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Intersex Awareness Day: Six Intersex Activists You Should Be Following

Intersex Awareness Day: Six Intersex Activists You Should Be Following

Erika Lust | October 26, 2021 | 6 min. read

Today, 26 October is Intersex Awareness Day, an annual internationally observed awareness day designed to highlight human rights issues faced by intersex people. This year I'm marking the day by continuing to educate myself about intersex issues and by sharing some of my favourite intersex activists with you.

What is Intersex?

Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe people who are born with biological variations in their sex characteristics that don't fit the typical definition of male or female. While we’re told that people are either male or female there are actually many intersex variations that people can be born with. Just like everyone else, intersex people can be male, female or non-binary.

Intersex is about your biological characteristics (unlike transgender which is based on your gender identity) and intersex children are often given surgeries that they do not, or can not, consent to as medical professionals often start operating on them from a very young age.

“The problem is, children’s bodies are often changed for them because of shame and stigma. This includes surgeries to create a vagina, reduce a clitoris, move a urethra, or remove testes. Most surgeries happen before the age of two. We’ve worked with many of the world’s top human rights organisations. All agree: surgeries to change sex traits must be the individual’s choice.”

— InterACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth

There are no accurate figures on how many intersex children are born each year around the world. People regularly state that up to 1.7% of the population is intersex although this data is unreliable as there are different definitions & disagreements on what it means to be intersex, disagreements on what constitutes being intersex, and classification has varied through history with no consensus (check out this Instagram post by intersex activist Anick to learn more about this).

Check out the video above 'What it's Like to be Intersex' to learn more about what it means to be intersex. InterACT worked with Buzzfeed to create the video, which features interACT Youth members and has been used in workshops and trainings across the globe including the United Nations

Six Intersex Activists To Follow...

River Gallo (they/them)

River Gallo is a Salvadorian-American intersex activist from New Jersey. They are an award winning filmmaker, actor, writer, model, and artist. River wrote, starred in, and co-directed Ponyboi, the first narrative film created by and starring an out intersex person in cinema history. The film premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and was named one of the 'Five not to be missed short films' by Forbes. They are the recipient of the 2019 GLAAD Media Rising Star Award. River's work explores the dynamics of personal and confessionary storytelling, and the media's ability to transcend human consciousness via re-envisioning underrepresented narratives.’They have collaborated and modelled with a number of big names in fashion including Abercrombie & Fitch, and Birchbox Beauty.

Follow River on Instagram.

Pidgeon Pagonis (they/them)

Pidgeon Pagonis is an intersex activist currently working on their memoir to be published in 2022. Alongside Sean Saifa Wall, Pidgeon is the co-founder of the Intersex Justice Project. They are also the producer of informal viral videos on Buzzfeed. Pidgeon creates art that centres intersex voices and advances intersex advocacy. They appeared on the cover of National Geographic's 'Gender Revolution' special issue and have been honoured as a LGBT Champion of Change in 2015 by Obama's White House.

Follow Pidgeon on Instagram, TikTok, and Patreon.

Sean Saifa Wall (he/him)

Sean Saifa Wall is an intersex activist and visual artist. He is the co-founder of Intersex Justice Project and the organisation’s #EndIntersexSurgery campaign resulted in Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago becoming the first medical institution in the USA to stop intersex genital surgeries on infants. Saifa also made history by confronting the surgeon who performed his consensual surgeries on ABC News Nightline. Check out his TEDx talk '36 Revolutions of Change' to learn more about his journey through 12-step recovery, intersex, activism, gender identity and love.

Follow Saifa on Instagram and Twitter.

Anick (he/him)

Anick is an intersex activist and organised the first intersex Pride in London. At birth Anick's doctors didn't know if he was a boy or a girl but started performing surgeries on him from just 4 months old in order to "normalise" his genitals. At aged 18 he found out he was intersex when he requested a copy of his medical records. Watch the video above to find out more about his journey as he prepares for his final surgery and meets other intersex people at a conference in Copenhagen.

Follow Anick on Instagram and Twitter.

Mari Wrobi (they/them)

Mari Wrobi is and artist, activist, and LGBTQIA+ advocate from Sacramento, California. They are a non-binary, intersex, queer and Latinx youth advocate for InterACT, an organisation that uses innovative legal and other strategies to advocate for the human rights of children born with differences in their genitals, chromosomes, hormones, and reproductive anatomy. Mari produces informative, inspiring, and entertaining content that highlights and explains intersex issues through their social media accounts. They also make beautiful stickers for sale on Etsy with proceeds going towards groups doing work to prevent anti-trans bills from passing across the US.

Check out their Instagram to learn more about intersex issues!

Tatenda Ngwaru (she/her)

Tatenda Ngwaru is an intersex activist in the United States working to create healthy communities for the intersex people of the world. She was born intersex but doctor’s incorrectly classified her as a boy at birth, which meant she was raised as a boy until aged 14 when she got her period in school. From this moment on she started living as an intersex woman. In 2019, her film ‘She’s Not a Boy’ was released and helped her find a larger intersex community. She is also the founder of True Identity, the first intersex organisation in Zimbabwe that promotes community awareness of intersex issues.

Follow Tatemda on Instagram and visit her website for more info.

Erika Lust is an award-winning filmmaker, producer, and writer who's focus on female pleasure, cinematic values, and ethics in adult cinema have helped to change how pornography is consumed. Erika Lust Films was born in 2004 and since then Erika has ... Read More
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