In seven months I went from sweating profusely during classroom presentations to talking about my experience as an intersex person in front of more than 300 healthcare professionals at the Trans Health Conference in Boston. This internship has helped me find my confidence and my voice as an intersex advocate. I used to be ashamed of being intersex and I saw it as a setback.In October, I became the first, out, intersex person to speak about intersex related issues on the steps of the Supreme Court.
Before starting this internship the only formal experience I had with communications was a 101 course that I took in college as an elective. My audience was a room full of anxious sophomores, just as nervous about public speaking as I was. Knowing my audience was the first important thing that I learned during my internship. This advice became the basis of every project I worked on.
When my audience moved beyond the classroom, so did my imposter syndrome. There were moments where I questioned myself and whether I was the right person to do the work. The voice in the back of my mind reminded me of every person in my life that told me that I couldn’t do something or that I should quit while I was ahead. Luckily, the imposter syndrome feelings became few and far between as the weeks went on.
Hans was a great mentor. I had the right balance of support and learning how to navigate things like finding potential publishers for my personal essay, on my own. It was nice to have someone give me a little boost of encouragement when I needed it. In the beginning, to get used to writing for a public audience, I had the opportunity to brainstorm with other intersex advocates to come up with 26 ways intersex allies can support Intersex Awareness Day. The first project I worked on was a graphic for Father’s Day. This was a special piece for me because I got to share a picture of myself and my stepdad on social media to show my appreciation for his patience and willingness to support his intersex kid.
I was the first communications intern with interACT and I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea that I’d get to collaborate on a piece with Elizabeth Gill from the ACLU or have my personal essay shared by them. A quote of mine was shared in Teen Vogue along with quotes from my intersex friends. My personal piece on intersex dating taught me the true power of storytelling and social media. I still receive messages from people who felt inspired by my story.
This internship has given me the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and heal deep wounds that I tried to hide for so long. Being intersex was always something that was taboo in my family. I didn’t learn what being intersex was until I was a teenager. Now I have the opportunity to own being intersex and wear it proudly.
For the first time in my entire life my family has used the term “intersex” in an endearing way. My family have been big supporters of my work. My grandmother read my personal essay and told me to continue sharing my testimony with the world.
This experience has taught me so much about myself as a person and about my potential as an intersex activist. I’ve overcome doubts and fears that I’ve held onto for most of my life. I always let my intersex traits hold me back from opportunities because of severe bullying. I learned to hide in the background so that people wouldn’t notice me. In the process, I lost my voice and my confidence. I forgot who I was and what I was capable of becoming.
Because of this internship I’ve been able to experience parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. I’ve been able to set concrete goals and achieve all of them. I had seven months to do meaningful work and I can proudly say that I’ve accomplished that.
I got to work for the largest intersex advocacy organization. I had the opportunity to see how people from all over the country come together and create change. This was my first remote position, but I felt very connected to my colleagues at interACT. I couldn’t have been a part of a more thoughtful and hardworking team.
I encourage everyone to step outside of their comfort zone every once and awhile because what’s on the other side of fear just might surprise you.