Lauren Cooper may have been hiding a big part of her life during the inaugural season of "Faking It" -- but now the outspoken teen is no longer keeping her intersex condition a secret.
In honor of Intersex Awareness Day (Monday, October 26), MTV News spoke to the woman behind the MTV high school student, Bailey De Young, about portraying the trailblazing character, how she educated herself before diving into this role and the special support she has received since Lauren's medical condition was revealed.
Check out the interview below, educate yourself about Intersex Awareness Day and be sure to catch Bailey every Monday on "Faking It" at 9:30/8:30c.
How would you define intersex if you were speaking with someone who was unfamiliar with the condition?
Intersex is an umbrella term that describes people born with variations of internal and/or external sex anatomy resulting in bodies that can’t be classified as the typical male or female. One in every 2,000 is the general estimation for people born intersex.
What has the feedback around “Faking It”/Lauren’s character been like from the intersex community?
It’s been great! The feedback has been excited, open and supportive. Specifically, InterACT Youth has really partnered with the writers and MTV to help tell Lauren’s story truthfully and organically. We hope to make them proud of Lauren’s story.
With the surge of LGBTQIA representation, why do you think there hasn’t been more intersex characters featured in movies/television shows?
I’m not sure. I think my guess would be that, unfortunately, intersex conditions haven't really been openly talked about -- sadly, there has been an element of taboo. With that comes lack of awareness, education and understanding. I hope that "Faking It" has helped demystify it a little bit and clarify myths and misconceptions, and there will be many characters and stories told in the future.
What was your first reaction when you heard you would be portraying one of the first intersex characters on TV? How did you prepare for your portrayal?
When ["Faking It" Executive Producer] Carter first told me, my reaction was “That’s great! … what exactly does that mean?” Since then, I have learned so much from the AIS/DSD support group and Interact who have really helped educate the whole team and cast. The most impactful, though, has been the real people born intersex who have been so open and generous with their stories. I’m so thankful for the wonderful people I’ve gotten to know on this journey. The writers have done an incredible job writing her story -- I seriously can’t imagine it any better -- so they really help set me up to do my job as well as I can.
You were recently honored by the AIS DSD Support Group for your portrayal of TV's first intersex main character (congrats!). What was it like to receive the award?
I felt so honored! First of all, the whole convention was fun and I felt privileged to be there. I didn’t know how Lauren and my portrayal of her was going to be received. I don’t lose sleep over (or even know about) critic reviews, or the ups and downs of fan approval. However, I really wanted the intersex community to be pleased with the representation because of how under-represented they are. Receiving that award was an honor that they would even consider me and a huge sigh of relief that they are pleased with the story "Faking It" is telling.
How can everyday teens/adults be a positive ally for intersex people in their everyday life?
I think the same rules apply to everyone: Try not to make assumptions or judgments, be kind and get to know everyone for who they are. Try and be sensitive and ask questions if you are unsure.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for watching "Faking It"!