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New Zealand, 2012, 68 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Biopic, Documentary, GLBT, Medical/Health
Programs: Cinema Q, DocumentaryLanguage: English
DIRECTOR: Grant Lahood
Producer: John KeirEditor: Grant LahoodScreenwriter: Grant LahoodCinematographer: Grant LahoodPrincipal Cast: Mani Mitchell
Intersexion director Grant Lahood admits he knew very little about intersex people when he started filming his documentary. Like others, he thought theirs was an extremely rare condition. Lahood soon learned that one in 2,000 babies are born with ambiguous genitals; their bodies cannot be classified as either male or female.
In the 1950s, sexologist Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins Medical School developed a model for raising intersex children. Basing his theory on nurture rather than nature, he suggested to parents that they pick a gender for their children and have them surgically altered to fit that choice. Under a veil of secrecy, intersex children were often sent away to undergo invasive and painful surgeries. At puberty, hormone treatment was recommended to reinforce their given sexuality. But, as those interviewed in the film testify, there were serious physical and psychological consequences. Doctors told one intersex child, “You’re not male, you’re not female, you’re nothing.” Years later, Dr. Money’s medical model was discredited and parents were encouraged to leave an intersex child’s anatomy alone. Those born with the condition previously termed hermaphroditism now have a sense of belonging as they discover others among their “tribe.”
Lahood selected Mani Bruce Mitchell, New Zealand’s first “out” intersex person, to narrate the film, and interviewed intersex people from South Africa, the United States, Ireland, New Zealand, Germany, and Australia. “We set out to find and talk to as many intersex people, from all over the world, as we possibly could,” Lahood says. “To let them tell their stories and offer an insight to the rest of us just what it’s like to grow up in an intersex body. The resulting film is a deeply personal, very moving, frank and funny exploration of a subject that is quite possibly the last taboo.”
- JOEY PORCELLI
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