Intersex Voices [Podcast]

 

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Do you know what Intersex is? If not, you’re not alone. Even some people who are born Intersex go through a steep learning curve. Take Maria Tridas, who literally sat down with her parents, a pen and paper, and Google, to figure out what it meant that she’s Intersex. Maria joins Phil and Alex to reflect on growing into her identity, the importance of bodily autonomy, the fight against unnecessary surgeries, and why we must remember to include the “I” in LGBTQIA+.

 

Transcript provided by YouTube:

00:09
Phil: Hey, this is Phil aka Corinne.
00:11
Alex: And I’m Alex Berg. And you are  listening to The I’m From Driftwood Podcast.
00:13
Phil: I’m From Driftwood Podcast.  Some of you might not know this,
00:16
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00:21
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00:24
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00:30
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00:35
No donation is too small to help us continue  collecting and sharing queer and trans stories.
00:43
Alex: On today’s podcast we are talking about  being intersex. We heard a story from Maria
00:50
Tridas, who identifies as both a lesbian  and as intersex about how she kind of came
00:56
to terms with her identity and started talking  about it and owning it in a more public way.
01:02
Maria: My name is Maria Tridas and  I’m from St. Petersburg, Florida.
01:07
When I was 12 years old, I started  taking hormone replacement therapy
01:13
because my parents just kind of matter of  fact, told me that I wasn’t built like other
01:18
girls. So when other girls were starting  to get their periods and really starting to
01:24
grow into what it means to be a woman, I kind  of matter of fact got these pills that I was
01:30
to take every single day. That’s the way I was  created. There’s nothing wrong with that but
01:38
that was who I was. Six years later, I’m in the  same doctor’s office that I visited every month
01:45
growing up until that point. Except this one  felt a little bit more serious. Both my parents
01:50
were there and were sitting in the doctor’s  office. I knew something had to be different.
01:56
The doctor sort of just starts to tell me that I  have XY chromosomes and starts revealing all these
02:02
little bits and pieces that I couldn’t exactly  tell you now what she told me. But something
02:11
that I would later find out which meant that I was  intersex. The doctor told me that I was born with
02:16
complete androgen insensitivity syndrome. So after  I found out that I in fact had XY chromosomes
02:23
with little to no knowledge of how to discuss  what was going on in my body, I went to college
02:30
and decided that I was going to be the best girl  that I knew how to be. And that was for me, was
02:35
joining a sorority. And I thought that if I joined  a sorority and spent time with a group of women,
02:42
and I was the most feminine girl that I could be,  the clothes and the hair, and that would kind of,
02:49
the outer shell of feminine Maria would sort of  sink to chromosomal level of XY intersex Maria.
02:58
But then I realized also that I like  women. And so my journey in college
03:06
began as this ultra feminine straight  woman, and ended with me as coming out
03:13
and being a super proud lesbian and sort of  really beginning my journey into queerdom.
03:19
I definitely used being a lesbian as sort of  a distraction because I had to come out and
03:27
come to terms with being gay and getting everyone  in my life caught up to speed on who I was as a
03:33
lesbian. But that all sort of changed when  I met this girl in grad school and things
03:41
started to get serious. I knew that I was going  to have to eventually tell her and lesbians talk
03:46
about everything. The question of why I didn’t  have a period came up quickly. So with the bits
03:53
and pieces of information that I gave her, she  was able to put together her own Google search.
04:00
She rightfully had questions about the things  she read on the internet. And at that point I
04:08
knew that not only did I need to give her some  answers, but the way that I needed to do that was
04:15
learn about myself and face this beast head on and  just learn and finally take this time to actually
04:23
learn about who I am. My parents and I sat down  at my kitchen table. I felt like I was doing my
04:29
middle school homework. I had a piece of printer  paper and a pencil. And I wrote down intersex,
04:38
colon, definition and basically made a flow  chart of what happens when a baby’s conceived,
04:45
how a baby develops, what happens when you respond  to certain hormones that your body produces when
04:52
you don’t respond to certain hormones, how a body  is created. I sort of had my first biology lesson
04:59
in learning about and, like a really good test  that I studied for. I got in my car and we lived
05:08
about a half hour away. So I drove the whole way  thinking exactly what I was going to say to her.
