Film Review: Intersexion*


Theories about human sexual development, gender identity, and the human rights of children have changed drastically in the last fifty years. Sometimes it takes a documentary like Intersexion to clarify just how tragically wrong medical practitioners of the past were.

Specifically, the film tells the stories of some of the intersex people who were treated in accordance with a theory of gender based on nurture and social reinforcement developed by sexologist Dr John Money of the Johns Hopkins Medical School in the USA.

These people are now adults and within the documentary they tell their stories of sexual abuse, bullying, secrecy, and social rejection to reveal a collective truth; Dr Money’s theory was wrong.

Presented by Mani Bruce Mitchell – one of the first intersex people to come out in New Zealand – the documentary travels across international and class lines to ensure a wide-ranging and diverse representation. There’s archival footage and photographs, as well as conversations with medical experts, but the focus is on the voices of intersex people. This is to the film’s credit.

Although the topic of intersex genital mutilation is, at times, difficult to listen to, the documentary is ultimately incredibly humanising and persuasive. Anyone with a paternalistic tendency in their social science should watch this and exercise caution.

.Ana Hine

*Screened as part of the Scottish Queer International Film Festival 2016

Film Review: Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party*


Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party, Dir. Stephen Cone, USA, 2015

There was a moment in Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party where a woman started crying and when she realised she was crying claimed she didn’t know why. In many respects that moment encapsulated a choice throughout the movie to leave the inner lives of the characters open to our interpretation, which left me wondering how much could be read without a background in the particular social mores of conservative Christianity.

As someone raised within a small fundamentalist Baptist church, Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party resonated with me almost more than I would like to admit. Although nominally about a young gay man’s coming of age, the semi-autobiographic film from Stephen Cone was highly concerned with showing how repression of this sort affects everyone involved in their relationships with their bodies, sexuality, and self-esteem.

The framing device of seventeen-year-old Henry’s sexual awakening was most effective in the opening scene as he mutually masturbates with a nominally straight mate, but otherwise felt a little swept to one side as almost every other character was given screen time to emote and, in a few cases, neatly resolve their arc. The strongest performance came from actress Elizabeth Laidlaw who played Henry’s adulterous mother Kat. From the moment she appeared on screen it was clear that Kat’s story would add a pathos to the film, and it was encouraging to have a mother’s sexual agency acknowledged and explored with such subtlety during a teenage coming of age tale.

Saying that, a tighter movie just focused on Henry might have been a little more satisfying, but the larger assembly cast style did provide an opportunity to critique social conservatism and some of its underlying hypocrisies – though some of this criticism was more heavy-handed than others. A particularly grating scene involved an atheist girl embarrassing another about studying biology at a Christian college, without giving enough weight to the reasons why someone might cling to their faith in the face of threatening theories like, gasp, evolution or homosexuality.

And yet, there were no real consequences for the subtle acts of abuse within the movie, and it didn’t feel like enough education or acceptance really took place – though lip service was maybe paid to it.

Overall, it maybe wasn’t the movie I wanted it to be – cathartic and authentic for those of us who carry our religious upbringings around like a judgemental weight around our necks. Instead, maybe, it will help lift a lid on the ways in which this insidious harm still takes place. If you think that conservative Christianity is harmless maybe give it a watch, but otherwise it will probably leave more old wounds open than it manages to close.

.Ana Hine

*Screened as part of the Scottish Queer International Film Festival 2016

Art Review: Katy Dove at DCA

Katy Dove

Untitled watercolours on paper by Katy Dove, no date, photograph by Ruth Clark, courtesy of the estate of Katy Dove

The current retrospective exhibition of Katy Dove’s multimedia abstract art at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) in Dundee can only really be understood in the context of her death last year from cancer. As an active member of the Scottish art scene, it’s understandable that her friends and family would want to remember her work using the resources available to them. As an outsider, however, it can be difficult to appreciate the impact these subtle, childlike drawings, prints and animations are supposed to make.

As a study of multimedia practice, or a deconstruction of a particular style of animation, the exhibition is of some interest. Dove developed particular motifs that reoccur in different media; first in felt-tip sketch, then sewn into fabric, then screen-printed, before being incorporated into her abstract animations. The effect is reassuring, meditative, and instructive from a technical point of view – while also providing the viewer with a small thrill of discovery when a pattern is spotted or a visual idea reappears.

Whether the experience of the exhibition is altered by the context surrounding it is hard to say. It may be the curation that gives it a melancholy, almost religious tone, or it could be that the pieces themselves evoke that response. Maybe there would have been a similar effect were Dove still here to lead the visitor through her process and sit beside them while they watch the colourful images dance and weave in the quiet stillness of the gallery setting.

