Uitsluiting - Beeld: Tero Vesalainen

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Intersex people tell their story

It is important for intersex people to talk about what it means to be intersex. Only then will other people start to understand what it means when people are excluded by society based on their sex characteristics. Only then will society slowly but surely come to appreciate the natural variations within sex diversity. Only then will society become inclusive to intersex people. It takes a lot of courage to share your story with others, if only because you have been told so many times that it is not wise to tell others that you are intersex. Those years of secrecy and the medicalization of intersex variations have led to self-stigma. But it has also led to anger, and to grief, depression, and suicide attempts.

Therefore, the stories of intersex people are not always easy to read, but it is very important that they are recorded.

Intersex people tell us…

All over the world, intersex people are beginning to record their experiences, sometimes in writing, sometimes on video. Why it is so important for people to tell their own stories in their own way and at their own chosen time is explained beautifully by Canadian social scientist Janik Bastien-Charlebois:

“Telling a story is not a simple act. It is part of a personal journey,
to leave isolation and find others who have similar experiences;
to find opportunities, or fight for them, to share first impressions, thoughts and questions with those others;
to understand the incongruity and the double standards in treatment;
to search for words and meanings that the dominant culture does not offer;
to find ways to challenge internalized stigma;
to ask yourself whether or not it is necessary to share your story;
to weigh the potential benefits and risks of sharing;
To prepare yourself emotionally to share your story publicly;
to think about how to express it in a way that people will understand;
to anticipate possible reactions;
to give it your all and perhaps relive trauma, or see reactions of disbelief, or anger, or empathy and solidarity;
to process all these emotions, with or without the support of others.”

– Janik Bastien-Charlebois

Entre deux sex

Entre deux sex is a documentary film produced by Arturo Mio, Caroline Roussel, coproduced by Spirale prod, Anne Luart, directed by Régine Abadia, with Vincent Guillot and Ins A Kromminga and the participants of the international intersex residence of Douarnenez in 2017. The film tells the stories of Vincent and Ins standing up for their rights.

Check out the teaser for Entre deux sex above. You can also watch the teaser here, in case the video on this webpage doesn’t work.

No box for me

No box for me (2018) tells the story of M and Deborah, who are both intersex. The film reflects on intersex people coping with their intersex experiences, such as undergoing unnecessary medical interventions that were performed without their consent. The film paints an honest picture of how such procedures affect how intersex people see their bodies and construct their identities.

Check out the trailer for No box for me above. Watch the short-film here, in case the video on this webpage doesn’t work.

RealComics story about intersex

Rights belong to RealComics, Gemma Plum and Marleen Hendrickx. Made by Gemma Plum, portraying the story of Marleen Hendrickx (2020/2021).

Intersex photo project Nigeria

Intersex Nigeria was founded by Obioma Chukwuike in November 2019 to stand up for intersex human rights, public awareness and understanding of intersex issues. Intersex Nigeria also plays a role in bringing intersex people together. Their work is based on the human rights of intersex people, specifically the right to bodily integrity. They strive to end medical intervention surgeries and other discriminatory practices that are often performed on intersex babies and children, but also sometimes on intersex adults. The intersex photo project show intersex people (2021) and parts of their stories. Pictures are made by Obioma Chukwuike. For more information check out the Facebook and Instagram of Intersex Nigeria.

Ponyboi: first narrative intersex shortfilm

The short-film ‘Ponyboi’ (2019), that makes history as the first narrative film about an intersex character created by and starring an intersex person, is now available to watch on YouTube. The film portrays a moving story of Ponyboi, played by River Gallo (they/them) an intersex runaway and sex worker in New Jersey with dreams of escape. On Valentine’s Day, they meet the man of their dreams and discovers a new sense of worth. The story has underlying themes of love and acceptance, which is very well portrayed by actor River Gallo, who drew from their own experiences being intersex. Producer Gallo is planning on, together with co-producer Clacken Joseph, making the film into a feature-length screenplay.

Watch the short-film here [be aware: contains profanity, sexual content, brief scenes of medical violence], in case the video on this webpage doesn’t work.

Theatre show XY WE

XY WE (2021) is a performance by 6 Dutch intersex people who all share their experiences being intersex. XY WE is written by threatre producer Marleen Hendrickx, to raise awareness on intersex issues. In XY WE Marleen, Koen, Geert, Joyce, Nienke and Katoo insights into what it is like to be intersex.
Marleen tells how the theatre piece came about in a Vice interview: ‘When I was 14, I learned about chromosomes in biology. I asked my teacher if it was possible for someone to be born with XY chromosomes, essentially being a boy, but to also be insensitive to male hormones, essentially becoming a girl – basically, my condition. “No, that’s impossible,” he replied. In a way, he said that I don’t exist. XY WE represents our existence.’ She also spoke on the incomprehension that many LGBTIQ+ people often face. “Sometimes people ask, ‘How many more letters do we need in ‘LGBTQI’?” But no one extra is joining, we’ve always been there. Only, now, more people are speaking out.’
With this performance Marleen, Koen, Geert, Joyce, Nienke en Katoo want to show that intersex people exist, and that society’s ideas about ‘men’ and ‘women’ don’t do justice to the actual diversity.
Check out their (Dutch) website www.xywe.nl/ as well.

