Turning the Lens Inward: Sean Saifa Wall

AIC’s Blog Series, “Turning the Lens Inward,” features interviews with some of the key leaders and supporters who have helped make AIC the strong organization we are today! The third installment comes from AIC’s Board President, Sean Saifa Wall, and gives readers a glimpse of what Saifa believes are some of the intersex communities biggest challenges and what he views have been some of its biggest successes.   As one of many people living with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), I was assigned female at birth. For most of my life, I lived as a masculine of center woman until I decided to transition to male at the age of 24 when I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. I had not met another guy with AIS until I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where I met Jim Ambrose. Prior to meeting Jim, the transition from female to male was a lonely one. I had no one to talk to about testosterone therapy and dosing except for Tony Briffa, another intersex activist living in Australia, who was undergoing a different form of testosterone replacement therapy. We connected instantly.   Through shifting life circumstance, Jimmy and I lost touch … Continue reading

M.C. Case Update – 4th Circuit Hearing

AIC’s Legal Director Anne Tamar-Mattis headed into the courtroom in the 4th Circuit last Wednesday for a hearing in the MC case, along with co-counsel Kristi Graunke from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Raisa Michalek and John Lovi from Steptoe & Johnson. A ruling is expected in the coming months.   Looking for more info on this important case? Go here!  

AIC plays a role this season in MTV’s new hit show, Faking it!

  About a year ago I was contacted about a new show set to premiere that was invested  in writing an intersex plot line about one of it’s main characters. I was skeptical, to say the least, that this was just another sensationalist trivialization of intersex people’s experiences. Feeling a large responsibility to represent and defend my intersex community, I cautiously agreed. Soon after, I found myself on the phone with the show’s Executive Producer, Carter Covington, and about a half dozen writers for MTV’s then brand new show Faking It. It became readily apparent that Covington was the real deal.  He spoke about the premise for the show and his commitment to conveying positive messages for LGBT youth. He and his writers wanted to make one of Faking It’s main high school characters come out as intersex in season two. They aimed to portray her experience accurately and respectfully with hopes of making a difference for some young MTV viewers born intersex who may be feeling isolated. I knew this was a perfect project for Inter/Act, AIC’s intersex youth advocacy program. In fact, one of our members just described in a blog post their own experience about coming out … Continue reading

Turning the Lens Inward: Kimberly Zieselman (or, “the boss”)

AIC’s Blog Series, “Turning the Lens Inward,” features interviews with some of the key leaders and supporters who have helped make AIC the strong organization we are today! The second installment comes from AIC’s new Executive Director, Kimberly Zieselman. —— At the end of my first day as AIC’s executive director a friend playfully asked me how it felt to be “the boss.” I thought about our small staff of exceptional people, how all three of us (scattered about the U.S.) support each other selflessly, and how from the beginning I knew I had an opportunity to be a part of something great. I smiled, “It feels like I’ve been given a gift.” With that said, if I’d been told five years ago I’d be in the position I am with AIC I would not have believed them. I first learned about Advocates for Informed Choice when I heard Anne Tamar-Mattis give a short talk on legal issues at the 2010 AIS-DSD Support Group conference. Anne’s simple, direct, and reasonable mission of informed consent and education stayed with me over the years and I began to follow AIC’s work with interest. It wasn’t long before Anne and I became friends … Continue reading

Turning the Lens Inward: Meg

AIC is proud to share the second in a series of interviews with key leaders and supporters who have helped make AIC the strong organization we are today! Meg, one of our key supporters, shares part of her journey as the next story in AIC’s series, Turning the Lens Inward.   I first heard about AIC when I met Anne Tamar-Mattis in 2007. She told me about her thoughts on how direct legal strategy could be employed to successfully protect kids born with variations of sex anatomy. I remember walking away inspired by the potential for this approach, and determined to help AIC grow. My wife and I knew both of our children were born with intersex conditions before we adopted them. Our son was assigned female close to his birth and, as it happened, very little time passed before he made it clear to us that he is a boy. AIC helped us secure local legal counsel, and they were there as we developed our own approach to convince a judge to agree to amend our son’s legal documents. AIC’s skill and experience gave us confidence through this process, and made it possible for our son to avoid the … Continue reading