A small sadness is the placement of the painted silk curtains, which were previously used by Dove as a practical framing device – literally as curtains – when visitors would enter her animation showings. Now, after her death, they are placed reverently on the wall to prevent potential damage from sticky fingers. There is a sense that the canonisation of the artist has begun, a disconcerting impression amongst such light, colourful work.

And yet, all of this is entirely understandable. As the exhibition guide and introductory text explain, Dove was a peer and friend to many at the DCA – including curator Graham Domke – and this particular exhibition was never intended to be posthumous. Dove had been involved with the gallery since its inception, was active in the print studio, and had been featured in an exhibition of artists educated in Dundee only a few years previously.

As Graham says: “She was an incredible collaborator and my big sadness about this exhibition is that I am doing it without her. I am doing the exhibition for her and the family and the DCA audience. She will be remembered with absolute love from her family and friends. I am also convinced new admirers will be entranced by her work each and every time it goes on show.”

by Ana Hine

The exhibition will run until Nov 20.

This Is An Anarcha-Feminist Takeover

On Tuesday I had my first solo art exhibition opening night. I didn’t officially invite any press, so it was fairly quiet, but enough folk came that I felt reassured by my poster and social media advertising.

I sold two embroidery pieces on the opening night and some zines and merch (there’s badges, bracelets, postcards, and various other things). I read a little bit of poetry, but it wasn’t really the right atmosphere and I felt a little awkward imposing myself audibly on people when I was already subjecting them to my visual art.

Anyway, here’s some photos. The exhibition is on at the Fine Roots Gallery in the basement of the Forest Cafe on 141 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh until October 2. I’m hoping to hitchhike down tomorrow to check on the show and do some filming for Zine There Done That with Fergus.



A Chat With Sofia B

Singer-songwriter Sofia B performed at Pandora Fest women’s music festival last month. Ana Hine, editor of Artificial Womb, caught up with her.



Sofia B (left) with her girlfriend Riya at Pandora Fest


How did you enjoy Pandora Fest?

Aside from the vomiting from motion sickness on the way up to Scotland and the rain, I actually had one of the best days of my life! The array of acts, the combined efforts of everyone who put it together, the scenery and the general ambience was incredibly cool and unique. The local food and drinks vendors were super lovely and had great quality food and everyone in attendance was remarkably skipper considering the weather. Definitely looking forward to next year!

Can you give us a bit of background about yourself?

My mum is Venezuelan and my dad is Lebanese. I was born in London, but we moved to Caracas when I was 3-months-old and then moved back to London when I was five after things started to get politically unstable in Caracas and day to day life became increasingly more dangerous. Living in London exposed me to a multi-cultural hub of musicians, but I decided to explore the United States and was awarded a scholarship to Berklee College of Music to study songwriting. After graduating, I found myself in NYC and wrote my latest album In The City, about one of the toughest breakups of my life.

You released In The City, your second EP, last year. Can you tell us a little more about the record?

As I mentioned briefly before, it was written while I was living in NYC. I decided to record the songs in Beirut, where my father lives, as I wanted to connect with my Lebanese roots and take advantage of the immense talent one can find there. We recorded with producer Raed El Khazen and my dad is playing lead guitar on ‘Ice Cold Love’ and ‘Hurricane’.

There’s a track called ‘Soldiers’ on it, about a friend. Can you say a bit more?

Absolutely. My best friend Avery Nejam, was diagnosed with IBD (irritable bowel disease) a few months after I was diagnosed with Crohn’s while I was in Boston at Berklee. We crossed paths then and sort of became inseparable since, especially because she is an artist/illustrator. We’ve collaborated on my song ‘Friendly Little Ghost’ about being diagnosed with Crohn’s and she made the most amazing artwork for it.

And what exactly is Crohns disease?

Crohn’s is an auto-immune disease that creates inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, which can cause you to lose organs.

Why do you think it’s important to be ‘out’ – as it were – about your condition?

The main reason I want to raise awareness as an androgynous woman about Crohn’s disease, is because of the day to day hardships I encounter. The stigma around stomach problems and going to the bathroom are messed up enough as is and you feel like you can’t properly communicate your condition without being judged. I also want people to realise that even though you can have a disease that can hold you back sometimes, you can channel your frustrations into art. It’s what gets me through it, anyway.

How does having Crohn’s affect your ability to tour? Is there anything that fans or venues could do to make things easier for people who have the condition, or something similar?

It affects my ability to tour because, realistically, accommodation and comfortable means of travel really lessen the burden and possibility of getting sicker. I’m on immune suppressants that basically make me susceptible to everything. Honestly, the only thing that makes things easier is if there is a clean bathroom with soap and toilet paper and I’ll be fine. I don’t really like to make too much of a fuss about these things.

