Guest post by Pidgeon Pagonis
My family’s favorite past-time, or the one they engage in the most, is watching TV. Our apartment featured a TV in the kitchen, my grandmas room, grandpa’s room, and the front-room. Growing up, I watched a LOT of MTV, and I also had really low self-esteem.
When I went off to college, I took a little 12-inch white TV. One day, it dawned on me that I hadn’t turned it on in weeks and I was feeling a lot better about myself! It was that moment I decided to stop watching TV, specifically MTV.
I know correlation doesn’t equal causation, but it’s clear that when I–a high school intersex kid obsessed with “fitting in”–binged on MTV shows featuring “perfect” people, I just ended up feeling miserable.
So, when I first heard that MTV approached interACT seeking guidance about an intersex character they were developing, a defense wall instantly sprung up. Memories of what it felt like to be addicted to a channel that just kept reminding me how ugly and uncool I was as a kid came flooding back.
Because of this, I didn’t put much faith in working with MTV, and to be honest, kind of just hoped it would disappear.
Disappear it did not and for good reason! The show ended up proving they were committed to consulting with interACT Youth in order to get it right. As a result, my MTV relapse allowed me to witness the progression of the world’s first, and accurately portrayed, intersex main character on TV.
And, it didn’t end there.
Last summer, Bailey De Young–the actress who plays the intersex character named Lauren on the show–came to the annual AIS-DSD support group conference last year and made a bunch of intersex youth, and adults, swoon with admiration!
During Season 2, part of my job was live-tweeting alongside interACT youth while new episodes aired. During those nights, I saw thousands of viewers tweet about how they were learning about intersex for the first time! Viewers’ interest in Lauren’s character quickly translated into an interest into Lauren’s secret—the same secret I and many other intersex kids had in high school—and almost everyone was super supportive of her, and her intersex variation!
In spite of all the amazingness, there was one more milestone I wished would become a reality.
I hoped one day to see an actual intersex person play an intersex character on TV. The best selling book, Middlesex, featuring a narrative which felt like a page torn from my life, was unfortunately written by a non-intersex author. The same goes for countless of other fictional books and movies featuring intersex stories.
Me and my intersex peers thirsted to see ourselves represented by ourselves.
The wait is finally over. Last night we witnessed that milestone. Amanda Saenz, an interACT Youth member who’ve I’ve been lucky to know and work with over the years, covertly flew out to Los Angeles last fall and walked onto the set of MTV’s Faking It! Describing this moment in intersex history as groundbreaking would almost minimize it’s importance!
Five years ago, I received a call from Jim Ambrose–interACT Youth Coordinator at the time– asking if I wanted to join a first of its kind intersex youth project. In the early years of the project, we were a very small group of mostly anonymous people, who took turns writing intersex blogs for our Tumblr.
There was no positive representations of intersex people in the media and it was almost unheard of for any of our young people to go public. In less than 5 years, an interACT member was just featured on MTV playing (pretty much) themself! And that’s not all. If you happen to hop on over to interACT’s new webpage, it’s literally covered in photos of intersex teens and young adults who are openly and proudly intersex.
I’m so ecstatic that interACT Youth, an organization I was formerly a member of, and then a coordinator of, was the first to accomplish this milestone! And between you and me, I have a hunch that this is just the beginning…