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Champions of Pride 2023: Author and Activist Pidgeon Pagonis

Champions of Pride 2023: Author and Activist Pidgeon Pagonis

<p>Champions of Pride 2023: Author and Activist Pidgeon Pagonis</p>
photo by Sarah Joyce

photo by Sarah Joyce

They're focused on ending non-consensual surgeries and reminding us that intersex people are natural and beautiful just as they are.

Pidgeon Pagonis’s life was shaped by one lie after another. It was always shrouded in secrecy, and they struggled with their identity as they constantly tried to fit in with “the other girls.” A secret haunted their childhood, one that Pagonis wouldn’t discover until they went off to college and pieced things together after they attended a lecture about what it means to be intersex.

A call to their mother confirmed Pagonis’s suspicions: They did, in fact, have their genitalia surgically altered as a child in order to fit them into the binary definition of a “female.” This then became their driving force to stop the non-consensual mutilation of intersex people.

“I hated what they did to me,” says Pagonis while discussing what it was like to find out about their identity. “Initially, I was in shock because some of the first words I read in my medical records were: male pseudo-hermaphrodite. Reading and realizing I had undergone a gonadectomy, clitorectomy, and vaginoplasty all before I turned 12 — in the name of making me a ‘normal’ girl — made me see red. I viewed what was left of my pillaged body with a strange mix of longing and contempt.”

Pagonis chronicles the journey to their intersex identity in their memoir, Nobody Needs to Know, which details life events leading up to and following the discovery of their true identity. What started as “an urge” to share their story with others is now helping to spread the message that intersex people are both natural and beautiful.

Their creativity also led to a new feature-length film project with Aubree Bernier-Clark called A Normal Girl, which aims to capture a different side of intersex people and move away from the focus on the pain and trauma of having your body altered without your consent.

Even with their growing message, Pagonis says, “I find it very difficult today, in this hyper-transphobic political climate, to speak on behalf of intersex kids. When I speak out now, I feel like I am straddling a fine line between advocating for intersex kids’ bodily autonomy and giving fuel to the Right’s fire. Please know that I am still figuring out how to walk this tightrope, and that I don’t have any answers right now on how best to move forward.”

Their message from there is clear: it all comes down to consent.

“The intersex movement has always been against non-consensual surgeries and hormones, and completely for consensual medical procedures and hormones — especially those that are gender and life affirming,” says Pagonis. “We are, and always have been, fighting for bodily autonomy…. Trans and intersex people need each other in our joint struggle for bodily autonomy. Don’t let them drive a wedge between us. We need each other.”

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