You spoke, when we met, about how living with Crohn’s means that you’ve chosen not to transition or take testosterone. Are you able to explain a bit more why that might be the case?

Honestly, taking testosterone at this stage in the game would be like adding fuel to the fire. I already inject myself with Humira, a drug that has led me to be in remission with Crohn’s disease. It has its side effects already and the possibility of having to inject more chemicals when I’m scared of needles as is? Yeah, no thanks! Plus, I don’t think hormones makes you more of any gender.

Has being butch or masculine presenting affected your musical career at all?

Absolutely. If I’m most honest, I think that presenting as masculine makes people think that I want to be an emblem of strength and masculinity. I don’t really care what I represent to people, the goal is purely to spread good music that people relate to, whoever I am. Artists celebrate the spectrum of emotions, I just so happen to be mixed race, queer and a woman. Being butch/masculine presenting has shown me the privileges I should have when I don’t “pass” and the ignorance that still exists.

What are you working on or promoting at the moment?

Currently, I’m promoting my music video for ‘Let It Go’, the last song off my album, which is available to view here.

When will you next be performing in Scotland?

Not too sure yet actually! I’m in close contact with Erin Bennett, who I’m a die-hard fan of. Her band is incredible, her songs bring me to tears every time and we are actually going to be doing a show together at The Portland Arms in Cambridge in September!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you so much for introducing me to the zine world and for schooling me on so much stuff! Definitely still considering making one for myself to offer to new fans.


Check out Sofia B’s current EP In The City on iTunes here and if you’d like to support Artificial Womb consider becoming a patron.

Pandora Fest: An Inspiration To Other Girls

IMG_7792Well, Pandora Fest needs to happen again next year. The eclectic festival, which aims to celebrate women-led music, took place last month at Duncarron Medieval Village near Stirling. Although the amount of festival attendees was small, the line-up was impressively varied and the whole event had a cozy, friendly vibe.

Many of the artists were passionate about the politics behind the event. Vodun front-woman Chantal Brown explained: “It’s needed, it’s necessary. Until things are equal, either take a seat or support it.”

The London-based three-piece have just released their first album Possession and their live set demonstrated the power of their heavy rock, afro-centric sound. “It’s a celebration of the religion of voodoo, the people who practice it and its history,” says Chantal. “The last few weeks have been really, politically, horrible – with people feeling disconnected and turning against each other. We’re trying to take it back. Saying that we’re of this planet, we’re of this world, of the same blood. Trying to get out of consumerism and shopping and have a more real experience.”



For all the theatrics of some of the bands, what was clear throughout the festival was how important this idea of connection was, of breaking through and having a real experience. The size of the event meant that musicians and attendees merged together, so in a way the dancing audience was also a message of solidarity – and a validation – for the act on stage.


Lorna Thomas (bassist of Caroline Gilmour)

For example, the bassist of Caroline Gilmour – a rock star of a woman with short greying hair and a leather jacket – seemed entirely in her element; like there was nowhere she’d rather be than playing bass guitar in a field in Scotland to her slightly wet and bedraggled peers. It was increasingly inspiring.


Kath and The Kicks


Kath and The Kicks

The role-model element of being a woman in music was raised by Kath Edmonds, of Leeds-based band Kath and The Kicks. She said: “I always wanted to be a rock star. I was a female drummer, so I hope I have been an inspiration to other girls. I couldn’t always sing properly, but I just forced myself to do it. It’s about confidence and having a good group of people around you.”

Well Pandora Fest was definitely full of people supporting each other and the idea of women-led music. Let’s hope that it returns next summer.

.Ana Hine

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The Suffragette Legacy

A woman is making rosettes in purple, green & white
For a march through a city centre in a couple nights.
“But we have the vote,” I say. “Why the rosettes?”
They explain: “It’s to honour the suffragettes.”

A hundred years ago you threw yourselves under horses.
Put letterbombs through politicians’ front doors.
Chained yourselves to walls.
We have not forgotten your call for direct action.
We are just looking for the next campaign to die for.

The anarchist newspapers proclaim you didn’t die just for the vote.
“No,” they shout. “The suffragettes wanted the liberation of womenkind.”
I sigh. What is the point of fighting for freedom. From what? Capitalism.
Insidious is the battle. Apart from terrorise what can we really do
To change our lives?

In the women’s library a former acquaintance comes up to me smiling.
She buys my feminist zine. We embrace. I see her glowing, hopeful face.
Is it noble to remember the past? Provide a refuge?
But no crèche. What use is a women’s space without one?
The problem of male children.

My hands shake as I meet the illustrator of ‘Sally Heathcote: Suffragette’.
“You inspire me,” I say. “Help me believe there’s something worth fighting for.”
She signs her business card for me. Her wife sits beside her.
Progress is being made after all.


(c) Ana Hine