05:14
I pulled up to her house and I get out of the car.  She’s already waiting for me. And we just went on
05:19
a really long walk. The conversation luckily went  way better than I ever imagined it would have. For
05:26
as nervous as I was, it was not necessary because  she learned about it. And then we were able to
05:32
kind of just move on. It was calming in how matter  of fact she took the news. She didn’t really care.
05:43
That sort of kick started my confidence to  want to learn more about it. In being with her,
05:54
while everything maybe wasn’t always as very good,  the best thing she ever did for me was help me
06:01
begin my journey of being  a confident intersex woman.
06:06
I’ll talk about it all the time now. Not that I’m,  “Hey, I’m Maria, I’m intersex.” It would just be,
06:13
“Hey, I’m Maria and oh yeah, I happen to like  girls. I happen to be intersex. I happen to be
06:22
a Latina. I happen to eat pizza.” Once you educate  yourself about what it means to be intersex, you
06:31
realize that it relates to the larger picture of  the world and that everything so diverse and that
06:38
humans are diverse. Gender is diverse. It’s  all on a spectrum. When you give yourself the
06:44
knowledge about who you are at your core,  it allows you to build your outer shell,
06:54
that person that you are presenting to the world  in the most beautiful, honest and confident way.
07:00
Alex: Today, she’s back to catch  up. Please welcome Maria Tridas.
07:05
Maria: Thank you for having me. I’m so happy  to be here and to talk about the story. I
07:10
was really nervous to come up with a story back  when I was first asked. I was like, “What story
07:17
relates?” That was the one that just stuck  out the most. Because I think so much of
07:22
the journey is a little bit rough. It’s  hard to like tell those stories sometimes.
07:26
Alex: Absolutely. This story was recorded  in 2017. A lot has happened since. How
07:32
are you doing these days as we talk to you  considering the strange state of the world?
07:36
Maria: Overall, I think net positive.  2017 was so far like in the past.
07:43
We were a year into the craziness  and… I’ll say it again, net positive.
07:50
I think I’ve learned a lot about myself since that  video. I think I stand behind everything. But I’ve
07:57
learned even more about myself since then. It’s  been good. It’s not been without its challenges,
08:02
but collectively we’re all kind of going through  it at the moment. We’re never alone in that.
08:08
Phil: So true. It’s interesting to have the video  for you to look back on and just realize how far
08:14
you’ve come since then. Because you’re right. 2017  feels like ages ago. So it’s an amazing day to
08:20
look back and go Wow. Do you have any fun memories  from the day that you recorded with us in 2017?
08:27
Maria: I was really nervous. I think I had  kind of recently moved into my apartment
08:32
too. It’s really small. I wasn’t familiar with  the noise levels that are here. I’m in Bushwick
08:37
in Brooklyn and there’s like a cement  truck factory around the corner. It’s loud.
08:45
And I work in film production too. So I  was nervous that I wanted to make sure
08:50
that I wasn’t providing a space for video  creatives to come in. And then I was like,
08:54
oh my gosh, what am I going to talk about? I think  that was before I had AC in my apartment maybe,
08:59
and it was hot. Like I said I was nervous…since  2017, I’ve become a lot less nervous to talk
09:04
about these things, talk about myself. I was  nervous, but everybody made me feel really great.
09:10
And it felt really good to tell that story. And  to talk about, to be a little bit vulnerable I
09:16
guess. It felt good to be vulnerable. So  yeah, it felt like a unique experience.
09:21
Alex: Speaking of being vulnerable, you really  unpacked so many different aspects of your story.
09:27
When you kick off your story, you’re talking  about being 12 years old, going on hormone
09:32
therapy. And you say that your parents told you  that you weren’t built like other girls. Take
09:36
us back to that moment. What were you feeling  as your parents were talking to you about this?
09:40
Maria: I’m surprised the video was only six  minutes long because I feel like, I was getting
09:45
my haircut yesterday and talking to the person  who was cutting my hair about being intersex and
09:51
I told them you either have to give the 30 second  [inaudible] or it’s like a 15 minute spiel.
