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Today is Intersex Awareness Day, which means it’s our annual chance to shine a spotlight on one of medicine’s most profound failures: it’s treatment of people born with biological differences in sex development, also known as intersex.

The Hippocratic Oath that all physicians take exhorts us to Do No Harm. Yet, for decades surgeons have been causing their patients irrevocable, life-changing harm with well-intentioned attempts to “fix” intersex.

Imagine being a 16 year old girl who is told that they need surgery to remove potential cancerous gonads. Imagine not being told until after this surgery that you have to take hormones for the rest of your life or risk osteoporosis, depression and other menopausal symptoms.

Imagine being a 18 year old girl, about to go to college. Because you have something called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, you have an underdeveloped vagina – so your surgeon suggests something called a vaginoplasty in which intestine is used to create a longer vaginal canal. But the surgery goes wrong – postoperative scarring causes any sort of penetration to be painful, and only afterward to you find out that you could have avoided the surgery entirely by simply stretching yourself with dilators.

Finally, imagine that you’re one of the two girls above. Your doctors tell you that you’ll never meet anyone like you, so don’t even try. Your parents tell you not to discuss your diagnosis with anyone, not even your best friends – it’s too private, they say. It’s none of their business. When you go to your doctors appointments your mother can barely conceal her shame. Your father doesn’t go to these visits at all.

To imagine these traumas is to imagine being intersex.

Now imagine being able to save someone from these medical horrors – because it is in your power. Because the world is changing as Intersex Awareness increases, as intersex people gather as a community and use the power of their stories to change medical care doctor by doctor, surgeon by surgeon.

Today, I invite you to help in all the ways:

1. If you DON’T know what intersex is: Watch this Buzzfeed video. It’ll make you laugh, and it might make you cry. 

2. If you DO know what intersex is but aren’t sure why it’s important: Read this post where some amazing writers tell you why.

3. Unclear about the harms perpetrated by well meaning physicians? Read this post about intersex and intimacy to understand the depth of the harm caused by unnecessary surgery on intersex bodies.

4. If you’re moved? Please consider spreading the word. Share this post, or the Buzzfeed video, or any of the other articles (hey, even Good Housekeeping has one if that’s your jam). Follow @interACT_adv on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook. DONATE to them so they can continue the incredible work they do on a shoestring budget. Tag someone you know who might not know what intersex is, other than a curiosity. Show them that the girl next door could be intersex, and that intersex bodies are beautiful.

Thank you, and remember to vote with your conscience on November 8th!!

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summer

I’ll be out and about this summer, starting next week when I’m in NYC for the Lambda Literary Awards. Hope to see some of you soon IRL!

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  • June 6th, 1pm –  New York, NY: NYU Constantine Georgiou Library (239 Greene Street, 5th Floor) reading with Rebecca Podos (Mystery of Hollow Places), Cordelia Jensen (Skyscraping)
  • June 11, 12pm -Exton, PA (301 Main Street, Exton, PA 19341): B-Fest Exton Barnes & Noble
  • June 12, 1pm – Wilmington, DE: Concord Mall Barnes & Noble (4801 Concord Pike,
    Wilmington, DE): B-Fest Author Signing with Randy Ribay, Sharon Roat, Dianne Salerni and Cindy Callaghan
  • July 17 – Denver, CO: AIS-DSD Annual Conference
  • August 2 – Young Writers Workshop, Colgate University
  • September 24th (details tk) – Boston Teen Book Festival
  • September 26th (details tk) – Falmuth Public Library: Banned Books Week Symposium with Malinda Lo, Amitha Knight
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I can barely believe that I’m typing these words, but last week Deadline broke the news that I have been sitting on since last November: None of the Above has been optioned for a TV series by Lifetime, with an absolute dream team writing and directing!

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Back when None of the Above first came out last year, the reader question that amused me the most was “When are they going to turn it into a movie?” Because as much I believed in my story, I had absolutely. No. Expectation. That this would ever be an option (hah, see what I did there?). Even before the book came out, I was apprehensive that None of the Above faced a glass ceiling. My fears were confirmed when a publishing sales representative told me somewhat offhandedly, “your book is a tough sell” – because of the lack of awareness of what intersex was (I should note that another sales representative kindly reassured me that it would do “very well”).

None of the Above, I absolutely thought, would never have enough mass appeal to the point where Hollywood would come calling. When my literary agent told me that I had a film agent that was interested in shopping the book around, I smiled and nodded and did not for a second think that anything would pan out.

