Intersex Flag with Psychedelic Person in Background

Embracing the Liminal Space As An Intersex Activist and Psychedelics Advocate

After giving so much of myself away for so long, I now am reclaiming my life through psychedelic healing—and encouraging other trauma survivors to join me.

DoubleBlind Mag

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Updated June 21, 2024

I find great pride in being visible, but deciding to publish this feels vulnerable. It’s a new type of exposure. Not that exposing myself is a new phenomenon for me, as an intersex woman who’s become accustomed to speaking about my genitals, medical history, and violations of my consent on a regular basis for the good of our collective movement for bodily autonomy. I’ve divulged an inordinate amount of detail about my anatomy and the nonconsensual surgery I suffered to med students, politicians, reporters, and more. In this piece, however, instead of focusing on my casing of flesh, I’m baring my soul.

It almost feels like a second “coming out,” appropriate for Pride Month. The last time I did that was during a Senate Hearing in front of the Texas Legislature. I was educating them on how the existence of intersex people like me—born with physical sex traits that land somewhere between the binary Male or Female box on a birth certificate—means that their proposed “bathroom bill,” attempting to dictate where trans folks urinate, was not only discriminatory but also scientifically unsound

I’ve repeated my story to more media and in more venues than I can count, including in a feature film that had its theatrical run last year and a memoir, which also delves into my history of partaking in psychedelic medicine. Each time I share it, though, feels like picking the scab on my healing—much of which I achieved with the help of psilocybin mushrooms. While my public blood-letting has helped inspire countless individuals to own their own truth, it has nearly drained me dry. 

READ: LSD Is on Deck As New Treatment for PMS and PMDD

After a grueling year of promoting the book and the movie, living out of suitcases to prostrate my pain to strangers day after day, I landed with Long Covid. This debilitating physical illness was the culminating manifestation of what my body had been trying to get me to see for months—that by continually urging others to look at the wounds inflicted on intersex people, I was constantly being forced to return to the dark place myself. This work is vital AND it’s time for other members of our community to take it up. As for me, I’m ready to move on to a new phase of activism, one centered less on what harmed me and more on what helped me heal. 

Ironically, my literary agent tried to get me to take any reference to psychedelics out of the original manuscript of my memoir Inverse Cowgirl, asserting that I was “already writing a controversial book” and “shouldn’t give publishers any additional reason to avoid taking a chance on it.” But I refused to dump trauma on readers about what hurt me without also delving into what enabled me to get better. Plus, I realized that as someone who’d cultivated an entire career on busting stigma, there might be a way to unite my fight for intersex people and medicinal plants. That both are hidden from societal view and subject to persecution is the result of colonization, after all. 

To decolonize our views around which naturally occurring substances or bodies merit love rather than shame, the pathway is similar: In order to liberate both flora or fauna, we turn to those who’ve long held reverence for both. Indigenous stewardship of sacred medicines is why people like me have access to them in the first place and, as it turns out, intersex people like me often historically have led the ceremonies to facilitate them. As I wrote in my book, “Many Native Americans believed—some still do—we weren’t a broken version of one sex; instead, we were doubly blessed with a combination of both spirits. In these cultures and others, we were valued as healers, seers, teachers.” 

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This isn’t just in North America, either. In many precolonial cultures, [intersex folks]  were revered, rather than persecuted. “Across the globe, various Indigenous groups believed that sitting on the border between sexes—in that liminal space—not only gave us a better understanding of the human experience but made us more attuned to other realms too, beyond thresholds others can’t always see,” I penned in Inverse Cowgirl. “In Borneo, we were considered intermediaries between heaven and earth, uniting the feminine element of earth and the masculine element of heaven in one person.” 

In South America, I had my own touch with the divine and epiphanic understanding of my place in it—granted by the medicine of yagé and guided by Indigenous shamans of Inga lineage. Deep in the Putumayo region of the Colombian Amazon, the birthplace of this plant remedy, I experienced what some refer to as a total ego death and rebirth of sorts; that part isn’t so uncommon for those who imbibe this entheogen or its sister substance ayahuasca. What is a bit less common, though, is what happened immediately following. 

One of the brother shamans leading the ceremony scooped me up, like an infant, off the rainforest floor and placed me into a hammock—at which point I immediately started to slither… I was slithering uncontrollably and also had the sense of flying, given that I was now a few feet off the ground. It was euphoric but seemed to concern some of the other retreat participants, who, upon witnessing whatever state I’d entered into, asked the shamans whether a snake had breached the maloka structure where our hammocks were strung. The guides reassured them all was ok—and encouraged me that if it felt good, I should lean into it. As I writhed, I felt a euphoric appreciation for space, time, and my place within them. The emotional joy was bolstered by a physical sense of safety that intersex people or sexual assault survivors like me sometimes struggle to tap into; it engendered a visceral knowing—new to me yet somehow now core to my being—that I was as held by the universe as I was by my womb-like hammock. After the sensation passed, I realized I’d shed the snakeskin of others’ judgments and wounding that my cells had held onto for too long; I was not a new person, but I’d been brought back to my purest self. 

