“You will laugh, cry, and get furious alongside Zieselman as she beautifully shares her raw and unbelievable story, which will change everything you thought you knew about bodies, identities, and the white, straight, well-to-do mother next door.”
—Georgiann Davis, PhD, sociology professor, scholar-activist, and author of Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis
“In XOXY Kimberly Zieselman engages and inspires by sharing the intimate details of her burgeoning awareness at mid-life that she was born intersex, and the incredible journey she has been on to help herself and others. It is a gripping narrative that explores how having had information withheld even more than her unique biology has impacted her life. It also chronicles Zieselman’s tireless efforts as an advocate and leader to educate those unfamiliar with intersex, and to eradicate the shame, stigma, and discrimination that the 1 in 50 of us who inhabit intersex bodies experience almost daily. She documents how organized medicine continues to perpetuate secrecy and shame by performing harmful and largely irreversible cosmetic surgeries on intersex infants with the singular objective of making their bodies conform to gender norms.
Zieselman is a caped and capable crusader for change, and her book is filled with glimmers of hope for the current and future generation of intersex children. This book is for anyone who has ever felt different, or has stood up against judgment or intolerance, and for anyone who wants to understand what’s at stake.”
—Sherri Groveman Morris, Founder, AIS Support Group USA
“XOXY makes clear how binary notions of gender and sex embedded in U.S. healthcare contribute to life-long harms of intersex persons. This candid personal narrative shows us an intersex woman who refuses to be erased and chronicles the flourishing of an intersex movement that she helped build. An important and engaging read.”
—Charlene Galarneau, associate professor emerita, Women’s and Gender Studies, Wellesley College; and senior lecturer, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School—Center for Bioethics
“Zieselman’s riveting account of secrets and their consequences should motivate physicians to end the damaging, nonconsensual approach to intersex management of children, and inspire many who have endured similar medical trauma. Her turn to activism for intersex people everywhere as director of interACT is nothing short of remarkable.”
—Elizabeth Reis, PhD, Professor of Gender and Bioethics at the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, and the author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex
“An intimate, searing memoir of an intersex life, XOXY lays bare the trauma of being betrayed by the medical profession, and details how one person finds empowerment through community and advocacy.”
—I.W. Gregorio, urologist and author of the Lambda Literary finalist None of the Above
“In XOXY Kimberly Zieselman details the shame, secrecy, and lies she’s faced as an intersex person since her childhood. Her perseverance and strength in the face of the powerful medical establishment makes for an astonishing story that you won’t be able to put down. Kimberly played an essential role in helping me tell my own story to the world, for which I will be forever grateful. This book will help readers understand intersex, and the need to protect the bodily autonomy of all intersex children.”
—Hanne Gaby Odiele, internationally renowned model and intersex activist
“When learning she was intersex, Kimberly Zieselman was told her condition was so rare she would never meet anyone who shared it. That doctor was dead wrong! Not only has Kimberly met countless other intersex people, she now stands at the forefront of their mission to be heard. Reading Kimberly’s evocative memories of her journey from cheerleader to soccer mom to national intersex advocate and activist spoke to me on a deep, universally human level. After all, we’re all longing to understand who we truly are, and be accepted and loved unconditionally. Kimberly is helping to lead a revolution that will change the world for the better—not just for intersex people, but for everyone.”
—Carter Covington, executive producer, writer, and showrunner of MTV’s FAKING IT
“Early in XOXY, Zieselman writes, ‘I felt a rush of anxiety, but there was a simultaneous emptiness that was settling into me.’ That poetic tension is threaded subtly throughout the book. Zieselman tells her own story mellifluously, but with a sense of palpable unease. After all, the narrative arch is of a woman in her forties learning how she was lied to most of her life, and then learning how that lie was part of a spectacular web of medical misinformation and ill treatment.
If you know the story of how most intersex people have been systemically abused by modern medicine, this will be a read laced with foreshadowing for you. If you don’t, some of the most eerily familiar and quotidian passages will expose you to an important, often misunderstood narrative about what it means to be different in this world. There are vignettes about the typical childhood discoveries—the anticipation of getting a period, being studied by classmates at a new school as if an exotic artifact, doing drugs, and shoplifting.
Zieselman is brutally honest about the vulnerabilities of adulthood, too—from Imposter Syndrome at work to anxieties over the chaos of parenting kids with disabilities. These stories all take on a new, textured meaning when the truth is revealed. And then there are plot twists that seem ripped from a science fiction film—Kafkaesque half-truths from your parents and that nagging feeling that, even as you get older and wiser, what seems to be everyone else’s reality isn’t quite the same for you. Even in these moments, Zieselman delivers her story of trauma with alacrity. At one point, the teenage author–narrator is told there’s only one other person in the world like her—a mysterious woman in Canada. She becomes a minor character for the rest of the book—at once desperate and comedic.
And in joining Zieselman on her journey in XOXY, you get to take one of your own, and meet the intersex community. A community formed around trauma, strengthened by validation, and liberated by too often still-elusive truth and justice. This book is part not only of an individual’s life but of a movement. It’s a movement demanding the simplest of things—truth, autonomy, dignity.
You’d be forgiven for assuming the memoir of a white, straight, cisgender woman in suburban Massachusetts wouldn’t be a story of profound self-discovery in a marginalized community; you’d also be wrong. Therein lies the power of XOXY—in a raw narrative, Zieselman delicately guides you through her own journey as an intersex woman, a mother, a lawyer, and perhaps a not-so-unlikely activist.”
—Kyle Knight, senior researcher,
Human Rights Watch