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Iam Emily Quinn, and I'm intersex. Happy Intersex Awareness Day! I just 'came out' on MTV and I also work on Adventure Time. AMA!

Oct 26th 2014 by emilord • 27 Questions • 711 Points

Happy Intersex Awareness Day! I'm Emily Quinn, and I am intersex. I have Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, meaning my body is completely unresponsive to testosterone. I have XY chromosomes and undescended testes, but I have a female phenotype (breasts, vagina, etc)

Recently I came out publicly as intersex in this PSA on MTV, and I wrote a letter about it to my friends and family: http://act.mtv.com/posts/faking-it-intersex-letter/

I also wrote and voiced an animated video that aired today with this article: http://on.mtv.com/ZSdmCr

I was ALSO on a podcast for the bisexual community that aired today: http://www.thebicast.org/podcast/intersex-awareness-day-with-patti-spangler-and-emily-quinn/

I work with Advocates for Informed Choice [www.aiclegal.org] to provide awareness for intersex people. I'm also a member of Inter/Act, the first advocacy group run by and for intersex youth! [www.interactyouth.org] I've given presentations to GLAAD, medical communities, classes, the list goes on. Awareness is SO important for our communities.

By day I work as Production Coordinator on Adventure Time. I'm young so I'm just getting started in the animation industry, but you're welcome to ask any questions! No spoilers! (Previously I interned on Scooby Doo and for DC Nation, and worked on Teen Titans Go. I was also a PA for live-action commercials/music videos/promos for a few years.) By night I've been consulting with MTV on their show Faking It, the first television show ever to have an intersex main character! It's a HUGE step for intersex awareness, and it seriously makes me cry just thinking about it. Maybe it’s the hormones?

Other cool things? I'm 4+ year vegan, competitive irish step dancer, and a mermaid. (That last one is up for debate.)

My views are not representative of those of Turner, Cartoon Network, or Advocates for Informed Choice.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/emilord/status/526478003044237312 Tumblr: http://emilord.tumblr.com/ IG: http://instagram.com/missemilord

EDIT: I'm taking a break! I'll keep responding tonight and this week, so feel free to keep them coming. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!

EDIT: I went for a jog and am eating thai food and even though it's 12:30 at night I'm going to answer some questions. To my bosses: if you're reading this....I might be late tomorrow.

edit: It's almost 2. I'm off to bed. But I'll respond intermittently! Thanks for all your awesome questions! I'm still going to be late tomorrow.

Q:

Can you get a serious answer to "what time is it?" at the Adventure Time offices?

What's production coordination like? Management?

A:

Nope! We're like meerkats. Someone asks for the time and we all pop up from our cubicles, fists in the air, shouting "Adventure Time!" It's cute the first time.

The production team makes sure the show gets made, basically. They are like management in that they oversee that everyone stays on track. They're like the liaisons between the artists (which is nice because you get to interact with everyone instead of sitting holed up in your cubicle never speaking to another human) (unless you like that sort of thing in which case you go girl). I personally deal with retakes which means that once the episodes come back from Korea I make sure that all the fixes happen, like maybe a scene's missing a character, or scenes aren't hooked up properly, or something's colored wrong, etc. (aka yes you can blame me for mistakes, it's probably my fault) (well, not really but kind of)


Q:

With as much evidence as possible, can you please present to us your argument for being a mermaid?

A:

Am I doing this right? http://imgur.com/gallery/Edzo0YS


Q:

Hi! What are your feelings regarding the performance of gender alignment surgery on intersex children?

To elaborate... Assuming a parent decides to let their intersex child grow up naturally and decide their gender identity for themself, what age do you believe is appropriate for acting upon said decision in a concrete (medical, surgical) manner? For example, if a six year old intersex child asserts that he identifies as male, is it appropriate or wise to begin hormone therapy to align his body with his identity?

A:

Hi! Stop the non-consentual surgeries! All of them! Unless they're medically necessary, but usually they aren't.

