This Intersex Awareness Day, here are the individuals fighting for the bodily autonomy of intersex people
BY ELLA GAUCI
Today (26 October) marks Intersex Awareness Day. Around 1.7% of the world’s population is born with an intersex variation, so you would expect to see their stories and voices in the media, right? Due to a culture of shame from both society and medical professionals, a lot of intersex people don’t feel like they can talk about being intersex.
These eight individuals have been working to bring greater awareness to the intersex community, busting myths and providing visibility so that the next generation of intersex people doesn’t have to feel so alone.
Valentino (she/they) created the Intersex-Inclusive Pride flag in 2021, and for keen DIVA readers, you may have read her column in previous issues. Valentino is constantly fighting for intersex awareness, battling misinformation through her platform. Due to her work, it is likely that most of the rainbow flags you saw at Pride this year included the intersex flag, a powerful reminder of the importance of inclusion.
American intersex activist and writer Pidgeon Pagonis (they/them) has been involved with activism since 2012. They testified at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2013 about the medical interventions they were subject to as a child without their consent. They were one of nine LGBTQIA artists honoured as an Obama White House Champion of Change in 2015. Earlier this year they released their memoir Nobody Needs to Know which details a candid recount of the medical intervention and childhood they had.
Alicia Roth Weigel
Activist and writer Alicia Roth Weigel (she/they) publicly came out as intersex in front of the Texas legislature. Since coming out as intersex, she has been a vocal advocate in politics for better laws to protect the bodily autonomy of intersex children having faced invasive medical treatment herself as a child. Her memoir Inverse Cowgirl came out earlier this year, documenting how she was made to feel ashamed of her body throughout her childhood and teenagehood. She is starring in Julie Cohen’s documentary Every Body which highlights the treatment of intersex people by society and medicine.
Sean Saifa Wall
Another star of Julie Cohen’s new documentary, Sean Saifa Wall (he/him) is a prominent activist and rising scholar in the LGBTQIA community. He made history by confronting the surgeon on ABC News Nightline who performed his gonadectomy (an operation to remove the gonads) at the age of 13. He is committed to pushing for awareness about the effects of invasive medical treatments used by doctors on intersex children who cannot consent to these procedures.
Holly Greenberry Pullen
If you picked up a copy of our October/November issue, you will be acquainted with Holly’s (she/her) story. The Devon Lib Dem candidate has been a vocal advocate for intersex rights in the UK and was in fact one of the first people to come out publicly as intersex in the British press. She founded Intersex Equality Rights UK which helps to protect the bodily autonomy of intersex children.
Salvadoran-American filmmaker and actor River Gallo (they/them) wrote, directed, and starred in the 2019 short film Ponyboi, which is the first film to feature an openly intersex actor playing an intersex person. Also starring in Julie Cohen’s film Every Body, River has made it their mission to provide the intersex with visibility on screen. They are also heavily involved with intersex activism and have supported California Senate Bill 201, which would ban doctors from performing cosmetic surgeries on children with intersex variations until they are old enough to give informed consent.
For fans of Hollyoaks, you may recognise Ki Griffin (he/they) who played Ripley Lennox in the beloved British show. Ki has been heavily involved with activism across their career and spoke out at London Trans+ Pride in 2021 saying: “Intersex children are mutilated on a regular basis. Trans people can’t access lifesaving healthcare and non-binary folk aren’t even legally recognised. We all belong. We are all products of nature. Whether we have intersectional identities like myself or we simply stand in allyship with each other. How many tales of trauma do we need to hear before how we’re treated changes?”
Queer, nonbinary activist Mari Wrobi (they/them) has been providing our Instagram feeds with some much-need joy and educational posts. The intersex educator shares informative messages to their 28,000 followers about the lived experiences of intersex people, demystifying misconceptions and providing a positive role model for so many.
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