“The first question any new parent asks… “Is it a boy or a girl?”
But what happens when doctors cannot answer that question?
1 baby in 2,000 is born with genitalia that is so ambiguous that no one can tell if the child is male or female.”
As New Zealand’s first “out” intersex person, Mani “Bruce” Mitchell was determined to bring positive attention to those who identified as intersex, a variation in sex characteristics which currently encompasses over 30 prenatal conditions. With the assistance of award winning filmmaker Grant Lahood, “Intersexion” was created, now an award winning documentary that acknowledges intersex as a condition that is part of people, not what defines them. This heart wrenching documentary, which you can watch here, inserts us in to the personal stories of people and how they have faced the tale of adversity. Many stories revolve around the secrecy and interventions suggested by medical professionals as set out by Dr. John Money, who thought that nurture could shape gender which we now know to be false. Other stories exude happiness, stemming from the parent’s choice of not taking the doctors advice and simply loving their child as they are; a person. “Intersex” provides us with a plethora of emotions, introducing us to the condition of intersex, a term that is not uncommon but simply unheard of because the public is still uncomfortable discussing it.
Queer culture because is exemplified in the film by showing the lives of those who are living outside of the heteronormative and gender binary world. Judith Butler stated that gender performativity is at the root of this problem due to the repetition of gender roles and the expectation of the heteronormative life narrative. Those who don’t fill the molds of those expectations are considered queer; they are straying from the norm. This encompasses exactly what intersex people exemplify; a group of people proud to be away from the norm. Proud to be representing their people, their family, their condition.
Les Feinberg stated that “each person should have the right to choose between pink or blue…” At birth, most intersex infants are not even given a choice of sex, let alone gender. For this reason, “Intersex” is a strong contender for both the gender and sex categories. We live in a world where society dictates and drives the moving force towards “normal.” Why is that? We give doctors the power to decide if our infant is male or female. But what if they child is neither? Can’t we just look at the child and be glad that it is healthy and alive? People are so used to routine, to pattern, to comfort, that when something deviates from that role, catastrophe happens. People are unsure what to do. This film is stupendous in plentiful ways, but I adore that it gives people an introduction in to the lives of intersex people to show that they truly are just people who want to known for their intelligence, love, and integrity not just their condition.
On a lighter note, Germany became the first country to have “intersex” as a category on the birth certificate. Hida Viloria, an intersex woman who told her story in Intersexion, was interviewed with other activists about their response. Slowly, but surely, intersex is gaining a voice.
“I hope this documentary will show everyone that the ‘shame and secrecy’ model hasn’t worked – and that intersex children can grow up to make informed choices about their own bodies.”- Mani Mitchell.