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article imageBearded woman and long-lost son reunite

By Lynn Curwin     Sep 16, 2010 in World
Bakersfield - While he was growing up, Richard Lorenc had wondered about the identity of his mother, but he never suspected she would have been a bearded lady who worked in sideshows and had a world record.
The 33-year-old Kansas man, who is married with two daughters, began seriously searching for his mother after a back injury led to questions about family medical history.
He began in the spring, filing a request with the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. He got a letter from them six weeks later, saying his mother’s name was Vivian Wheeler, and she was now 62 years old.
He was told that his mother and his maternal grandmother had hypertrichosis, a condition which results in facial hair on women and is sometimes called werewolf syndrome.
He was also informed that his mother had been born a hermaphrodite, having the reproductive organs of both men and women.
Doctors removed the male parts but she still had testosterone. Because of her facial hair, her father forced her into working in sideshows, but she would shave between tours.
"My dad said to shave because people wouldn't understand why I had facial hair, saying, 'This is what you'll have to do to fit into society,'" AOL News quoted her as saying.
After her mother died in 1990 she stopped shaving, saying that by removing the beard she was pretending to be someone else.
She now has a world record for the woman with the longest beard, at 11 inches (about 28 centimitres).
Although Wheeler had a baby in 1977, the child’s father took him away when he was three. She wanted to believe the child was with his dad, but the reality was that he was found in a motel in Atlanta and spent time in an orphanage before his father regained custody. After teachers spotted signs of abuse, he went into foster care.
He was adopted when he was seven, but when he married he took his wife's surname, Lorenc.
It took effort to track down his mother, and his wife, Jessica, made the first phone call to Wheeler.
"She said she might be married to my son, Richard William Chambers Jr. -- that was the name on his birth certificate," Wheeler told AOL News. "He wanted to find out if I was his mother. I told her I had a son named Richard William Chambers Jr."
Lorenc called her the next day and, after talking, they were convinced they were mother and son.
In June he went to Bakersfield and spent two days with his mother. Now, he hopes she will move closer to his home in Kansas.
"She was not given opportunities we take for granted," Lorenc told AOL News. "She wasn't given an education or a healthy environment, and it shows. I feel for her, and I want her to know that there's a place for her here near us where we can give her the things she was never given."
They have spoken on the phone several times since meeting. She said she would like to go on Maury Povich’s show with her son and have a DNA test done to prove their relationship, but even if it turned out he wasn’t her son she would still love him.
“He calls me mother and it means a lot,” she told KGET. “It makes me feel like I really do belong, in a way. That I really do matter.”
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