Mo Cortez is a 32 year old straight identifying trans male living in Houston Texas. He is originally from San Angelo Texas and is a member of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s LGBT Advisory Board for the city of Houston. Mo Cortez was also born intersex and has a profound passion for supporting and creating more awareness about the intersex & trans community. I met up with Mo at Campesino Coffee House, one of his favorite places to unwind, right off of Waugh Drive in Houston. Meeting with him gave me an idea of what is going on and what issues need to be tackled, not just in the area, but around the world. It’s a big subject that a lot of people tend to push back simply because they don’t understand.
Before we get into detail of what he does, I want to present some facts about who he is and what it means to be intersex. As I mentioned before, Mo was born intersex, which happens more frequently than what some may think. When a person is intersex it means that they have anatomical, chromosomal, or hormonal variation that lands them somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of what is typically thought of as male or female. There are at least 30 known types of intersex conditions. For further information on approximate statistics, you can visit this link. According to Mo, intersex birth rates happen in one in every one to two-thousand childbirths. To put it in a broader perspective, intersex births are almost as frequent as people being born with green eyes or red hair. A very common practice done to some intersex babies who are born with indeterminate sex, is have them surgically and hormonally female by default.
“These are forced emergency surgeries that are shunned by the United Nations, and no state in America has legal protection for intersex babies.”
Throughout their lives, these people are left with unanswered questions and severe emotional scars.
“Two months ago, for the second time, my gender marker change was denied.”
When Mo attempted to correct his gender marker to male, he presented the judge with proof that he was intersex, via medical records, and pathology reports. He stated that he indeed has XY chromosomes and was born with testes, but even with this evidence the judge ignored it, denying his gender marker change. Gender marker change is important to people who identify as trans or even some that are born intersex because it’s a social validation of their gender through government agencies and classifications.
Besides all of the obstacles Mo faces, he is still determined to stand up for what is right. One of the things he is very proud of is being the cofounder of The Houston Intersex Society. This nonprofit organization has a focus on educating local institutions about the intersex community. They’ve hosted seminars, events, and workshops across the country, and many at local colleges and universities. Another recent achievement Mo has gained was being nominated to Mayor Turner’s LGBT Advisory Board in Houston, Texas. At the moment, he is concentrated in gathering information, talking to the general public, and networking across the city to identify the real issues within the LGBT community. The Advisory Board was created only two months ago and is made up of 49 members. The number 49 was selected by the Mayor in memory of those that lost their lives at the Pulse Night Club in Florida. Something that Mo knows will be a great and progressive experience for the city.
"I have a passion for fighting for those that are marginalized by society: intersex people, trans people, and (underpaid) retail workers, and people of color. Being raised in a single parent household like an only child while living as Mormon really made me feel isolated, and without community. My mom was a fighter, actually everyone in my family is a fighter. I guess it's just in the genes."
From my own experience traveling to Houston, I have found that it is rich in diversity in so many levels and meeting Mo only proves my point even further. Something that I really admire is meeting people who are true to their passions and seeing that the right thing is done. Mo gave me hope that things can change and that awareness can grow by showing your own struggle, something that takes a lot of courage. At the moment, he believes that the issues are being tackled, but we could always do better.
“People are afraid of trans and intersex people because of what they show in the media. What they don’t realize is that they might already know a trans or intersex person. We need more visibility.”
Mo's ultimate goals are to start a national organization that advocates and supports both communities and to create a Center of Excellence in the Texas Medical Center that focuses on providing medical services to the intersex & trans community. I personally can not wait to see how these issues will be tackled thanks to people like Mo.
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