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