I think it all depends on someone's intersex variation, but cosmetic surgery should only happen once a person is ready to fully comprehend what that means. Definitely older than six. For instance, if someone has "ambigious genitalia" (a stupid term meaning their genitals are somewhere in-between a penis and vagina) and identify as a male, that doesn't mean they're going to want surgery. Surgery can potentially mean scar tissue, nerve damage, incontinence, etc, rather than just raising the child to love their genitals no matter what they look like. ( I'm strictly talking ambiguous genitalia. I don't mean telling somebody who identifies as male and has a vagina that he hates to simply love their vagina.)


Q:

I've read your MTV post, but I'm still a little confused. Can you simplify as much as you can what Intrasex is? From what I understand, you have a vagina and testes, but don't produce estrogen or testosterone? So. Kind of hormonal gender neutral? I apologize for my ignorance!

A:

Unfortunately, intersex (not intrasex!) is pretty complex, which is why most people don't know about it or understand what it is. But basically, it means that somebody is born with traits that don't quite fit in the "male" and "female" boxes. Because sex is a spectrum, there are so many possible variations. You could have someone like me, who starts to develop as a male in the womb but then doesn't respond to the testosterone and develops differently (androgen insensitivity). You could have someone who is like a typical female in every way, except they don't have a uterus (MRKH). You could have a typical male who's urethra doesn't come out at the tip of the penis but rather somewhere else along the shaft (hypospadias). There are so many possibilities and variations, it's hard to pin down in a simple explanation.

I have a vagina, but my gonads (the umbrella term for testes or ovaries or both) are testicular in nature. They do produce testosterone, lots of it, but my body doesn't know what to do with it. It ends up turning some of it into estrogen because bodies are amazing.

Does that answer your question?


Q:

Thank you so much for your reply!

Yes, it does. That's amazing that your body "changes" testosterone into estrogen!

Do you take estrogen pills or anything similar?

A:

This is going to be way TMI, but I just started taking estrogen/progesterone pills a few weeks ago because my breasts have almost no sensation, so I'm working with my doctor to change that! But other than that, I don't need hormones at all. I've had a lot of doctors try to remove my testes, in which case I'd have to take hormone replacement to make up for it. But I've been really lucky in escaping surgery, and don't need anything right now!!

edit: I spelled progesterone with a j because I do what I want.


Q:

I am not the AMA person, obvs. But people who are born intersex will often have unnecessary surgery performed on their genitalia to give it a more "conforming" appearance.

Thus, if a child is born and the genitals look like a mix between male and female genitalia, surgeons will perform surgery to make it look male or female. Sometimes they guess at what gender they are "supposed to be" and guess wrong.

There are some cases where surgery is required on intersex genitalia due to malformations that can cause infection or other issues. In most cases, no surgery is required, but is performed because society and the parents don't know how to handle it.

A:

Yeah. Doctors often like to do what they call "normalizing" surgeries to fit children into a binary male and female box. They call it "normalizing" surgery. Ask most intersex people and they'll tell you it's genital mutilation. Because it is! Often times surgeries cause scarring, pain, incontinence, so many other problems. The main goal of one of the groups I advocate with is stopping these unnecessary surgeries.

There's a doctor at UCLA right now who is very uncomfortable with my testes. She wants them gone. Her idea of consent is telling me stories of children who get cancer. Literally. Her reasoning for me to have life-altering, irreversible surgery is that "this one kid completely unrelated to you and your condition had cancer this one time." I'm not belittling cancer or cancer patients at all, because I know how scary it is. But it's like telling someone who is perfectly healthy that they need to remove their arm because this other person got cancer in their foot the other day. That's not informed consent.


Q:

I support your decision, but some women with a history of breast cancer in their family do get their breasts removed preventatively. It's called prophylactic mastectomy.

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/risk-reducing-surgery

A:

Oh totally! But like you said, they have a history of it. That's not what I'm talking about.


Q:

This happens to intersex children all the time, and it really should be illegal, but it's not yet.

