Breaking news from last night: MTV’s Faking It – Season 2 (premieres Tuesday, September 23rd) will feature an intersex character! From The Hollywood Reporter:
On Faking It, Bailey De Young portrays Lauren, a hyper-feminine bitchy teen who is the sister (by marriage) to Rita Volk‘s Amy, who in season one, faked a lesbian relationship with her best friend Karma (Katie Stevens), to move up the social ladder at an Austin high school.
Season one ended with a cliffhanger for Lauren, who flipped out after rumors started flying about mysterious pills she was taking regularly. The season two premiere will reveal that Lauren regularly takes hormones and was born with Androgen Insensitive Syndrome, a type of intersex condition that means she was born with male chromosomes but develops as a female.
As many of you know, my YA contemporary book None of the Above also features a main character with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, or AIS. More importantly, the consultants that MTV worked with from Advocates for Informed Choice and Inter/Act (their youth branch – check out their amazing FAQ here) are some of the incredible people I met at this year’s AIS-DSD conference. Their board member Arlene Baratz was one of the people who vetted None of the Above, and offered a lovely blurb:
“Smartly and compassionately written for a young adult audience, None of the Above puts a new twist on the theme of adolescent difference and acceptance.”
-Arlene Baratz MD (Moderator, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome- Differences of Sex Development Parents Group www.aisdsd.org)
I am so, so psyched that MTV is putting a spotlight on intersex, because after I sold my book and started to tell my family and friends about it, I realized the huge gap in knowledge about intersex even among medical professionals. There is so much work still to be done to create intersex awareness. So below, the top 5 myths I’ve had to debunk in the year since my book sold:
Myth #1: Intersex = Transgender
This is a very common misconception. To the point where, when I told a doctor friend that I was going to an intersex conference, he laughed and said “Well, it’s appropriate then that it’s in San Francisco!” Then he realized his mistake.
Let’s talk about sex (and the difference between sex and gender). Ladies and gentleman, I present the Genderbread Person:
A person’s sex refers to ones biology – their sexual anatomy at birth – which sometimes correlates with ones chromosomes, but not always. Besides the usual XX and XY chromosomal set, people can be XXY, XO, and even have different sets of chromosomes in different cells.
Gender, however, refers to how a person perceives oneself and wishes to be identified on the gender spectrum.
Intersex individuals are people born with either external or internal sex characteristics that are different than the “typical” male or female. Transgender individuals are people who are born “typically” male or female, but who do not identify as their birth gender (the stereotypical woman trapped in a man’s body). They may often use medical intervention (hormones and surgery) to help them match their identified gender with their birth gender.
Because of these definitions, you can actually be both intersex AND transgender. But not all intersex individuals are transgender.
Myth #2: Intersex people are born with both vaginas and penises