The Houston Intersex Society was founded 10 years ago today!
Both co-founders of The Houston Intersex Society (THIS) knew each other as teenagers in an LGBTQ+ youth group called HATCH, but because of shame, stigma, and secrecy, neither one of us was publicly open about our intersex status. We were both isolated and in need of community and felt like the only intersex person that existed. Several years later (thanks to social media!) we reconnected as adults at a local community center. When we learned that we had both felt the same isolation while sitting next to each other every Friday night for years as teenagers; we decided to create an organization that very day.
10 years later , and we’ve accomplished more than we ever imagined!
When we first founded our organization, we spent the first few years trying to figure out what kind of organization we needed to be and what kind of representation and services we wanted to provide to our community.
As most organizations were social and support groups, we initially designed our organization to be similar. Our first events were weekly meetings held at the TG Center. Due to low turnout we changed to monthly meetings. What we found was that we were being contacted by intersex people who were glad to see we existed, but they didn’t want to go to a group or be publicly out. It seemed that the need was more in visibility and education.
We established ourselves as an educational and awareness organization.
We recreated our organization to be visible to other intersex people, to advocate for those intersex individuals unable to advocate for themselves, to encourage legislation to protect intersex bodies, and to educate medical providers so they can provide adequate care to intersex people. For our intersex community, the most pressing issues are ending medically unnecessary genital surgeries on intersex minors, ensuring access to adequate competent healthcare, and creating legal protections.
THIS’s mission of improving the quality of life for intersex people is accomplished by engaging in advocacy, outreach, education, and visibility through the arts.
We prioritize traditionally under-served people within an already marginalized community and focus on the accessibility needs of intersex people in racial and class demographics that are often overlooked by larger intersex organizations.
THIS provides direct patient advocacy, emergency assistance, and supports community development by hosting regular events and arts programming that increase visibility and awareness. Additionally, THIS hosts an intersex history and art archive and organizes art projects as “iPOCA Collective” (intersex People of Color Artists Collective).
By meeting with officials, assisting with intersex related research projects, educating policy makers, and developing innovative intersex arts programming; THIS has paved the way for meaningful change in the services the community relies upon.
Celebrating our ongoing history of world firsts!
The Houston Intersex Society is the first intersex organization in Texas.
We are currently the only intersex organization in Texas and the southern gulf states.
In 2015, we coordinated for Houston City Hall to be illuminated for Intersex Awareness Day. It was the very first time that a government building anywhere in the world was illuminated for Intersex Awareness Day. Since then, it has become an annual tradition in Houston, and many other cities in the US and around the world have followed in having their local government buildings illuminated. In recent years, we’ve also added the bridges over US-59 to our illuminations.
In 2017, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a proclamation declaring October 25th as Intersex Awareness Day in Houston. This date was selected to commemorate the date of the first Houston City Hall illumination.
“I’s Not Invisible” was the title of our Intersex Film and performance festival. It was held at Frenetic Theater/The Pilot on Navigation and featured short narrative films, documentaries, animation, experimental films with live performance, spoken word, and movement pieces.
We also had a segment where people could write questions upon entering the event and we would answer them while hosting throughout the night. We gave away a door prize of 2 books, “Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex” by Elizabeth Reis and “Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis” by Georgiann Davis.
In 2019, we collaborated with a TV production studio to produce an Intersex Awareness Day variety show style TV special. This production included different acts, music, dance, spoken word, and short films. We filmed it in front of a live studio audience.
This TV special has become part of our annual Intersex Awareness Day events and continues to air on TV (with online stream) every year on October 26th, alongside the airing of the stage production “History of a Happy Hermaphrodite”.
One of the featured performances of our annual Intersex Awareness Day TV special is this song, “My Body” by Andrew Shell.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it created a lot of financial strain for people, from lost income as a result of reduced work hours, lost jobs, illness, medical bills, funeral costs, and more. Recent research shows that intersex people are more likely to be underemployed, be in poorer overall health, and face housing/food insecurity compared to their endosex (non-intersex) peers.
While many COVID mutual aid funds were created by several different community groups, we heard stories of intersex people who were being denied aid by LGB and Trans specific COVID funds when they identified themselves as intersex but not LGB or Trans.
We expanded our small immediate needs emergency grant to have a COVID relief fund by creating a unique online application process and follow-up phone/zoom screening to provide community members with small COVID relief grants.
We were able to help intersex individuals and families in both the US and in Canada. Some feedback we received let us know that intersex individuals utilized the funds to pay overdue utility bills, purchase groceries, pay rent/mortgages. For some, the grant literally made the difference between them staying housed or becoming homeless.
You can read the press release about the roundtable below:
Introducing the WORLDS FIRST INTERSEX ARTCAR!
After several days of hard work in blazing Houston summer temperatures, Koomah painted and decorated a 2007 4-door Toyota Yaris sedan, transforming it into an Intersex Awareness ARTcar! Thanks to some painting assistance from our Treasurer Jennifer and a little bit of sanding from Mo, we were able to get it finished in time for Houston Pride.
More than just for cool looks and intersex awareness, the future goal of this creation is to provide transportation for intersex community members who are accessing healthcare in the Houston Medical Center, transporting us to speaking engagements at universities, conferences, and educational endeavors at the capitol in Austin.
Checkout our Instagram for photos of the process of making the ArtCar.
This ArtCar project made possible by a grant from the BIPOC Arts Network and Fund.
ANNOUNCING OUR NEWEST “FIRST”!
This year we acquired a townhome style building which will be updated and utilized as a community center for educational endeavors, arts events, social & support meetings, and as temporary lodging for out-of-town guests.
The building needs some cosmetic work inside, painting, and replacing of old carpet; as well as plans for a ramp for accessibility access on the outside.
We’re excited to get to work on this new endeavor and hope that it will be an inspiration to other intersex folks to create similar Intersex empowering community spaces, especially ones in non-medical settings.
If you appreciate our work, please consider supporting us with a donation.
We are a very small organization that is all volunteer and 100% BIPOC-led.
Our grant funding is minimal, expenses are often several times the available grant funds which means the majority of our work is accomplished with out-of-pocket costs.
The Houston Intersex Society (THIS) is an all-volunteer BIPOC led Houston-based grassroots non-profit organization for, by, and about intersex people. THIS aims to empower and enrich the lives of intersex people while working to end shame and create visibility through education, community events, and the arts.
Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/houinter
Follow us on Instagram: @the_houston_intersex_society/
More links: https://linktr.ee/IntersexHouston