A:

I had a doctor try to do a vaginoplasty (where they essentially create a vagina) at age 18, and literally the only reason I escaped it was because I was moving out of the state two weeks later. If a doctor tells you that you need a surgery, you listen. If it was any other time in my life I would have consented without knowing what it meant, because a doctor told me I needed it. Also, like I said, I'm still getting doctors who are trying to coerce me into having a gonadectomy (removing my testes), but I'm informed enough now that I can educate them otherwise. We talk about INFORMED consent because if you say yes, but you're not told exactly about procedures, repercussions, consequences, options, etc, then that's not informed.

Technically it IS illegal (and for the first time ever there's actually a legal case about this in South Carolina. You can read about it here: http://aiclegal.org/south-carolina-court-rejects-attempt-to-delay-justice-for-m-c/


Q:

Forgive my ignorance as well, but correct me if I am wrong you can not get pregnant, but can still have sex? This sounds sounds like every horny teenagers dream!

Also, since your testes are effectively producing estrogen, do you identify as being something other than a women more likely to adopt?

A:

Haha yup! Built in birth control, baby. But I still have to worry about STDs - safety first, people.

As far as adopting goes...I always planned on it until I realized that I don't actually want to have kids. That has nothing to do with me being intersex as much as it's just all the other factors in my life. I still identify as a woman, I just don't want kids. Does that answer your question?


Q:

So you have a vagina and a ballsack?

A:

Externally I just have a vagina. My testes are internal and undescended. Some intersex people may have something like that, but it depends on their variation. And it's probably not in the way you're thinking. The intersex furry tag is not a place to find true intersex people, I'll tell you that much.


Q:

Are your testes able to produce fertile sperm? Could you have kids through In-vitro fertilization?

A:

My testes are not able to produce fertile sperm (or sperm in general), and I don't have a uterus, so I can't have biological children in any way shape or form!


Q:

No offense, but are you saying you have balls inside you? Like behind your vagina or something?

A:

Yup, up in my pelvic area, abdomen-ish. Where typical girls ovaries would be.


Q:

I have honestly never heard of this, but it's great you are brave enough to be I guess a poster child for awareness now.
Have you always kept this a secret as far as dating goes, what type of reactions have you dealt with since revealing this?

A:

Thank you! I didn't start dating till I was 20 because I was so scared of rejection. I kept it a secret until I felt comfortable sometimes it took 8 months, sometimes it took a week, but I would rarely share the whole story. As I've become more involved in advocacy I started sharing more, and more quickly.

I had one partner break up with me because of it, and that was super damaging. I spent my whole life waiting for that to happen though, so when it didn't I almost expected it? Yeah, super damaging. But I've gotten over it. My current bf is incredible and I told him on our second date...also because I knew he'd eventually find out with the whole being on MTV thing, haha. But he's been so wonderful and supportive. Everyone's reacted differently!


Q:

Would a guy having sex with you have any clue if you didn't tell him?

A:

At one point in my life, yes. CAIS people have what is medically deemed a "blind pouch" vagina. I hate that term a lot, but I get it. Either way, typical vaginas have two portions. The lower portion is the actual vagina, and it grows up to meet the upper portion which grows down from the uterus. Since I don't have a uterus, my lower vagina never went anywhere. In order to have penis-in-vagina sex, I had to stretch it out with dilators - which are basically boring, medically looking dildos. The new ones now are getting fancier and fun, but the kind I had were hard, white plastic and super boring. If I had sex now, a new partner wouldn't know. But, my first boyfriend definitely knew.

Sidenote: my mom was terrified that I'd never be able to have sex. She was relieved when I told her, but also a little sad. Sorry, mom.


Q:

How progressive of a company do you think Cartoon Network is?

A:

I think they're taking a lot of risks with shows, which is really awesome. It's a very artist-friendly place to work, and the creators really have the freedom to do what they want. It seems much more progressive than a lot of the other studios, in that sense!


Q:

What can the creative community (including us Redditors looking to join a creative career) do to better represent the intersex community, and what should we avoid in that endeavor?

A:

I think any sort of art or infographics that people want to do is really great and helpful to raise awareness, but check with an intersex person to make sure you get your facts right! At this point not doing something is better than pushing out incorrect information. I think including the "I" in LGBTI is really important too, in general.