AIC Announces E.D. Transition & Staff Changes

AIC has an exciting announcement! Anne Tamar-Mattis will begin working full time as AIC’s Legal Director, and Kimberly Zieselman will be stepping up to the position of Executive Director on September 1, 2014.Please read letters from both Anne and Kimberly below: Dear friends, I’m going to tell you a secret:  I never really wanted to be an Executive Director.  I went to law school because I wanted to practice law, and by the end of law school I knew that defending the rights of children with intersex traits or differences of sex development would be an important part of my career.  I founded AIC and became its Executive Director because there simply was no other organization that had the capacity to do that work.  While I have been both humbled and honored to have the opportunity to work in service to this community, there is much in the job of E.D. that is not about practicing law.  That is what I love to do, and I have often wished that I could devote more of my time to lawyering on behalf of the community. Now, I have that opportunity.  For the last year, I have been working closely with Kimberly … Continue reading

“Love is the Best Medicine”: Why I am Proud of my Intersex Family

Earlier this month (6/1/14) Arlene Baratz, AIC Board member, spoke at Sunnyhill Unitarian Universalist Church (Pittsburgh, PA) and gave an inspiring speech raising intersex awareness in honor of Pride month. Read to uncover Arlene’s personal journey with intersex as she describes what it was like to complete medical school and the surprise she had when her daughter turned six. I’m honored to be here as we kick off Pride Week, celebrating the diversity of sexuality and gender in our community. This has been an exciting year for LGBT rights, with the Supreme Court declaring the DOMA unconstitutional last June, the US Census Bureau recognizing married LGBT couples as families, and our own governor allowing marriage equality to stand in PA. This was hard to imagine in 2008 when California passed Proposition 8 restricting marriage to “one-man-one-woman.” It looks like we will all finally have the legal right to marry and create families with whomever we love.  And equal heath care is on the horizon too. After an investigation showing that LGBT people’s health is worse than it should be, our government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded a huge new research project to find out why this is so and … Continue reading

Turning the Lens Inward: Interview with Anne Tamar-Mattis

AIC is proud to share the first in a series of interviews with key leaders and supporters who have helped make AIC the strong organization we are today! To kick off the series and in celebration of her upcoming 45th Birthday, our first interview is with AIC Executive Director Anne Tamar-Mattis: 1.     How did you become involved with or what’s your first memory of hearing about AIC? I founded AIC!  The idea for a legal project grew out of a paper I wrote in law school, but I had been an ally of the intersex community ever since I met my spouse, Suegee, in the early 90’s.  It was the beginning of the intersex movement, and through Suegee I met many other intersex activists and leaders.  When I went to law school, many of my intersex friends asked me why it was that the law had done so little to protect them as children.  I began to investigate, and learned that there was a lot we could do through legal advocacy to protect the rights of children with intersex traits.  But there was no organization with specialized knowledge of intersex issues that had ever tried to take on this issue.  Once I realized that, I knew we had to … Continue reading

M.C. v Aaronson, One Year Out

One year ago today, Advocates for Informed Choice filed lawsuits in state and federal court in South Carolina on behalf of “M.C.”, a young boy with an intersex condition who had been subjected to irreversible genital surgery while in state custody in an effort to make his body appear female. It’s been quite a year. I especially want to recognize the courage and strength of M.C.’s parents, Pam and Mark Crawford. They are busy parents, who now have the additional job of helping their child make sense of what was done to him before they adopted him, when he was too young to have a voice. They are not the kind of people who love the spotlight. But they bravely stood up for their son, and they handled the onslaught of media attention that followed with grace and with obvious love for their child. They wanted to make sure that what happened to their son didn’t happen to other children. As Pam Crawford said, “We hope that by speaking out and taking legal action, we will help other children born with intersex conditions and their families avoid suffering the pain that our son will be forced to deal with for … Continue reading

The Journey My Mother Missed

Like so many others I encountered this past Easter Sunday, I took time out of my celebration to visit my mother’s grave and to take some of my spring rose garden’s first blooms to honor her and remind myself of the promise of Easter. In my faith, this holiday reminds me that there is life after death and that transcendence and transformation will come from struggle and strife in this journey we call life.   My mother passed away almost ten years ago. In the past decade so much has happened for me personally as an Intersex person. Somehow, in the divine planning of my life, whether you call it fate or a preordained master plan, her departure from this world seemed to coincide with my finally beginning the process of reconciling my unique life circumstance that had gone unexamined or understood for far too long up to that point. In the spring of 2004, just months before my mother would succumb to decline from Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicted her very early in life, I made my first attempts at reaching out to find others “like me.” The world was just getting connected using a relatively new medium called the … Continue reading