Intersex Evergreen student educates and advocates on campus and across the country
Resilience defines Jonathan Leggette '19, an Evergreen student who has overcome homelessness, foster care, LGBTQIA stigmas, and navigating his intersex identity. Despite his struggles, Leggette has raised awareness across the U.S. as an advocate for intersex people (i.e. individuals born with variations of sex anatomy resulting in bodies that do not fit typical definitions of male or female.) The culmination of his experiences, and his ability to communicate and educate, have led him to teach about what being intersex means to doctors, social workers, youth, and intersex people alike.
"I travel for conferences to do talks around intersex identity, intersex relationships, and the facets of being intersex through the medical industrial complex,” says Leggette. "I connect intersex people to communities and people, and help spread the word on an issue many have never thought of before.”
In the past year, Leggette has given talks at institutions and conferences across the country, including Creating Change, The TRANSforming Gender Conference, University of Maine, and Rutgers University (where he has given talks to undergraduate students, staff, and faculty members).
Leggette currently works as a campus ambassador for GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), a youth member of interACT (a non-profit dedicated to promoting intersex rights), and as a youth ambassador for the HRC (human rights campaign).
"I'm so involved in advocacy because it helps future generations,” he says. “I want to make sure intersex people don't have to go through non-consensual surgeries like I did.”
Like many intersex people, Leggette didn't find out he was intersex until he did research on his medical past and "got his records.” By the time he found out, he was 19 years-old and was still coming to terms with being queer, non-binary, and homeless.
"At the time, I was sleeping under bridges and park benches in Seattle and waking up every day at 5 a.m. to get to school at 7 because the teachers and staff at Federal Way High School were like family, so it felt like home,” he says.
In high school, Leggette had health complications but didn't know why or how to address them. He also had difficulty finding doctors he could trust. "One doctor messed up my dosage three times, doctors would use me as their research subjects, but what hurt the most was the shame they built by saying I wouldn't find anybody like me,” says Leggette.
This experience inspired Leggette to come out as intersex last fall, and he has found many supportive communities in the world at-large, especially at Evergreen.
"Honestly, nothing really clicked until I started going to Evergreen,” Leggette says.
Leggette’s experience at Evergreen includes serving as a peer advisor at the college’s Trans and Queer Center. He has been with the center since it opened last fall and has been able to lead conversations about intersex people at Evergreen. "My body breaks binaries, there are intersex people like myself, whose bodies do not fit in to the typical categories of male and female,” he says.
Leggette's story is one that has reached many audiences, has been translated into different languages, and is a story he hopes will continue to reach intersex people around the globe.
"There's an overall lack of education around this issue,” he says. “I could go into a room with about 50 queer people and ask them if they know what intersex is and maybe one will raise their hand. That’s why if anyone asks me about being intersex, I will talk to them and I will relive my trauma every day to make sure other intersex people will have a better life."
Through his work with GLAAD, Leggette has written and published a number of intersex-related blogs and articles. Two that he recommends are “not invisible: debunking 10 intersex myths” and “we need to talk about intersex awareness day.”