Aspiring pop singer finds her true self after intersex diagnosis

Singer struggled with intersex diagnosis
Singer struggled with intersex diagnosis

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Story highlights

  • Alex Jinkinson was diagnosed as intersex at age 4
  • She struggled with her identity in school
  • Now she's pursuing her dream as a singer

(CNN)When Alex Jinkinson was born in Lima, Peru, doctors marked "male" on her birth certificate. But she wasn't a boy.

She was adopted a few weeks later and raised in Sheldon, Iowa.
    "When I went to Iowa, the doctors knew something was different," she said.

    A troubling diagnosis

    Around 4 years old, Jinkinson was diagnosed with partial androgen insensitivity syndrome. It's one of many conditions classified as intersex, when a person's sexual organs do not physically fit the typical definition of male or female.
    Despite having some masculine traits, she was born with a partial female reproductive system, a vagina but no ovaries or uterus.
    "My parents raised me just as a person," Jinkinson said.
    Alex Jinkinson as a child with her grandmother.
    Growing up, she kept her medical condition to herself.
    "It was very confusing for people that I went to school with ... because of not developing that feminine look," she said.
    As a teen, Jinkinson struggled with her identity and was bullied in school.
    "I think I was an easy target because I looked a little different," she said. "In middle and high school, I really lost my way."
    Jinkinson said she stopped believing in herself and became depressed.
    Jinkinson, second from right, with some of her friends in high school.
    "I didn't realize how these thoughts were affecting me and growing larger and larger inside me," she said. "When I went to high school, I was already this wounded person who put on a brave face. ... Right after high school, I just couldn't do it anymore."
    At 19, Jinkinson was in such a dark place, she tried to take her own life.
    "For so long, I carried the words that people were saying to me," she said. "I made myself think I wasn't worth anything."
    Jinkinson, left, with a friend at her high school graduation.

    Becoming the woman she always was

    Jinkinson was treated for anxiety and depression and slowly began to embrace her true self.
    "My parents were huge supporters. They helped me get the medical attention I needed," she said. "I just picked myself up. I knew that I was better than what I was feeling."
    Jinkinson focused on rebuilding her self-image and overcoming her physical insecurities. She chose to have facial feminization surgeries, a breast augmentation and surgery to remove the excess skin around her genitalia that had been present since birth.
    "I finally felt alive," she said. "I felt more beautiful for the first time in my life."

    A rising artist

    Transforming herself from the inside out gave her the courage to pursue her dream as a pop singer.
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    "I knew that I wanted to be an artist from a really young age," she said. "I love music, and I love to perform."
    Growing up, music was her release. She would sing at events including county fair stadium shows and a National Day of Prayer service in Des Moines, Iowa, she said.
    "It kind of distracted me in a way, because my mom would have me busy almost every weekend, and during the week, I would take lessons," she added.
    Jinkinson plans to release her debut album, "Dance in the Rain" early next year under the name Ali J. The album is a compilation of empowerment songs symbolic of her journey over the past several years. She hopes to inspire others through her music.
    "I looked at my story as a curse when I was younger. I realize now that I want to share my story to showcase that we all have different life battles," she said. "At the end of the day, just knowing that and loving who you are is just so important."