I wish

Irene Kuzemko

Pro frugal tip: save money on therapy by becoming a famous intersex activist!

Recently I wanted to tell my intersex story to my therapist. Instead of paying for an entire session dedicated to telling my story, I just sent him links to my interviews, and that was it!

On a serious note, I’m so happy to have the opportunity to share my interviews with people instead of having to tell my story for the zillionth time. Just Google me dude, seriously!

In the beginning when I had just discovered I am intersex I wanted to tell my story to everyone. Nowadays I am so tired of telling it. Plus, it’s just frustrating that we (intersex people) have to tell our stories all the time in order to “validate” our demands. We have to either experience our pain and trauma over and over again each time we tell our story, or have to completely dissociate ourselves from the story and tell it mechanically without any emotional involvement.

I do the latter; I’ve told my story so many times that I don’t even feel anything anymore when telling it. I have even had journalists complain to me that “you’re using the same exact words and sentences that you used in your previous interviews”, and of course I am, I’ve told it too many times for it to be different every time.

Another time a news agency wanted to own the rights to my story. I asked, “but would I be able to still give interviews without consulting with you?”, and they replied, “yes, but with another story”. My response was lol I only have one story, I’m not doing this!

Every time somebody asks me what do I do, it means that I have to give them an entire intersex 101, talk about human rights violations and tell a bit of my story and my activism. I hate lying and I’m happy that I’m able to be open and talk about being intersex to anyone I meet, whether it’s an Uber driver, a person in line next to me when boarding a plane or a random drunk person I started talking to in the club. But it’s so exhausting having to explain these things over and over again. I wish one day intersex awareness would come to a level that we won’t have to explain to people what intersex is.

Sometimes I feel that our work in my country is invisible, no matter how good our content is and how hard we try, we don’t have much reach and have very few allies. I wish more people paid attention to what we are saying and doing.

If you Google intersex in my native language (Russian) most of the results would be interviews with me and my colleagues, and pictures and videos of me. I’m not complaining, but I wish more people in my country spoke about being intersex.

I wish more journalists would educate themselves about intersex before interviewing me. I wish photographers would stop suggesting to me the idea of me “looking very feminine in some shots and looking masculine/androgynous in the others” when taking photos of me to illustrate my interviews.

I wish journalists would stop interviewing doctors along with me to put their opinion opposite mine in the same article. I wish more people educated themselves online on intersex issues instead of asking me, “but… what does it look like???” and other inappropriate questions. There are so many resources out there created by me and my incredible colleagues from all over the world. I wish more people actually took the time to educate themselves with those resources, or at least read a Wikipedia article.

I also wish more allies consulted with us before doing something intersex-related.

Recently I made this meme and it encapsulates my feelings so well.

There is a popular quote: “Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” I disagree. Intersex activism is my dream job but it is still hard work and it is very tiring. But it still makes me incredibly happy, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. When a parent tells me that because of what they learned from me they won’t allow surgery to be performed on their intersex baby, or when an intersex person I just met hugs me and tells me I’m the first intersex person they’ve ever met and their eyes sparkle with joy—these moments remind me why am I doing this.

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