Last picture, from left to right: Koen, Katoo, Marleen, Joyce, Geert and Nienke.

Both images by: Sjoerd Derine, Instagram


Girlsboysmix is about Dutch intersex girl Wen Long, who speaks on her experiences being intersex. It is a great short documentary, directed by director Lara Aerts. The documentary relates the story of an intersex child who wonders: where do I belong?
Check out the website for Girlsboysmix here: www.girlsboysmix.com

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Stories of INTERSEX people from NEPAL was written and compiled by intersex activist Esan Regmi. At the first national intersex meeting in Nepal, Esan asked the 13 participants to put their experiences on paper to share with others. Esan commented, ‘We shared experiences of confusion, isolation, human rights violations, shame and silence. This meeting gave us a chance to share our stories and know that we were not alone. It gave us a chance to start building a community where we felt supported and inspired in our efforts to reach out and strengthen the intersex network in Nepal.’

Esman Regmi (editing)
Stories of INTERSEX people from NEPAL
Download (PDF – 28 pag – 955 KB)

Cover van het boek My intersex story

In MyIntersexStory – Personal accounts by intersex people living in Europe (108 pages) intersex people and their families talk about what it means to be intersex. The book is illustrated with powerful drawings by German artist Ins Kromminga. The publication concludes with a chapter in which Canadian social scientist Janik Bastien Charlebois explains why it is important for intersex people to share their own experiences with others in their own words and on their own terms. Kromminga and Bastien Charlebois are intersex themselves.

A team of OII Europe staff and volunteers worked long hours on the book, and it shows in the final result. This publication should be mandatory reading for health professionals and policymakers, because rarely have the consequences of the social exclusion of intersex people been made so clear.

Unnecessary medical treatments have been given a face with this book – suddenly it is undeniable that intersex issues are primarily about people. Real people, who experience a lot of pain because of what has been done to them.

OII Europe
#MyIntersexStory: Personal accounts by intersex people living in Europe
Download (PDF – 108 pag – 18MB)

YOUth&I is a magazine by intersex people featuring stories, poems and illustrations about intersex variations. The magazine provides a space for young intersex people from Australia and elsewhere to share, create, be visible and be valued. It is a response to the challenges of storytelling in a world that is only just beginning to listen and where sharing can be painful, lonely and unsafe, as well as not always clearly leading to change. It is also a response to the challenge of bringing young intersex people together and giving them the opportunity to express the creativity and joy in their lives.

Intersex Human Rights Australia
YOUth&I – Issue 1
Download (PDF – 68 pag – 15 MB)

An Ordinary Wonder (336 pages) by Buki Papillon.
The New York Times recently wrote a promising book review on ‘An Ordinary Wonder’, a book about an intersex teenager growing up in Nigeria. The book is written by Buki Papillon and was published in March of 2020. Papillon tells the story of intersex teenager Lori living with secrecy and outside of the norms of society, and what that discomfort can mean at such an age. According to the New York Times reviewer, the book beautifully highlights the damage the male/female binary in society can have on people.

If you read this book, please let us know what you think! Or maybe you know other great books about intersex people or intersex variations. Be sure to share your tips by emailing us, via Facebook messenger, Instagram DM, or email.
Read more on this book here, or order the book.

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Intersex people speak through scientists

There is a growing number of books written by scientists that feature intersex people. The publications listed below are scientific publications that are also good reads for the general public.

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In this book, author Georgiann Davis is first and foremost a scientist and an intersex person second. Her experiences as an intersex person are palpable throughout the book, but do not for a moment get in the way of the scientific approach to the subject. Contesting Intersex paints a broad, and often disconcerting, picture of a social movement that is trying to break away from a medicalization imposed by society. In the process, intersex people as well as health professionals are interviewed.

Georgiann Davis
Contesting Intersex: the Dubious Diagnosis
New York University Press
ISBN 9781479887040

For her dissertation, Margriet van Heesch interviewed dozens of intersex individuals. By rearranging and interfacing the knowledge from their life stories with the knowledge from medical narratives, multiple perspectives emerged. This research contributes to viewing intersex people as full human beings; with full bodies, full lives and a full sexuality. The dissertation is unfortunately only available in Dutch.

Margriet van Heesch
Ze wisten niet of ik een jongen of een meisje was: kennis, keuze en geslachtsvariaties (Translation: They didn’t know if I was a boy or a girl: knowledge, choice and sex variations)
Vossiuspers UvA.

ISBN 9789056297640 

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