09:59
Good that we cut it down to six minutes. At  that time when I first found out, I didn’t
10:06
really have a thought because I feel like as a  kid, I had a good relationship with my parents.
10:14
They were like this is how you were made. We tied  a lot of it into religion. So it was like God made
10:20
you this way. We weren’t like religious, but it  was an easy way to say God made you this way.
10:26
I didn’t really question it at first. And I  started hormone replacement therapy and it
10:32
was just sort of something that I was told that  I needed to do. I definitely felt different as
10:39
a kid. There are probably a host of reasons for  that. But I think that was like the beginning of
10:45
it and just not having answers as to why I felt  different. And knowing that things that happened
10:51
to me in the past, like surgeries that I had  gotten when I was younger and things like that,
10:55
all kind of were connected to this thing that I  didn’t really know about so I have unpacked that
11:01
in later in life. So it’s like hard to say what  I was feeling back then. But it’s just feeling
11:06
different and I think we’ve probably all felt that  it’s just not knowing why you feel so different.
11:11
Phil: I totally understand. I know that  there are people listening who don’t
11:16
know what being intersex means. And I know  that people have Google and I expect them to do
11:20
their research and sort of look this up. But can
11:23
you sort of explain to people what it is? Maria: Sure. Yeah. And sometimes Google can
11:27
be a little bit more confusing than from someone.  So intersex is an umbrella term for individuals
11:34
who don’t fit the typical definition of what it  means to be male or female. And that can be for
11:39
a variety of things like individuals born with  XY chromosomes. That have ambiguous genitalia,
11:48
different hormone responses, and different  hormone productions. It’s basically a different
11:54
way to express gender. And it’s a naturally  occurring thing. Our variation in humans.
11:59
Alex: Again, we encourage all of our listeners  to go to Google and seek out different resources
12:04
to better understand what this means. And also not  to go around asking people about their identities.
12:09
But for the sake of this context, again, to  understand your story a little better, Maria,
12:13
one of the things you talk about is that you  said the doctor told you that you were born
12:17
with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome.  Would you just mind explaining what that means?
12:22
Maria: There are over 30 different variations of  intersex individuals, and I guess it’s important
12:29
to note that when we’re talking about intersex  people, 1.7% of the population is intersex. And
12:35
in a big comparison that people give is that the  same number as naturally occurring [inaudible].
12:42
So complete androgen insensitivity syndrome is one  of the variations that fall under that 1.7% of the
12:49
population that identifies as intersex. And that  just means that my body has certain parts. I have
12:59
XY chromosomes. I had ambiguous genitalia. I was  operated on as a child, which is something that
13:08
we can probably dive into later. But it’s just  one of the variations of intersex individuals.
13:16
A funny thing that I’ve discovered since 2017  was I was out to lunch with another intersex
13:22
person. And they actually think that I’m not  complete androgen insensitivity syndrome.
13:28
But that I’m actually partial  androgen insensitivity syndrome
13:31
because of some of the characteristics  that I show, like I have more body hair,
13:36
people with complete androgen insensitivity  syndrome tend not to have body hair. That’s
13:41
just one of the characteristics. It’s funny to  be self-diagnosed. But oftentimes intersex people
13:48
know more than doctors do because of the  way that it’s taught in medical schools.
13:53
Phil: It sounds for your story that your parents  were very supportive and ready to help you cope
13:58
in whatever way they could. They wanted to  support you make sure that you were okay.
14:03
And by the end of your college years, you realized  you were a lesbian, how did they take that news?
14:09
Maria: They took it pretty well. I think for  them, they were like, well, is this tied to
14:16
her being intersex? And that was before I knew  a lot about it. It was kind of a thought that
14:21
I had too. And it was a before I had a better  understanding of what gender identity, sexuality,
14:28
how those coexist or not, this is back in 2012,  when I came out as a lesbian. I think it was not
14:35
harder for my dad. It was just felt more different  for my dad. But overall, I think it’s been
14:45
a really positive experience. They were super  supportive and I’m really grateful for that
14:51
because I know not everybody has that kind of  support system from their immediate family.
