‘Intersex’ is a general term used for people born with variations in their sexual anatomy, which do not fit the typical binary of male and female. Although this characteristic in no way affects human potential, intersex people have been known to face stigmatization and discrimination.
However, this has not prevented intersex people from going ahead and pursuing their dreams! Fighting against the world, here are five intersex role models from diverse fields you need to know who are ‘killing’ the game.
Lisa Lee Dark (Welsh)
Being constantly bullied and ridiculed, Lisa had a rough childhood. But this did not stop her from attaining worldwide success in her acting and music career. She was on screen as early as at the age of 10. She started as a voice-over actor, mostly giving her voice to European horror movies. But it was her musical career which helped her attain commercial success.
She was heard singing in a park by a producer who offered her work which she rejected due to shyness. Later, Dark began to record dance music. She had an amazing vocal range of 8-9 octaves, with which she started mimicking other singers. In 2004, she released her first mainstream classical album ‘Breathe for Life’. Afterwards, Dark taught herself to sing opera by mimicking the well known Italian opera divas Renata Scotto and Mirella Freni, and critics just failed to point out the difference.
Santhi Soundarajan (Indian)
With 12 international medals for India, and around 50 medals for her home state of Tamil Nadu, Santhi Soundarajan has emerged as one of the successful and influential intersex person in Indian sports. Even after being denied silver medal in 2006 Asian Games after failing a sex verification test, she went on to become one of the most successful Indian athletes.
An extraordinary sportsperson right from the beginning, she collected more than 14 trophies in inter-school competitions. Her silver medal win in 2006 at the Asian Games got the ball rolling for the debate over what makes an athlete female enough to compete as a woman.
Soundarajan holds the national record for the women’s 3000 metres steeplechase clocking 10:44.65 seconds. Soundarajan, clearly, is kicking some ass.
Gopi Shankar Madurai (Indian)
Ze is one of the youngest, and first openly intersex and gender queer candidate to contest in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections, 2016. From early years, ze had been an active spiritual student Ramakrishna Mission, where he taught Yoga to 5,000 children free of cost. Ze was awarded a Leadership Degree “Leading Change” exclusively for The Queen’s Young Leaders from the University of Cambridge in 2017.
Shankar also founded the highly inclusive Shrishti Madurai Volunteer Movement with academicians, scholars, human rights activists, environmentalists, LGBTQIA activists, etc. The movement started a helpline with the motto ‘Just having someone understanding to talk to can save a life’ to offer services to the distressed. He also petitioned the denial of silver medal to the abovementioned Santhi Soundarajan.
Through zis activism, Shankar has helped and rescued countless trans people from forced sex work, trafficking and begging. Despite several death threats, ze did not halt zis activism and further urged Parliament to include intersex people in the bill protecting trans rights.
Sara Kelly Keenan (American)
It was Google and a few clicks by Sara Kelly Keenan that brought about a major change in the lives of intersex people living in the US. Keenan rose to international fame when she became the first US citizen to obtain an intersex birth certificate, which proved to be landmark moment for intersex activism.
Her noble purpose behind going public with her sexual identity was to bring the world’s attention to the stigmatization that intersex people face, which can often have dire consequences. Her legal success inspired many state officials to dismiss the notion of binary gender and embrace the whole spectrum, in order to recognize the true gender identity of its citizens.
Hanne Gaby Odiele (Belgium)
Hanne was informed of her intersex identity weeks before her modelling career was to start. She went on to be a highly successful figure in the fashion industry, particularly known for her high-profile clients.
Odiele was first noticed while attending a rock festival. She started modelling for various designers when she incurred a very serious road accident. After multiple surgeries and treatments, she was back walking for Chanel, Prada, Givenchy, and others. Also known for her fabulous street style fashion, Odiele has appeared on various magazines including Vogue and Elle, along with booking some of the most profitable campaigns in the fashion industry, like Mulberry and Anna Sui.