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Born Both: An Intersex Life

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  349 ratings  ·  64 reviews

From one of the world's foremost intersex activists, a candid, provocative, and eye-opening memoir of gender identity, self-acceptance, and love.

My name is Hida Viloria. I was raised as a girl but discovered at a young age that my body looked different. Having endured an often turbulent home life as a kid, there were many times when I felt sca
Hardcover, 339 pages
Published March 14th 2017 by Hachette Books
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Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

Rounding up to 4-stars because while this memoir is flawed, it is bringing something to light that is HUGELY important in our society.

I venture to say that the first half is the strongest, with a cohesive narrative while the second half reads as a litany of various projects and activism that Hida participates in.

This book will HUGELY challenge you in talking about sex and gender, even more than I thought possible in this day of marriage equality and trans visibility. Sometimes I ha
I'm so glad that Hida Viloria shared her life experiences in this memoir, she is amazingly candid about her anatomy and sexuality in a way I thought was helpful to understanding her experience. I thought the first hundred pages were fascinating.

She talks about dressing like a man and using the women's rest room and people using male pronouns to refer to her. Her experiences reminded me of another book about gender identity called 'Self Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again'
Kate Scott
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
An illuminating memoir by an intersex activist. It’s not particularly well-written and I think it could have been shorter but it’s an important book on a topic that isn’t talked about enough.
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When Hida Viloria was born, the doctor took he/r father (also a doctor) aside and they had a quiet conversation. Whatever the doctor told he/r father, he rejected, and Hida was presented to he/r mother as a baby girl, and that is how s/he was raised. Hida had a rough life; he/r father was abusive, s/he was drugged and raped at a bar, s/he was a budding lesbian in a culture that doesn’t take well to that. Along with that, s/he struggled with he/r gender identity: was s/he really the girl s/he was ...more
Holly Kaplan
May 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
I picked the book up to learn more about the topic and to develop further understanding. I was disappointed in its length (way too long) and poor writing style (redundant and not descriptive). The author has an interesting story, yet too much time was spent discussing how attractive they are, how many drugs they used, how many people want to have sex with them. It was simply boring.
A brilliant, extremely important book. I feel we will look back on this book in decades to come as a major turning point in our understanding, awareness, and compassion for intersex people.
Julie Endres
Mar 25, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a fascinating subject to me and the author has obviously been through things I can't even imagine. The book itself though contained too much political background of the movement itself to hold my interest. Ze also seems to vacillate between feelings of extreme confidence almost to the point of haughtiness to sobbing "hide in the bottom of the closet" I security. While the author seems to chalk this up to being intersexed, it does not ring true. The story seems to be told with some distan ...more
Melissa McGowan
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I learned so much from reading this book. Being born intersex occurs as frequently as red hair. There are 46 different ways that a human body can be intersex. If you are interested in a good memoir about gender identity and gender identity politics, read this.
Karen Ashmore
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OMG this was an eye opening book for me! I can’t believe how unaware I was and am thankful I read this. About the same number of people who were born redhead are born intersex. Some people are born male, some female and some with both genital organs, those formerly known as hermaphrodite but are now known as intersex. This is an amazing book which I highly recommend to everyone who does not understand intersex, which would be 98.3 per cent of all human beings.
Laura (Book Scrounger)
Apr 23, 2017 marked it as did-not-finish
Not the book for me, but I'm grateful to be introduced to this topic, and plan to read up on it more. I'm glad that Intersex people have more support now than during the time the author grew up.

In compliance with FTC guidelines, I disclose that I received this book for free through GoodReads' First Reads.
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
(Please excuse the absence of italics. I don't have the time to reformat everything for Goodreads.)

Nowadays, Lord Alfred Douglas’ “love that dare not speak its name” dares to speak its name – and then some. In fact, it needn’t dare at all, because, for the most part, non-heterosexual speech is popular, widespread, bold, prevalent – and, yes, even moralistic. For me, the love hinted at in the poem by Douglas covers gay, lesbian, trans, queer, bisexual and intersex folks. (If I left anyone out, p
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
I picked this up at the library not knowing what to expect. I think it is a worthwhile publication for those struggling with the mixed sex issues and I appreciate the authors candor...but...

I have very mixed emotions about this story. On one hand I wanted to give it more stars because as I said, it deals with a subject that may be helpful to a small sector of the population. What impacted me negatively was the voluntary early and graphic very casual sex, drugs and drinking on the part of the au
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio, nonfiction, memoir
A very interesting look at gender, the way it is perceived and what it means to not fit the norm. It really opened my eyes. It is a tender subject with more facets than I initially imagined. An important introduction to the issue. I hope it gets a wide audience.
TammyJo Eckhart
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had never heard of Hida Viloria and after reading her/his book, I felt a bit ashamed of that fact. But then again, while I know that biological sex is not a duality, I've been so conditioned by society to think in terms of binary that I haven't paid much attention to developments in the recognition of intersex people.

Hida's biography uses a lot of flashbacks but in general it does progress chronologically, showing us her/his journey of self-awareness and social activism. But the book isn't onl
Review forthcoming in Publishers Weekly. This memoir by activist Hida Viloria offers insight into the personal journey of an individual who grew up with only a vague sense of he/r physical difference before discovering in he/r twenties that s/he was intersex. The present-tense narrative and recreated dialogue feel clunky at times, but the author's story will be compelling to people interested in the experience of intersex people. As Viloria was born to immigrant parents from Central America, and ...more
Joseph Langen
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For a while, I have been trying to make sense of people who were transgender. I have been reading articles and books for and about them and moving toward a better understanding. I was aware of people with indeterminate gender, but did not know much about them.