Q:

What would your tips be for anybody who wants to get into animation with minimal experience of their own, what programme's/software or courses/degrees would be most beneficial?

A:

Oh gosh...draw a TON. Just keep drawing. Programs aren't as necessary depending on what you want to do, but photoshop is always necessary. You can learn so much online that going to school isn't as necessary, but life drawing always helps, a long with the connections you'll make.


Q:

You disgust me.

... a vegan? Gross.

A:

Clever, ass_grabbo.


Q:

Hi Emily! What made you decide to go vegan? What's your favourite snacky food/guilty pleasure?

A:

I read some books and watched some documentaries about veganism, they opened my eyes to the American meat and dairy industries. Once I had the knowledge there was no turning back! And for me it's all encompassing - animal rights, environmental benefits, health benefits. Everything. It just makes sense!


Q:

I saw in one of your comments that you have a boyfriend. In general, do intersex people tend to be attracted to people of the opposite phenotype (people with female phenotype being attracted to men)? I know there will always be some that don't have the same sexual preferences/tendencies as most others do, but is there a general rule of thumb?

A:

I think yes, as a general rule of thumb! The same statistics of LGBT people in the non-intersex population seems to ring true for the intersex population. I think there probably tends to be more fluidity amongst intersex people, as people figure things out, but that's more my assumption.

I think depending on intersex variation there are also higher statistics of LGBT people.


Q:

With your lack of testosterone, you will probably never be a successful bodybuilder. Have you gotten over this problem?

A:

You just had to bring it up! Of course not. How does anyone get over that??


Q:

What are your thoughts on Breaking Bad?

A:

Reddit's probably not the place to be saying this, but I've never seen it! I don't watch things, like, ever. How I made it this far in animation baffles everyone.


Q:

A couple questions about being intersex: 1) Did you know you had CAIS as soon as you were born or did you not find out until later? If it was later, how/when did you find out? 2) I know you said that you cannot biologically have children... but since you have testes, does your body still create sperm? shouldn't you physically be able to pass on your x or y chromosome as a male would? Thanks so much for sharing! This is very interesting!

A:

I found out when I was ten! I went to the gyno which was really creepy when you're ten, and he did a pelvic exam and I had an MRI. I think he told me there in the office, but I was uncomfortable with the whole thing.

My body doesn't create sperm...I think I'd have to respond to testosterone to do that. I have no way of passing on my genes! Thanks for asking!


Q:

From her post here: http://act.mtv.com/posts/faking-it-intersex-letter/

I don’t have a uterus or ovaries, which means that I can never have biological children.

A:

Exactly. No uterus. No ovaries. No possible way for bearing children! Infertility is pretty common among intersex people.


Q:

What's your favourite tune / type of tune to step to? Jig / Mazurka / Polka / Reel / Slip Jig / etc.?

Do you play any ITM (Irish Traditional Music) instruments?

What is your favourite tune?

What motivated you to begin step dancing?

A:

Siamsa from Feet of Flames! Seriously, it's so good. It makes me happy everytime.

And I love slip jigs the best because they're so graceful, but hornpipes and double jigs are really fun and hard.

I started dancing when I was 10? 11? I don't really remember. We have a huge Irish family (Quinn) so my cousin got my sister and I into it!


Q:

I figure you live in Atlanta? do you go to Dragoncon? and if so do you do cosplay?

A:

Cartoon Network Studios is based in Burbank, CA! Our network offices are in Atlanta, but the creative offices are in Burbank with the rest of the animation industry. I haven't been to dragoncon yet, and I don't cosplay much. I love costumes and dressing up but wouldn't consider myself a cosplayer! I'm being Marceline for halloween (and my bf is being Marshall Lee because we're being doing a gross/adorable couples costume)


Q:

What was it like working for DC Nation? And favorite hero?

A:

It was fun! It was just getting started, so it was cool learning about how they plan out the programming blocks w/interstitial, commercials, etc. I never thought about planning all that out.

And wonder woman! I'm 6 feet tall with long black hair. #representation