Have you ever seen the LGBTQI acronym and wondered what the “I” stands for? Let us break it down for you: this letter designates the 1.7% of the global population who is born intersex, an umbrella term referring to people whose bodies don’t conform to typical definitions of “male” or “female”.
There’s no one way to collectively define intersex people, but many have a shared experience of being let down by the status quo. Holding up binary sex and gender as the “norm”, contemporary western culture invisibilises the intersex community — but the spectrum of sex and gender was well respected by the societies of ancient Egypt and Greece, and still is by various Native American cultures.
Whilst being intersex is fairly common (as likely as having red hair), there’s currently almost zero representation of intersex individuals in the media. Partially due to the cultural silence around intersexuality, intersex babies and children continue to be subjected to non-consensual cosmetic surgeries to “normalise” their bodies — a human rights violation that has been condemned by the United Nations.
Now, two films are bringing light to the intersex experience: narrative film ‘Ponyboi’ and Tomas Auksas’s documentary Intersex Army. ’Ponyboi’, a tender short film depicting a young intersex sex worker, made history as its director-lead actor River Gallo was the first intersex actor to play a lead intersex character on the big screen. The film is produced by Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson alongside British intersex activist Seven Graham and filmmaker Sadé Clacken Joseph.
Also breaking barriers is Intersex Army, executive produced by intersex activist Seven Graham and trans artist Ela Xora. The documentary profiles River alongside prominent activists such as Abi Jay and Jeanette Mary and speaks to figures from ten different countries, including Rose McGowan, in a bid to demystify the intersex experience.
A talented multi-hyphenate, River has long been a favourite of HUNGER’s and appeared as one of our Listen Up Issue cover stars in Autumn 2019. Keen to learn more about the intersex community, we invited River back to our studio alongside a host of other change-making intersex activists. In an intimate shoot, Editor-In-Chief Rankin (himself an outspoken ally of the community) captured candid snapshots reflecting the unique personalities of Dawn, Jeanette, Valentino, Abi Jay, Adeleh, Grace and Marianne-Rose.
See Rankin’s portraits of River and their fellow intersex activists below. River’s film ‘Ponyboi’ had its streaming premiere yesterday (22 June) on YouTube channel Omeleto, a platform showcasing award-winning short films.