Writer-director River Gallo’s award-winning short film 'Ponyboi' is a snapshot into the life of a queer intersex sex worker.
“What’s the deal with that name? I know your mama didn’t name you Ponyboi.”
“No, my daddy did. When I was little I always hated going to the doctor’s. And I loved ponies. So whenever I went with my dad, he said if I was a good boy, he’d get me a pony.”
This exchange between Ponyboi, played by River, and Bruce, literally the man of Ponyboi’s dreams, hints at a history shared by almost two percent of the world’s population: frequent, unsettling visits to doctors’ offices. River, who is intersex like their character Ponyboi, is now turning the short into a feature-length film, with co-director Sadé Clacken Joseph.
“I remember being seen by doctors throughout my whole childhood. I was always having my genitals checked, but I thought it was a normal thing. Looking back on it actually it’s like, ‘No – it was far more often than other children.’ [Appointments] were more frequent but also veiled with mystery, not knowing exactly why I was there,” River explains. “Then when I finally found out about my body, it became a secret. I couldn’t talk about what happened at the doctor’s office. There’s a reason why a lot of intersex people have anxiety and trauma about going to the doctor in adulthood. That doctor’s office smell, I still smell it sometimes. That off-brand cleaning detergent smell transports me to this time where it felt like the world was a secret, where I couldn’t trust anybody. When I found out, it felt like a major betrayal on my parents’ and doctors’ part. These figures that, when you’re a child, are larger than life and meant to protect you, it felt like they’d been lying to me my whole life. Secrets kill people, emotionally.” Click here to read the full interview.