14:55
As I’ve come out as being intersex and kind  of discovering my gender identity. Those
15:00
conversations have been almost more difficult  just because gender identity can be so complex,
15:06
I think. And sexuality also can be complex, but  it’s a little more digestible I think for them.
15:12
Alex: One of the things that you say in this  video, how through a relationship and research
15:19
about your own body, you found a path  to being what you call at the time,
15:22
a confident intersex woman. How did you find  that confidence? One of the things you also
15:28
said was that gender is very complex. I  know it evolves all the time. So I don’t
15:33
know. I don’t want to presume that you are  still identifying with exactly those terms,
15:36
but how did you find that confidence?  How are you thinking of this all today?
15:39
Maria: Honestly, it was through validation. I  got a lot of confidence through the validation
15:44
and I think getting the confidence to  initially tell my partner at the time,
15:50
I think was just understanding. And I think trying  to do the research myself and having those initial
15:57
conversations with my parents was really helpful.  And I guess feeling the validation from them,
16:02
I think the support from them helped a lot with  the confidence and just… I think I’ve always
16:08
been kind of a confident person and trying  to understand who I am, to be happy, I guess.
16:14
I feel like I’ve always, even as a kid, strive  to be happy. And I feel like in doing that,
16:21
discovering myself, I think is the ultimate path  to happiness, like discovering who you are. And
16:26
since then, that confidence has led to  discovering more about my gender identity
16:31
and learning more and changing my pronouns.  I now use she/they pronouns. And I think that
16:37
my relationship with my pronouns has grown and my,
16:40
just how I see myself. So the confidence has  continued again, not without its hardships, but…
16:47
Phil: Two part question for you. What are  some of the common misconceptions you hear
16:52
about being born intersex, and also what are the  real life ramifications of these misconceptions?
16:58
Maria: I guess it’s less of a misconception  and more of just a total misunderstanding.
17:04
Losing bodily autonomy at a young age without  your consent. What does that do to a person,
17:10
from not only the physical ramifications, but the  mental. And I think a lot of times when I feel
17:16
grief, I feel misunderstood. And I think we all  feel misunderstood. And so I feel good in that,
17:20
but then sometimes it just feels like a  deeper hole. You’ll never fully be seen
17:26
because people can’t fully understand  part of you. And so that’s why part of
17:29
my activism is talking about my identity and  being open to that because I want people to
17:35
not misunderstand who we are. And  understand that people are people. I
17:40
think a lot of world issues could be solved  with like having a little bit more empathy.
17:48
And then the ramifications from the  misunderstanding leads to larger issues of
17:52
intersex people being left out of conversations.  The same bills that are targeting trans people,
17:58
harm intersex people. It’s usually  language included in those bills
18:02
that then get swept under the rug and then  intersex people get left out of the conversation.
18:07
Not only by straight people, but even  people in the queer community because
18:12
it’s misunderstood. Because it does take  a lot to actually educate yourself on it.
18:18
The discussions when you talk about being  intersex it’s so medicalized. Sometimes I
18:23
feel like if I’m not super focused, I can be a  little bit all over the place when I’m talking
18:28
about my self and it’s hard to be like on it all  the time when you have to talk about yourself.
18:34
Alex: One of the things you mentioned is the  loss of autonomy that happens to lots of intersex
18:39
children, which just made me think about the  absolutely barbaric medical intervention that
18:45
intersex kids are subject to. And actually the  resource partner for your original story was
18:50
interACT, which is a nonprofit that legally  advocates for the human rights of children
18:53
born with intersex traits. Many intersex  children are subjected to surgeries with
18:58
little regard for their own identities or  how it’ll impact them later on in life.
19:03
You mentioned that you, as well, experienced this.  What are the consequences of these procedures?
19:09
Where do we stand with the efforts to  stop these procedures from happening?
19:13
Maria: Certainly since 2017, there have been  like really large strides. I think intersex
19:18
visibility on social media and whatnot. But,  I think the medical community is seeing it.
19:25
There’s no room for dogma in science.  It’s hard for doctors to change
19:31
what they’ve learned from 50 years ago.  But it is outdated. Interact is still
19:39
on the ground doing the thing, like really a great  resource. Intersex Justice Project was started by
19:47
a couple of intersex individuals of color who are,  they’ve been activists for years and super vocal.