When I recently saw a review in the New York Times Book Review, I thought it was about time to discover more. The review suggested that Born Both was a combination memoir and textbook. I was more interested in the memoir aspect and found t
Un libro che ha una serie di pregi e svariati difetti.
Cominciamo dai pregi:
- l'audiolibro è gradevole. La lettura dell'autrice di buona qualità e facilmente seguibile, voce che non annoia al contrario di molti libri letti dagli autori, 7 + decisamente.
- l'argomento è molto interessante e ben trattato, si parla assai poco della i (intersex) di LGBTIQA* anche all'interno della comunità e ancora di più in generale. E' una tematica oscura ai più che ha implicazioni pesanti (ricordo il bellissimo
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Intersex voices urgently need to be heard, not just for visibility, but also for the sake of intersex babies whose genitals are mutilated in order to make them look either male or female. Often times these surgeries remove the clitoris completely and eliminate the chance of that human being ever being able to have an orgasm for their whole lives. I think unless there is a pressing medical issue (for example, the baby's anatomy is preventing it from urinating) these surgeries need to WAIT until t ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the subject of this book is important and we must reexamine how we define gender in this day and age, I feel this book gave only a sliver view of the world of the intersex person. This young woman gives an honest account of her body and the emotional pain and confusion she and others go/have gone through. When I heard how some intersex people have been physically mutilated in the name of science and medicine, I was brought to tears.

And while the drugging and drinking she did is tied in to
Jen  (Remembered Reads)
I've admired the way Hida Viloria has been willing to put he/rself out there in the name of visibility for years, so I was eager to pick up this memoir. And while there is an interesting story about the roots of he/r activism in here, this really needed another round or two with an editor.

Have you ever met one of those people who is so invested in a certain image that they spend ages telling you about their Burning Man experiences? And after the initial story they constantly distinguish between
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Just, wow. I have never been so captured, so enthralled by a memoir before. I don't identify as intersex, but Ms. Viloria's story was able to give me an idea of what living with that reality is like. It helped me to understand not only the personal struggles an intersex person may face, but also the struggles that the community has been through for the past few decades. In addition to the conversation about intersex people, their identity, and their rights, I feel that the book also speaks ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
I didn't find this book fierce or brave or shocking any of the other superlatives describing it in its blurbs. I've read many books by and about people who fall outside of the conventional ideas of sexuality, so this was not my first rodeo. This particular book reads more like a poorly written personal diary with a pervasive interest in the size of her clitoris. How big it is, how surprising it is, what she does with it, what other people think of it, how it feels about itself (not really!) etc. ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queers
This book is an amazing look at the definition of gender and the roles society places on each gender. Hida, as an intersex person, passes back and forth between feminine and masculine-appearing, and describes the experience. It's also a good look at the problems within activist organizations. So much infighting! (It reminds me of my global arts project). I liked the descriptions of NYC life, and San Fran life, and the queer community. The description of Burning Man was interesting as well. I som ...more
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great memoir/biography and fantastic on the information on intersex'd people. I agree wholeheartedly with the perception of intersex and the classification of them as stated by Viloria. I only just recently found out about intersex and how common they are (as much as red heads, natural ones anyways). I'll definitely be more verbal and supportive to this community. Have some other books on my shelf about intersex that I'll be reading as well. This was the only memoir though, the rest are fiction.
Dec 16, 2017 rated it liked it
While this is not an exciting read it is educational. The subject matter addresses a topic few of us even think about. Intersex is not a daily heard term, and how many know the meaning. I didn't.
The title caught my eye, so I read the brief report and decided to read the book. The old term might be more familiar to you "hermaphrodite", but that still doesn't tell the whole story. Hida has a story to tell give it a read, you might find something out about yourself.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Interesting personal story from an intersex person, which goes into a lot of the intricacies of intersex, some history, a lot of the political emergence in the intersex community. My understanding of the political developments is that it is not completely formed yet, so Viloria's perspective is zer own. That said, ze's honesty and passion certainly shine through. A good contribution to this emerging literature/field, although not a particularly good book.
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A good read and also inspiring. Initially I'd wished she would say more about the ways she saw connections and differences between her intersex identity and the trans community, but she got to it later in the book. Her awareness of intersectionality comes naturally, as a result of her being a Latinx lesbian, and she is able to articulate a politics of affinity without being academic about it, which is refreshing.
Stacie Savage
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Hida blazes the path of intersex acceptance into society - for intersex to not be considered a disorder but an individual born healthy and whole. Hida has walked a journey, not without suffering, with nobility and bravery as she stands for human rights and opens our minds to a more beautiful, nonbinary world.
Andrea Tobin
Jul 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
i loved this book....i was amazed that author did not know until i believe early 20s. at times funny, at times heartbreaking but above all a very interesting read on a topic that needs exposure. i would love to meet hida and if ever have the opportunity , will gladly do so. the beginning read more as an biography, the end more technical terminology so i had to read carefully.
Amazing book. Educating and emotionally moving. Hida Viloria is a voice and activist for human beings in every corner of life. She has helped us start a generation which will one day make this world into a place where everyone is accepted and safe, or at least has given me that hope for the first time in my life thanks to this amazing piece of work she's written.
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Goodreads Librari...: Update cover 2 27 Nov 22, 2016 06:31PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please update the description of this book 2 19 Nov 22, 2016 06:08PM  
Hida (“Heeda”) Viloria is a writer, author of the 2018 Lambda Literary Award nominated memoir, Born Both: An Intersex Life (Hachette Books), and one of the world’s foremost intersex and non-binary activists, bringing an intersectional analysis to he/r work as the queer child of Latinx immigrants. Viloria is the founding director of the Intersex Campaign for Equality (IC4E), a frequent consultant ( ...more