise that was growing inside Joe, in his soul and in the relationship with his parents, who soon separated.
The mother a few years after, married another man. This is the memory of the boy: “The day of the marriage I was wearing a long dress with bows and frills. I knew that this was not me, but I tolerated everything“. Joe had to face not only his own discomfort, but also the mockery, the insults and even with the violence of his peers. “In elementary school, I was a victim of terrible bullying“.
Only in 1998, after nearly ten years of battle, his mother managed to change his gender on the documents of her son. The longed-for moment was accompanied by the Hosanna of the media, who devoted to the case the first pages. But not by the happiness of the individual concerned. “I began to perceive – he explains that my life was becoming complicated and adolescence provoked a spiral that brought me out of control“.
“I did not feel human”
These complications were certainly not helped by the pharmacological care prescribed to Joe. “I was given drugs to induce puberty and make my breast grow, but I knew that I would never have had a relationship”, writes the boy to the English newspaper. And he adds: “I knew I would never have a family. It was as if I were not fully human”.
He remembers that while playing he always preferred to assume masculine roles, as a firefighter or a hero, and he dreamed of becoming a footballer. He was not attracted by the figures of the princesses. Or better, he was attracted yes, but as by the majority of males. “I liked girls not boys”, he says. And he tried to auto-justify himself thinking he was homosexual.
An ineffective balm with respect to the deep melancholy that was harassing him. Joe thought also about suicide and turned to a psychoanalyst, that prescribed him antidepressant drugs. “But I still felt confused and unhappy“.
At the age of twenty-five years, the boy asked to have a test of the chromosome in a specialized English hospital, the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston. Before that moment he had never decided to do it even if he knew that it was the only way to have a response to the question on his gender, not to cause “pain and guilt to his mother”.
When he withdrew the results, his eyes fell immediately on the letters XY. Well, Joe was a male. Neither the cultural imposition inculcated to his parents by the luminary of Paediatrics of Great Ormond Street Hospital nor the drugs taken were able to deny the reality of nature. “I was a man and I was living a lie”.
This immersion in reality made him open his eyes over the past: “For a long time I struggled to tighten relationships and friendships, only because I did not know who I was”. In fact, Joe was assailed since the age of reason by the idea that he was a male, but he never allowed himself to express it because “everybody had exceeded major obstacles to change my birth certificate”.
Today Joe feels “as if my identity was stolen when I was one-year old” and he is struggling to get it back, firstly by stopping to take female hormones. He says that the purchase of the first pair of men’s shoes was an important moment for him, one of those small everyday challenges to regain possession of his being a man.
He has also written a book (She’s a boy – The Shocking True Story of Joe Holliday) in which he tells his story, and is conducting a campaign against genital surgery of children born with indeterminate sex. Only at the age of twenty-five, after a test of the chromosome, he has discovered to had been castrated shortly after childbirth. A gesture that prevented him from becoming a father one day.
In 2015, at the time of his article on the Daily Mail, he was waiting for a surgery for the reconstruction of the genitals. “Gender is much more than a question of clothes or conditioning. I have been grown up as a female, but I was absolutely a male“.