Which is why, when I got an e-mail from my agent last July saying that they had a production company and screenwriter who was interested, I freaked out.

via GIPHY

I had a great conversation with the producers, and then the lovely screenwriter Liz Maccie, but even then I thought everything was still a pie in the sky (one of my MIL’s to-die-for pumpkin pies, maybe, but still a longshot). Despite their interest – and Liz’s husband Stephen Chbosky’s interest (fangirl alert!!) in directing the adaptation – it became very clear that there were still hurdles to overcome: they were aiming for a TV series, so even though there was a production company and writer, what they really needed was a network/studio committed to developing the project.

Sure, the TV landscape is far different and more accepting of LGBTQIA themes than even two years ago: Transparent, I Am Cait, Orange Is The New Black. MTV’s Faking It even features an intersex character, Lauren that is an exceptional representation (the showrunners worked closely with interACT youth). Even that, however, didn’t mean that a network would be willing to take a risk on a show revolving around an intersex teen.

Until they did. I was sitting in a room full of teens, wrapping up a visit with the Downingtown High School book club, when I got the e-mail: Lifetime was going to make an offer on None of the Above.

via GIPHY

To get a sense of why I’m so excited that Lifetime is developing the story of my heart, you can read this excellent Hollywood Reporter summary of their upcoming slate, which talks about how Lifetime has become a real “fempire” (73% of their shows were written or directed by women), or read this fabulously in-depth Buzzfeed article on the Lifetime television renaissance.

This is not to say that there aren’t even more hurdles to overcome – the pilot script needs to be accepted, filmed, and then picked up as a series. But my little dark horse of a book has already traveled stratospheres beyond my expectations.

As I said on my Instagram post about the deal:

It’s a moment that I never dreamed could happen, at a time when our country – our world – so desperately deserves to hear stories of compassion, empathy and acceptance.

I’m keeping my hopes realistic but my fingers crossed. So stay tuned, dear readers, and thank you from the very depths of my soul for your incredible enthusiasm for the book of my heart!

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This gallery contains 6 photos.

I’ve been putting this post off forever, waiting for the time to upload all the pictures that have been held hostage by my phone, wanting to come up with the perfect ways to explain why I’ve been offline for a while, … Continue reading

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…consider doing something for Intersex Awareness Day.

1. If you DON’T know what intersex is: Watch this Buzzfeed video.

2. If you DO know what intersex is but aren’t sure why it’s important: Read this post.

3. If you know what intersex is and know it’s important: Talk about it! Share this post, and/or join the 9pmEST Twitterstorm to get #intersexstories trending.

I and all these people will be so grateful:

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Photo courtesy of aisdsd.org

 

 

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I’m not going to lie – the past couple of weeks have been pretty sweet, none sweeter than Friday when I had an amazing visit with the Downingtown High School West Book Club. In addition to being generally sweet and awesome and enthusiastic, they asked some terrific, nuanced questions and helped me make some wonderful cue cards for the #intersex stories campaign for Intersex Awareness Day, which is tomorrow 10/26. If you’ve never seen proof of how open-minded and amazing teens can be, look no further:
Pidgeon Pagonis (formerly of Advocates for Informed Choice and InterActYouth) is spearheading the effort to get #IntersexAwareness day to trend, so please do help her out and sign up for her TwitterStorm.  And keep your eye for for my post on Why Intersex is Awesome on EpicReads – wherein some amazing author friends have chimed in with their own thoughts on why intersex awareness is important. To help celebrate their involvement in #intersexstories, I’m hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway for a signed copy of None of the Above and any FOUR of their books! Be sure to Post or Tweet why YOU think intersex is awesome tomorrow, using the HT #intersexstories.
IAD authors
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Brooklyn Book Fest

With Alex Gino, Adam Silvera and David Levithan at BKBF 2015. Photo credit: Publishers Weekly.

PaLA

With Randy Ribay, Eric Smith, E.C. Myers, & Rachel Tafoya at the Pennsylvania Library Association conference. Photo credit: @kmchro via Twitter

Big Blue Marble

With Kate Scelsa, Randy Ribay and Lyn Miller-Lachman at the Big Blue Marble bookstore. Photo credit: Gabrielle Halko

It’s been more than six months since the release of None of the Above, and I am so grateful for all my readers! I’ve seen a few of you recently a the Brooklyn Book Festival and at the Pennsylvania Library Association, and I’m looking meeting more at the following events in the fall:

  • October 16-17 (Richmond, VA) – James River Writers Conference
  • October 18, 12pm (Austin, TX) – Texas Book Festival (with Pura Belpre winning author Meg Medina and Printz Honor winning Jessie Ann Foley)
  • November 7, 3pm (Portland, OR) – Wordstock Literary Festival 
  • November 8, 8:39pm  (Portland, OR) – YALSA Symposium
  • November 14-15 – Celebrate Diverse Literature conferences (with Children’s Book World, Haverford)
    • Rosemont College (Saturday, November 14th, 2pm) – Rosemont, PA
    • Friend’s Central School (Sunday, November 15th, 2pm) – Wynnewood, PA
  • November 21 (Minneapolis, MN) – NCTE Annual Conference
    • 1:15p – Taking Our Responsibility Seriously
    • 4:15p – We Need Diverse Books Roundtable
  • December 10 (New Haven,  CT) – Yale University School of Medicine, Program for Humanities in Medicine

Hope to see everyone’s smiling faces soon!

