A woman with the complete form of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome might never discover that she has testes in her abdomen rather than ovaries and uterus. Danièle knows, and she grieves that she can never have her own children. She has a partial form of AIS that left her with ambiguous genitals,
a steady stream of doctors and psychologists, and parents determined to see her happy as a girl.
After Danièle’s best friend and childhood crush agrees to have a baby for her, Danièle learns that the clinic can extract sperm from her own gonadal biopsies, and she becomes the father of Melanie’s baby herself.
Ethan adores the graceful young woman named Danièle, while Melanie imagines a life with the father of her child. Danièle? She’s happy with her intersex body—somewhere between princess and little boy. But in a black and white world, she must choose—once and for all—who she will be. And whom she will love.
I waltz on in an eternal Cinderella dream, swirling across the marble floor with Cooper. The first week at Victoria Springs, we practiced the box; the second turning. I spent most of September in the Marine’s embrace, while he guided me through the moves of ballroom dancing. My body knows the steps now. And the feel of his arms around me.
I could love you, Marine. Cooper’s the best dance instructor ever. Always positive. And friendly. Like a brother. Yeah, like that. Definitely not interested in me. Yeah. Marrying the guy’s a hopeless dream.
Always a gentleman, Cooper holds the door to the limo while Dani and I climb aboard.
Weary, and fighting nausea, I lean against the girl in the back seat of the Escalade. “Thanks for tagging along,” I say. “You didn’t have to, you know.”
“Even if the baby wasn’t mine, I’d want to do this with you.” When she puts an arm around my shoulder, I snuggle against the softness of her sweater. The girl brushes her other hand across my belly—searching for the baby, no doubt—and parks her fingers close by. The tenderness in her eyes brings my heart up into my throat.
You still dream of being the father yourself, don’t you?
I imagine Dani as the gentle-hearted boy she might have been if her body knew what to do with testosterone. Yes, I’d have married that you. I spread my fingers over hers and smile my contentment.
Victoria Springs Medical Center—the two-story building provides what passes for medical care in the county. Cooper parks in front of the door and escorts us to Dr. Hawthorne’s office.
Twelve weeks—my first trimester ultrasound—my heart stumbles in anticipation. I find a seat, but rock from hip to hip, unable to find a comfortable position.
Dani plays with her cell. She’s gonna be one of the first people on the planet ever wired directly to the Internet if she gets her way. She probably won’t even put down her phone on her wedding night.
The nurse calls me into the back and doesn’t object when Dani tags along. I slip off my pumps and crawl up on the padded examining table. With my head propped up, I still have to crane my neck around to see the display.
Dani squeezes my hand. “Relax. I’m sure the baby’s fine.”
The technician walks into the room and glances from Dani to me. “Are we ready?”
When I nod, she spreads a warm towel across my lower abdomen and pushes my top up a bit further. “This is a lubricating gel.”
Oh, really? Like I’ve never had a stupid ultrasound before?
She squeezes a blob on her wrist and slathers it around. “I’m making sure it’s not too hot.” Then she squirts a bunch of warm—no, make that hot—goo across the top of my all but invisible baby bump, and pushes it across my belly with the ultrasound wand.
Dani’s violet eyes blossom. I twist my head around to see the screen, but the technician has already pulled the sensor away and is adjusting the machine’s settings.
A smug grin has taken over Dani’s face by the time I turn my head back again.
The technician rubs her wand back and forth across my belly, like she gets paid by the number of strokes. I try to watch as she points out stuff, but I get this crick in my neck and it all looks like an old black and white TV show anyhow. So I try to read the emotions from Dani’s face instead.
“Can you see?” the technician asks. “She’s sucking her thumb.”
For a moment—just a moment—I see my baby’s face on the screen. “She?”
“It’s difficult to be certain at this age. But, yes, this one’s probably a girl.”
This one? My eyes bounce from the display to the technician to Dani’s glowing face. A calm resolution shines from the girl’s eyes. I grin, but she doesn’t notice, her gaze still fixed on the screen.
The technician asks me to roll a little to my side before she squirts more gel across my abdomen. Nervous tension builds as I wait for what has to be coming. She rambles on about body parts being okay till I want to scream.
At last, she taps on my arm and points at a blob on the display. “He looks to be a boy.”
Twins. They both made it!
She keeps right on moving her wand and taking measurements, like anything else in the universe matters.
The screen’s reflection mixes with the wonder and determination in Dani’s eyes. The set of her jaw says she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her family—her babies.
Yeah, girl. So will I.
Lianne Simon’s father was a dairy farmer and an engineer, her mother a nurse. She grew up in a home filled with love and good books.
Tiny and frail, Lianne struggled physically, but excelled at her studies. In 1970, she was awarded a scholarship to the University of Miami, from which she graduated in 1973. Fond memories of her time there remain with her.
Some years later, after living in several states, and spending time abroad, Lianne settled in to the suburbs north of Atlanta, where she now lives with her husband and their cat.
While seeking answers to her own genetic anomalies, Lianne met a family whose daughter was born with one testis and one ovary. As a result of that encounter, she spent more than a decade answering inquiries on behalf of a support group for the parents of such children.
Lianne hopes that writing this book will, in some small way, contribute to the welfare of children born between the sexes.
Enter to win an ecopy (epub or mobi) of A Proper Young Lady! This giveaway is open worldwide (excluding Quebec) to adults ages 18 and older. Giveaway ends Saturday, 1/2/16 at 11:59pm EST. To enter, just use the widget below. After you enter, keep scrolling down to find the blitz-wide giveaway. Good luck!
autographed paperback copies of Lianne’s two novels
sterling silver heart-shaped locket like the one that plays a role in the book
posters of the cover artwork and the artwork that’s in the paperback
two Tibetan gold (not real gold!) hair pins that can be used as bookmarks
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