Five Proud Latine and Intersex Activists You Need to Know About
Under a binary world, intersex people have always existed. Making up 1.7 percent of the U.S. population they’re just as common as being born a redhead.
‘Intersex’ refers to people born with sex characteristics— like chromosomes, genitalia, reproductive organs, or hormones— that don’t necessarily fit under the binary of male or female. As an umbrella term, it can describe over 40 natural bodily variations. Some traits may be obvious at birth, some may develop over time during puberty, later in life, or not at all.
Often underrepresented due to historical stigma, many intersex activists proudly embrace their identities as they strive to bring awareness to intersex erasure by the medical industry and society at large. For decades, intersex youth were subjected to invasive genital reconstructive surgeries that further reinforced the rigid gender binary.
Furthermore, due to the community making up a small percentage of the population, they are often left out of conversations regarding gender-affirming care, reproductive rights, bathroom bills, and Title IX protections among others.
As intersex representation continues to grow, in late May the Progress Pride flag got another inclusive makeover. Unveiled by the Intersex Equality Rights UK advocacy group, the flag was redesigned by Valentino Vecchietti as part of an “Intersex Inclusion Campaign.” While rarely visually represented, the flag’s inclusivity further reinforces the ongoing struggle for bodily autonomy within the community.
But Intersex representation doesn’t end there; it’s just beginning. Within the Latine community exist intersex powerhouses whose proud existences and work help to uplift a community that deserves to be acknowledged.
Here are some Latine intersex creatives and activists you need to know:
River Gallo is a Salvadoran-American model, filmmaker, actor, and intersex activist. In 2019, their debut short film “Ponyboi” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. In a personal essay for them., Gallo shared their story of self-discovery and how it influenced their film. “Ponyboi” is the first narrative film in cinematic history created and featuring an openly intersex person. Their acting credits don’t end there, having also appeared in an episode of Hulu’s “Love, Victor.”
Pidgeon Pagonis is a prominent non-binary intersex activist, artist, and writer of Mexican-Greek ancestry. Co-founder of the Intersex Justice Project, Pagonis works to end infant intersex surgeries while also empowering other BIPOC intersex people. In 2015, Pagonis was honored as an LGBT Champion of Change by the Obama Administration. In 2020, Pagonis helped end infant intersex surgeries at Lurie Children’s Hospital, where their surgery took place. Happy with this victory, Pagonis continues to strive for accountability and legislative efforts to protect intersex human rights.
Mari Wrobi is a Mexican-American non-binary, queer, intersex youth advocate at InterACT. Officially discovering that they were intersex at 21, Wrobi has acknowledged the stigma around being intersex and Latine. In an article for BeLatina, Wrobi noted general disapproval of bodily alternations like tattoos or piercings within Latine culture. However, when it came to intersex bodies the expectation to “change” to fit under the binary was usually positive. Also working to aid homeless LGBTQ+ youth, Wrobi uses their social media to educate the general public about subjects prominent within the intersex community.
Hida Viloria is a pioneering gender-fluid intersex author and activist of Colombian and Venezuelan descent. A frequent lecturer and educator, Viloria has been openly speaking about intersex and non-binary issues since 1996. Having written essays and commentary for The Washington Post, New York Times, Out Magazine, and The Advocate, Viloria has touched upon sports bans, coming out, and critiquing the medical industry’s reinforcement of intersex surgeries. In 2017, Viloria published their memoir “Born Both: An Intersex Life” detailing their journey of gender identity, self-acceptance, and love.
Amanda Saenz is a Costa Rican-American intersex actor and member of the interACT advocacy group. In 2016, Saenz debuted on MTV’s teen drama Faking It as a character named Raven, an openly intersex youth advocate who helps main character Lauren connect with their intersex identity. The short-lived series broke ground for featuring the first intersex main character, an openly intersex actor, and working with InterACT to deliver a more honest representation on screen.