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IT’S ALIVE!!!!

Even before the “official” launch date, Erin Entrada Kelly spotted None of the Above in the wild at Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia. Yes, I freaked out when I saw the authors keeping it company on display…
 

Then Laura at Books-A-Million in Exton was sweet enough to tag me in her display of Easter reads – again in amazing company (why, hello Fearless Fifteeners)…
 

I woke up on April 7th to the sound of the florist delivering some gorgeous buds from my agent, Jessica Regel at Foundry Literary + Media…
 
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…to find that NotA was already trending on Twitter right underneath Rand Paul (doubtless thanks to the aforementioned Fearless Fifteeners who all rock).
 
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Today I got my first picture of None of the Above in the wild! Thank you, @maxiekat, for snapping a photo of my baby in the cool kids club:

 

NotA at Books-A-Million, Exton, PA

NotA at Books-A-Million, Exton, PA (photo credit: @maxiekat)

Huge shout out to Wendy at The Midnight Garden, for hosting the official None of the Above blog tour, and for having the brilliant idea to have a graphic debunking an intersex myth each day. The last stop for the blog tour will be on Monday at The Irish Banana, where I’ll be interviewing the intersex author Lianne Simon.

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Last but certainly not least, I wanted to recommend that you view this stunningly moving Buzzfeed video on What it’s Like to be Intersex, featuring three intersex youths I met at last year’s AIS-DSD Support Group conference. I’m just blown away by their poise, their smart (and funny) comments, and their honesty and vulnerability.  I hope you’re as inspired by them as I am.

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Almost a year and a half after selling None of the Above, my debut year is finally here! And I’m terrified and excited and anxious and happy and every emotion in between.

I also have a tiny bit of news. Remember when I announced my release date as April 28th?

Source: http://ocanexyjim.site50.net/

NotA‘s official release date has been pushed up to April 7th, for absolutely the best of reasons: it’s going to be taught this spring in an English course at Illinois State University!

I’d be lying if I said this hasn’t been a dream of mine for a long time. When I sold NotA, I knew that it probably wasn’t going to be blockbuster material. First of all, the YA market is incredibly saturated, with hundreds of traditionally published books coming out each year. It’s hard for a debut author to have his or her voice heard above the fray, and it may be easier to get an NFL contract than to break into the New York Times YA bestseller list.

What made me more nervous, of course, is that intersex is still fairly taboo – even invisible – and super misunderstood. That’s why Hanna the Irish Banana‘s Goodreads review of NotA is my favorite so far… because it gives me hope that even if people are initially put off by the subject matter, the book can win readers over, and more importantly, increase their understanding of intersex.

Note that I didn’t use the “t” word: Teach.

One of my biggest inner conflicts as I was writing was that I really, really didn’t want it to sound like a textbook. Yet, at the very same time, I felt a heavy responsibility to make it medically informative precisely because intersex is so poorly understood. It was so crucial that I get the details about intersex right, because even medical professionals don’t understand intersex.

But how to inform without being didactic? It’s a fine line that I hope that I managed, though I know that everyone will have their own opinion. The last thing I want is for NotA to be considered to be, I don’t know, a kind of literary cod liver oil that one has to imbibe as penance for their cotton candy beach reads. Though it’d be cool if it were a superfood, like blueberries; those are yummy and good for your heart. I hope that readers both learn from NotA and enjoy it. We shall see.

NotAblueberries

The newer launch date is also cool because it means that NotA will be available for some fabulous events that I will be attending in April, including Women’s FEST in Rehoboth, Delaware, and the Little Flower Teen Writers Festival in Philadelphia.

Even more special to me is that NotA now shares its book birthday with one of the most adorable, funny and moving books of 2015: Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.  Becky’s irresistible story–pitched as You’ve Got Mail starring gay teenage boys with good grammar–is a perfect companion to NotA.  She’s also a clinical psychologist, so both of us also have the medical background thing going on. In other words:

simon plus

So there you have it. None of the Above will be hitting bookstores in three months! In fact, if you’ve got a gift certificate burning a hole in your pocket, you even can consider pre-ordering a signed copy! Stay tuned for some more frenzied blog posts – including a love letter more of my Fearless Fifteeners friends (check out the #2015YAreads hashtag on Twitter, this week’s TTT posts, or check out their AMAZING books here).

Happy Debut Year, indeed.

XOXY

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