Some Eastern cultures would call this a kundalini awakening: “A process of purification of our bodies and psyches so that we’re strong enough to embody the Divine in this life,” also involving serpent energy passing through one’s spine. But one of the shamans provided an additional layer of meaning to what had happened (and what follows is a roughly remembered translation of our conversation—which took place in Spanish, following a sleepless night of purging my trauma from both ends): 

“Amaru passed through you,” the shaman said to me.

“What’s Amaru?” I asked.

“Think of it, in its most simplistic form, as a flying serpent god,” he said.

“That explains all the slithering and whizzing through galaxies! But why me?”

“I’m not sure—Amaru’s form is a combination of various animals, and it is capable of transcending boundaries, for example, traveling to and from the spiritual realm of the subterranean,” he said.

“Well, actually, I’m intersex; my body was born transcending physical boundaries.”

“Then it makes sense Amaru would come through you.”

“Why now?” I asked.

“Well, Amaru has a destructive nature—like earthquakes or storms—but also a protective element, like water, thought to irrigate and nourish the lands.”

“I am named after a hurricane, actually (long story)…” I said.

“There you go! How do you embody this in more than name?”

“As an advocate, people rely on me to blow through corrupt institutions and destroy bad legislation, to motivate crowds to a thunderous pitch and skewer bad actors like lightning,” I said back to him. “As an activist, though, I also help rebuild systems in a way that is more life-giving for people. Plus, as an “out” intersex person specifically, I help people break out of the boxes that confine us—enabling us to exist beyond limits and express our fullest selves. My book and movie come out this year, to help others who may live closeted in self-loathing—as I did—launch onto a similar trajectory toward self-acceptance and self-love.”

“It sounds like Amaru came to affirm you’re ready for this work and to remind you that you’re supported on this path,” he said.

Deep in the jungle, with no running water nor electricity, I felt more connected to my own true essence than ever before—as well as to our sacred purpose as intersex people. I share this story not to toot my own horn but to herald a message meant for humans born like me: Postcolonial society has deemed our bodies a problem, when we are actually the answer. It is about time we recognize our own divinity; we, of all people, deserve it. 

For everyone else: Turning to liminal people—like intersex folks—and liminal experiences like psychedelic trips, are vital ingredients in the antidote to an increasingly polarized world. 

That’s not to say we all need to be political centrists (and I’m certainly not advocating for that). It is rather to posit that the current denigration of nuance—supported by algorithms developed by white men in a capitalist system—is, in fact, reinforcing a colonized mindset. Even if one path is 

right or moral, being able to see an issue from multiple sides helps illuminate a way toward understanding that brings us back to the one-ness we intuitively feel while tripping. Trips often bring us clarity through sensing certain truths we otherwise don’t have access to; intersex people are the physical embodiment of multiple truths. 

READ: How the Shipibo Came to Be the Most Common Group Serving Ayahuasca to Foreigners

Those who sit on a border—physical or metaphysical, permanently granted by the body we’re born into or temporarily induced by psychoactive chemicals—have increased perspective, expansive beyond “traditional” limitations. Accessing this state, unencumbered by the burden of being boxed in, is a vital aspect of bodily autonomy, too. If the state shouldn’t be able to regulate what we do with our bodies, it shouldn’t be able to tell us what to put in them, either. Those who follow me know that I’m pro-sex work, abortion, trans healthcare, and natural hair, meanwhile against sexual assault, slut-shaming, and nonconsensual surgeries on intersex kids. Now, they also know I’m a psychonaut and a proud one at that. 

This Pride Month, I’m eclipsing the boundaries of my prior container, “intersex activist,” and adding “psychedelics advocate” to my list of identities. I’ve given so much of myself for so long; now, I’ve opened up to receiving the healing wisdom offered by these medicines and am allowing that to guide my next steps. True healing happens in community, though, so the subsequent phase of my journey will not be solo; it will involve finding and connecting with people in this space who are dedicated to liberation, interested in collaboration, and committed to moving the collective’s energy in a similar direction.

I’m not exactly sure where it will lead but I know this: Intersex bodies are as blessed as the medicines Indigenous groups have shepherded across centuries and have existed just as long. Both are reminders that neither physical forms nor intangible consciousness benefit from punishing restrictions, in criminal nor medical contexts. We shouldn’t be marginalized from society but can exist on the margin between whatever societally conditioned boxes we’ve been shoved into—or realms of consciousness we’ve been relegated to, for that matter—with pride.

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DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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