19:55
They themselves are a really great resource. I  think intersex activism on social media overall
20:02
has been really incredible. The folks at  Intersex Justice Project successfully protested,
20:10
or, gathered outside of Lurie children’s  hospital in Chicago, and they actually
20:15
changed their policy. It’s come a long way, I  think, but obviously still room for improvement.
20:21
Phil: Maria what advice would you give to a  young intersex person looking for a community?
20:25
Maria: Social media is a great resource for  finding community. For anybody, I think anybody
20:30
can find their little on the internet. And  there are a lot of resource groups. Interact
20:36
is a great resource. As I said earlier, it can  feel really isolating sometimes to be intersex.
20:42
And so just to have people that understand you.  Another piece of advice I would give is to take
20:48
time and understanding yourself, the cliche,  “It gets better” – it really does. Find your
20:54
community, even if it’s digital, it’s good to  have people online to look to and see yourself.
21:00
Alex: One of the things you said earlier  in this conversation is that even
21:04
within the LGBTQIA+ community, there’s  a lot of misunderstanding or oftentimes
21:10
intersex voices just are not at the  table. How would you like to see
21:15
more intersex voices be part of the table  and be a louder part of the conversation?
21:20
Maria: One of the things I said earlier was I  think if everybody could have a little bit more
21:24
empathy, I think that’s the start. Just seeing  people and meeting people where they’re at.
21:28
And I think it’s important to include  intersex folks when you’re talking about
21:32
trans and non-binary people. I think so often  when people, even activists are talking about
21:40
trans issues or non-binary issues, they’ll say  trans and non-binary. These are the exact same
21:47
that are affecting intersex people. And it feels  like a lot of intersex people are trans and a lot
21:53
of intersex people are non-binary and I think we  can say, oh well, they are lumped in there. But
21:59
when I see a big non-binary activist going  viral and not including intersex people,
22:08
it just feels like, I almost feel bad because I  want to be happy for these things that are being
22:14
talked about, but it’s just including intersex  people in the conversation is really important.
22:19
Another small thing is when you’re writing LGBTQ+  include that I include the “I” as much as I can.
22:29
Having someone at the table to be there for those  conversations, because our experiences are unique
22:36
and can really only be told by an intersex  person. Like so many other stories that are
22:39
being told. I think it’s really important  to have that kind of point of view.
22:42
Phil: We talked a lot about what it means  to be intersex. But, where would you like
22:45
to see the focus and conversation go  next when it comes to intersex issues?
22:50
Maria: I think I just want to see the  conversations around gender identity
22:55
be a little bit more real and honest. Obviously  I think number one is to end intersex surgery
23:01
on infants and young children, number one. And  I think doing that, there’s a variety of ways we
23:10
can get to that. And I think it takes, all types  of activists and there’s so many great intersex
23:15
activists doing the work. I talked about  this in my Driftwood video that we’re
23:20
all kind of on a… humans are on a spectrum  from top to tail. No one has the same nose,
23:25
no one has the same eyes, no one has  the same genitals. And chromosomes
23:32
and the way that our bodies behave are  all different, every single one of us.
23:37
I think just having a better understanding  of the variety of life and that intersex
23:42
people are such like an important part of  that. Much like queer people in general,
23:46
are such an important part of the variety and  spice of life. I think intersex people are, you
23:55
can see it in our genetics. I should say,  not all intersex people identify as queer,
24:04
but I feel like my queerness is shown on a  medical report which is weird and also important.
24:19
I used to be like identifier as intersex lesbian,  but now I think I’ve switched lesbian to dyke. I’m
24:25
an intersex dyke. That is my title now. So I’m  still sitting in the same living room, different
24:31
couch though. But the story is still the same. It  was interesting. I re-watched the story and I was
24:38
nervous about it at the time, but I was actually  really proud of it. Like looking back and watching
24:42
it, I was really nervous. I don’t get nervous  about talk about it really anymore, but like back
24:47
then, I was so nervous that I wouldn’t say the  right thing. And I don’t know if whoever runs a
24:52
YouTube channel monitors the comments or whatever,  but they’re all very positive. So, actually I
24:57
know, shocking that they are positive. And so  I’m like, I’m going to use this as an ego boost
25:04
if I ever need it, just go read these like really  comments. So it was great to re-watch the video.
