Surreal. I'm just a kid from Chicago, albeit an intersex one, who was able to be recognized at the White House yesterday as a Champion of Change for my "work". I say "work" because what I do boils down to an act of committed love for my community. I get to wake up everyday and say to myself "what can I do today to improve the lives of intersex kids tomorrow?"--and that's a blessing.
I never in a million years could have imagined what took place yesterday right after finding out that I was intersex. The shame felt too much like quicksand then and all I could focus on was hiding amidst it. But thanks to AIC's (@aiclegal) ED Kimberly Zieselman, a friend and co-conspirator in the movement nominating me, I was able to state why intersex lives are valuable and in need of protection from the state during a White House live streamed event! ￼
What a difference 10 years and a whole lot of love and support can make! The day began with remarks from Senior Advisor to President Obama and fellow Chicagoan Valerie Jarrett (@vj44). Being around people from home when you're not home always makes you feel a bit more relaxed. Then she announced all 9 of us and paid tribute to our work and accomplishments.
Right after, the first panel began and I was lucky to be seated next to the moderator who was none other than Transparent's Alexandra Billings (@AlexSBillings) who's tender energy instantly soothed my nerves. Moderating always impresses me and she didn't disappoint. I'm always torn between stepping up and stepping back on panels and as my dad, who was able to be there with me and in the audience, said afterwards "you got off to a rocky start."
I had no prepared remarks but only knew I wanted to let people know what intersex meant and alert them to the human rights violations we suffer. I realized more than halfway in that I had almost forgotten my intentions. At that exact moment our moderator turned to me and shared that intersex wasn't a term that she was completely familiar with and asked if I could explain. It was as if she read my mind!
I took that opportunity to share that intersex is a term that describes people born with sex traits not typical for what our society commonly associates with male or female. Then I shared that we are as common as red heads which I think surprised a lot of people and then moved on to sharing that even the UN is labeling what happens to us as human rights violations and that it's time these abuses come to a halt. The audience seemed to have taken my message to heart which made me feel like my small mission during the panel was accomplished. In my closing remarks I shared that I believe that we deserve reparations and that we're not free until all of us are free especially those in our communities disproportionately affected by racism.
We are proud of the job Pidgeon Pagonis did in representing Intersex advocates today at the White House! Congrats again to Pidgeon and all the Intersex advocates whose work is reaching more and more people everyday!Posted by Advocates for Informed Choice on Monday, November 23, 2015
Before I knew it, the panel was over and then we heard remarks from Secretary Julían Castro and two more panels of amazing people including some of the cast and crew of hit show Transparent.
Jill Soloway (@jillsoloway), the show's writer, made wonderful comments about how she still feels nervous when making the transition from object to subject in her art. She also touched on reparations stating that white cis-gender straight males should be restricted from making media for at least 100 years in lieu of those who are so often rendered objects of their gaze (no pun intended ;) She also shared that the part in her show that's performed by Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development!) was inspired by her own family and gave a shot out to her "moppa" who was in the audience.
Jeffrey Tambor (@jeffreytambor) rocks! I made a digital story telling short-documentary a while back because I believe in the power story telling has to transform people and he mirrored this sentiment when he stated that "story telling saves lives" and as such it deserves to be funded!
At the close of the event I was tired, hungry and really needed to pee but I was envigorated by the outpouring of love and appreciation that people who came to speak with me shared. My heart swelled at that moment. I finally got to meet some twitter friends and allies like Kayley Whalen (@lenoregore) from the LGBT task force and others like a trans Vet who had a beautiful service dog with them due to being brutally attacked by fellow transphobia service members.
My father also had an opportunity to meet them and they told him I was lucky to have a dad like him who accepts and supports me. I know this made him feel appreciate. They weren't the only one to share that sentiment with my dad yesterday underlining the point made by fellow awardee & filmmaker Marco Castro-Bojorquez who urged us to approach LGBTQ youth homelessness as one would a public health crisis and shift our energy and resources towards prevention. "Families" he stated "are one of the most powerful and under utilized tools by the LGBT community that we have to combat this endemic with."
His point reminded me how lucky I am that the word family has many constantly evolving definitions in my life. It also brought me back to the sensation of being present in my body, at the White House, in a room full of inspiring people, a few inches in front of my dad who never rejected me for being intersex or queer. Like I said, I never could have imagined this moment ten years ago when I was choking on quicksand but having a loving and supportive family--in all the ways queer folks manifest out families--and community has helped me move mountains I previously perceived to be unmoveable.
My panel portion begins at minute 38:00