Intersexion

2012 | Documentary / Gender | 68m | New Zealand
Directors: Grant LaHood

For every two thousand births easily defined, one intersex baby is born. In this binary-gendered world, having ambiguous genitalia or something other than XX-female or XY-male chromosomes can bring immense social pressure and stignma. Intersex activist Mani Bruce Mitchell seeks out his/her peers to find community, healing, and a wider view of intersex life: “it doesn't suck to be intersex; it sucks to be persecuted.”

Since the 1950s, the views of Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins University have led the medical protocol for intersex babies. Doctors have prioritized gender-normative outward appearance over self-created identity; not waiting for the children’s natural inclinations to emerge. Immediate and repeated surgical and hormonal interventions were foisted on children to “correct” their physical ambiguities and “ensure” their happiness. Touting nurture over nature, doctors advised parents to raise their children with clinically assigned genders, surrounded by secrecy and shame.

Mani and his/her intersex friends break the silence about the great suffering imposed by interventions that often backfired. Intersex adults recount shame and isolation, mistrust of their families, and being targeted by bullies and predators. Yet a few intersex people are simply raised as-is by accepting families, pointing to greater possibilities for self-creation and belonging in this vital emerging community. Video Librarian “highly recommends” this title, giving it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars

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Reviews and Awards

“The Intersex Society of North America estimates that at least one in 2000 children is born with ambiguous genitalia—the internal organs of one sex and external organs of another—or a mix of X and Y chromosomes. Filmmaker Grant LaHood's Intersexion interviews a group of adults with these characteristics (from the U.S., Ireland, Germany, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand), who talk about how they've come to identify as one gender or another—or neither.

Interviewees range from those whose mothers and fathers allowed them to develop sexual identities as they matured, to former patients of the infamous specialist Dr. John Money, a New Zealander who advised parents of intersex children to name and dress them as either boys or girls (and enforce stereotypical behaviors) in order to prove his theory that youngsters could be assigned sexual roles despite their physiology. Toddlers in Money's care received hormone therapy and underwent multiple surgeries, and subjects here describe these events, as well as the subsequent physical and emotional pain they suffered (a few only discovered their physiological and hormonal ambiguities in early adulthood).

A documentary that goes a long way towards building a better understanding of a not altogether rare condition, this is highly recommended.—Video Librarian, 3 1/2 Stars