25:10
I feel like I’ve also come a long way since 2017  when it was filmed, so… in a lot of ways. Yeah.
25:16
Alex: Hear, hear! Well, as we start to wind  down, are there any resources that you can
25:21
let our listeners know if they are intersex  and looking for support and or information,
25:25
if they’re trying to support an  intersex pal or family member,
25:30
anything like that? I know you  named some organizations earlier.
25:33
Maria: Instagram is… is a great… is one of the  best resources. I think… it’s like quick facts,
25:38
you can find intersex activists. You can  find organizations. Yeah. And interACT.
25:43
InterACT is a great resource. There are a  lot of – I’ve done a few podcasts myself,
25:47
so there are a lot of podcasts.  YouTube is a great resource. There is
25:53
an intersex activist named Emily who does a  Ted talk on being intersex. And I think that is
25:58
probably the best piece of intersex content out  there, actually. It’s really great. They’re an
26:05
amazing speaker. The internet. The internet  is your best resource and your best friend.
26:10
It’s a lot less scary to Google  intersex now than it was back in 2012.
26:14
Phil: I can’t believe you didn’t mention  the video you did. You did a video yourself.
26:18
Maria: Okay. Well.
26:18
Phil: That one was so good. It was so good for  their magazine. You did a fantastic video for
26:24
that magazine. And I would encourage  people to look that up on YouTube.
26:27
Maria: That is… I’ve had a couple people reach  out and say, I Googled it and that was one of the
26:32
first things that comes up. So it is one of the  first things that comes up as a video that I did,
26:37
and it’s basically the definition…  the definition of intersex and kind
26:42
history of it. And it’s a pretty good starter.  Thank you, that video’s a good resource too.
26:47
Phil: Awesome. So before we say goodbye,
26:50
where can our listeners find you? Where are you  on social media? Where can they find you online?
26:55
Maria: Follow me on Instagram. That’s  probably where I’m the most active. I’m
26:58
not huge on social media, but at Maria Tridas  which is my name for both Instagram and Twitter.
27:07
Instagram’s the best way, please say hi.  I love talking about this kind of stuff.
27:11
Phil: Maria, it was so  wonderful talking to you today.
27:13
Alex: [crosstalk] You’re the best. Thank you  so much for joining us. Always a delight.
27:17
Maria: Thank you both so much. This  is great. I really appreciate any
27:21
time I get the opportunity to talk about  this stuff, especially on such a cool
27:26
platform. So thank you both.  This was a really lovely chat.
27:39
Phil:
27:40
The I’m From Driftwood Podcast  is hosted by Phil aka Corinne.
27:43
Alex: And Alex Berg. And is  produced by Anddy Egan-Thorpe.
27:47
It’s recorded as a program of I’m From  Driftwood, the LGBTQAI+ story archive.
27:53
Phil: Its mission is to send a life saving  message to queer and trans people everywhere.
27:58
You are not alone.
27:59
Alex: I’m from Driftwood’s Founder and  Executive Director is Nathan Manske.
28:03
Program director is Damie Mittlefehldt.
28:05
Phil: Our score is provided by Elevate Audio.
28:08
Alex: The stories you heard today  are available in their entirety,
28:11
plus thousands more at imfromdriftwood.org.
28:14
Phil: You can also follow us on  Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.
28:17
Alex: Or subscribe to our podcast  wherever you get your podcasts.
28:20
Phil: This program is supported in part by public
28:23
funds from the New York City  Department of Cultural Affairs.
28:26
Alex: In partnership with the City Council.
28:28
Phil: Additional funding is provided by the  Humanities New York SHARP Grant with support
28:33
from the National Endowment for the Humanities  and the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
28:37
Alex: Thanks for listening y’all.

This post was previously published on YouTube.

***


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The post Intersex Voices [Podcast] appeared first on The Good Men Project.


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