Intersex Woman Pens Courageous Letter to Fox News Bullies

Intersex Woman Pens Courageous Letter to Fox News Bullies

This letter was written by Elena H. of the intersex youth leadership organization Inter/Act. For privacy reasons, the author's full name is being withheld.

Let me talk about shame. We've all experienced it to some extent, but for those rare few who haven't, I define shame as a feeling of complete and utter worthlessness. The sense that there could not possibly be a place for you in the world, that you are utterly alone, unknowable and frankly not worth knowing. Shame can be associated with abuse, neglect or ignorance and often leads to hostility, isolation and unhappiness.

As someone who has experienced this kind of deep, overwhelming shame, I don't understand why anyone would want to make others feel this way.

I have Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (CAIS). This means that I was born with female external anatomy, internal non-functioning testes and XY chromosomes. I was that weird phenomena that happens when our XX/XY chromosomal system breaks down and creates something that's a little bit of both and none of either. When I first got my full diagnosis at 17 years old, I was consumed with shame. My parents told me to keep it secret (I wasn't even allowed to tell my sister) and my doctors treated me like some prized freak. I had no idea what to think because no one would talk about it with me and I had never heard about it before. So I assumed the worst — that I was an unloveable oddity bound to live alone on the fringes of society forever.


Naturally, it didn't take long for the shame to sink in. It ate at me, made me untrusting, sad and small. For years, it was all I could feel. I didn't trust that anyone could love me with the knowledge of my "condition." I kept asking myself questions like, "Am I supposed to like girls? Boys?" or "Who am I? Is it worth even trying with people because they'll never understand." The girl who used to chatter incessantly became stuttering, silent, angry — unable to trust her own thoughts. Shame made me into a cold, selfish person I didn't recognize. 

It's taken me years to rid myself of shame, and even more years to start to appreciate my intellect, recognize my strengths and begin to speak out for myself and my community. But without the example of people who inspired me to be fearless and open about myself and a group of wonderful friends, I might still be in that black box of shame with room to breathe but no room to grow. 

Last week, however, Fox News made me feel that shame again. Some of their commentators made me, and my community, a punchline to their joke. Instead of celebrating a move Facebook made to give its users a chance to fully express their gender or sexual identity, Fox News correspondents decided to mock it. Unable to realize their own ignorance, they snickered at the thought that anyone could identify as intersex, even asking the question, "What if you want to identify as a pinecone?"


By laughing at our identity, they proved they'd rather spread ignorance than grapple with the complexity of our truths. We are all different, and our differences don't make us any less human. Their commentary added to the chorus of those in power who continue to force us to accept a binary that isolates and leaves out people like me. I feel so sorry for those people. They forget that if we would accept others and be more open, like Facebook is trying to do, maybe we could stop making each other feel so deeply screwed up. Maybe, just maybe, we could even make each other better.

I applaud Facebook for its push to make it easier to share our complex identities through social media. Difference is not something to spit upon and laugh at; it is something to celebrate because in the end our differences are what we all have in common.


After Inter/Act's open letter to Fox News and a chorus of others who spoke up  on our behalfFox and Friend's host Clayton Morris gave an apology to our community — sort of.

But Morris' apology did not address the root of the problem. As Inter/Act member Emily Brehob said in response:

This host's apology doesn't make up for what was said, but it does demonstrate a rare willingness by a Fox correspondent to learn from his mistakes. Fox's reporting on intersex issues is far from perfect, but this segment gave us reason to hope for better in the future.

It is our hope that one day we will live to see a future actually free of stigma and shame.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Inter/Act Youth

Founded with a grant from the Ms. Foundation, Inter/Act is the first and only intersex youth leadership and movement-building group in the country. In a remarkably short time, Inter/ Act has already begun to play an historically unprecedented role in catalyzing a moment for the rights and well being of intersex children and adults by adding their voice to the national discussion on intersex and DSD issues. Inter/Act allows young people with intersex conditions or DSD to overcome isolation and secrecy, come together, express themselves, and unite their individual stories to develop a voice for a new generation. It is time that their stories are heard. And they are being heard! Since its inception in late 2010, Inter/Act’s growing membership, ages 14-25 from across three continents, have made huge accomplishments. They collaborated on creating Inter/Act’s Blog which gets over 1,000 hits per month. Youth members composed AIC’s Summer 2012 Newsletter read by over 1,000 people. The brochure they authored, What We Wish Our Doctors Knew has been distributed to over 1,400 doctors. Inter/Act members also created the trailblazing Second Wave video series in which they gathered the stories of intersex elders and movement leaders. Young people have also been taking the lead themselves. On March 15th, 2013, AIC’s Youth Leadership Intern Jen ”Pidgeon” Pagonis gave expert testimony at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the first young intersex person to do so! Thanks to a generous grant from the Liberty Hill Foundation, Inter/Act is continuing to grow providing intersex youth an opportunity to break the barriers of shame and isolation, project intersex youth voices into the national and international discussion of treatment of intersex children and to inject meaningful intersex advocacy into the vocabulary of young queer activists. In 2014, Inter/Act youth are holding the first retreat ever for youth with intersex and DSD conditions. <br>http://inter-actyouth.tumblr.com

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