In her recent story with Huffington Post, Allison Landa describes her experiences with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Her article, self-titled as “My Life as a Former Bearded Lady,” details a lifetime of questions, struggles, and ultimately acceptance and love. Keep reading to learn more about her journey, or follow it in her own words here.
Allison begins her story at the age of 13. She was running a mile for school. One of her schoolmates asked her if she shaves. She doesn’t want to answer the girl’s question, but Allison knows she will demand an answer. At this stage in her life, Allison does what most 13-year-olds would – she digs her nails into her palms and “commit[s] to a lie.”
At age 14, Allison’s mother took her to a doctor whom described Allison as hirsute. As Allison describes it,
“The hair stretches across my upper lip, chin and cheeks. It gives me mutton chops rivaled only by 1970s television stars. It grows on far other places than just my face…”
She continues to explain how rather than seeking further answers, her mother taught her to shave and hide her condition.
In Allison’s piece, she examines experiences with shame, via Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, feelings about school dances, a friend attempting to give her a makeover, and others. She describes her fears of getting caught, and of having to explain a condition she barely understands to others.
It’s not until the age of 33 that Allison found answers. By that point she also found love. In a discussion with her soon-to-be-husband Adam, Allison said she didn’t “want to look like a man in [her] wedding photos.” Together they decided to take action. After a course of laser hair removal treatments, Allison booked an appointment with an endocrinologist. There, she found a proper name for her condition: congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
“I’m not alone. I can name it. I can do something about it.”
In a caption to one of her photos, Allison can now describe herself as not only happy, but accepting of who she is. Allisons’s story doesn’t end there though. She has a son now. For many people this can come as a surprise, but for Allison it came as something that should have been impossible.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia patients suffer from increased hair growth, male-pattern balding, and obesity. Most also struggle with infertility.
At the time of her article, Allison’s son, Baz, was halfway into his second year of life. Allison describes him as perfect, robust, normal, and healthy. In short, a marvel.
She explains how she and her husband went through a great deal of genetic counseling during the pregnancy. They wanted to ensure that their son was going to be born free of everything Allison experienced growing up. She wanted to give him a chance to experience all the opportunities she didn’t have access to.
“He’ll have what I didn’t, experience what I cannot,” Allison says. “Such is the power of redemption. Such is the possibility of love.”