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Rosemary Mulvey

Professor Corewyn
Anthropology of Sex and Gender
17 February 2017

Film guide: Intersexion

What does the term intersex mean? How many variations might
there be? Provide some examples.

According to the film, intersex refers to someone born without the common
sex anatomy with approximately thirty variations. Some of these variations
have specified names such as Klinefelters Syndrome which is the result of
having XXY chromosomes. The other trisomies are XYY and XXX. There is
also the possibility of a tetrasomy which is XXYY chromosomes. The
chromosomal variances and other related hormonal irregularities can lead to
genitalia which is ambiguous or does not look typically male or female,
characterized by an overly large clitoris or small penis and ambiguity in the
vaginal/scrotum area.

How common is intersex?

Approximately one out of every two thousand people is intersex.

Intersexuality is as common as red-headedness.

Who was Dr. John Money? Describe his early model of dealing with
intersex individuals. What do we now know about Moneys nurture
theory that has often proved harmful to intersex individuals?

Dr. John Money was a psychologist who theorized that it was more nurture
than nature that determined sex and gender. His early model of dealing with
intersex individuals was to perform surgery to alter the genitals of intersex
babies to look more binary, going with the sex that the babys genitals
looked most like at birth, then advising the parents to raise the child as that
sex and never tell them that they are intersex or were assigned any other
sex originally. He based his research on David Reimer, a child who was
assigned male at birth but then lost his penis in a botched circumcision. He
advised the Reimer parents to raise him as a girl, but when David found out
the truth he decided to live as a man. Tragically, the trauma of the situation
led him to commit suicide. The emotional trauma of Moneys methods on
patients was confirmed multiple times by the subjects of the film who lived
through similar circumstances of having their sex and gender chosen for
them as babies and dealing with the aftereffects of years of shame and pain.

What have been some of the physical and emotional side effects for
some of the intersex individuals in the film (i.e., in terms of health,
marriage, relationships, abuse)?
Many of the intersex individuals in the film dealt with severe medical
problems in their childhoods as results of their genital surgeries, like
infections and the need for subsequent surgeries. The psychological side
effects were also extremely damaging. Many were depressed and at times
suicidal, had anxiety about and hatred towards their bodies, and were
traumatized by the procedures and other medical treatment they were put
through. Some had difficulties in their romantic relationships because of their
bodies, like one woman who remained alone her whole life after battling with
being assigned male her entire life. Many were also victims of sexual abuse
because of the secrecy they had been taught to keep about their bodies
which made them easy prey to abusers. The side effects of the treatment
that many of the intersex individuals had was detrimental on their mental
and physical health and affected them their entire lives.

According to the individuals featured in the film, what are the ways
that society and the medical profession can better deal with
intersex individuals, from the time they are born?

The individuals in the film urge parents of intersex babies and society to just
accept intersex people the way they are and to not push them or force them
into conforming to one gender, especially in performing surgery on intersex
babies genitalia. One individual in the film knew that they were intersex
from a young age and never had any surgery and grew up very well adjusted
and happy compared to the other intersex people featured. By accepting
their differences and loving them and not forcing any decisions upon them,
parents can raise their child into a healthy adult who can make their own
decisions about their genitals and gender.

Extra questions

Go to the website and click FAQ. Answer the

following questions:

How many intersex conditions are listed?

Seventeen conditions are listed.

What are the ISNAs recommendations for nonsurgical sex

assignment at birth? How would parents decide?

The ISNAs recommendations for nonsurgical sex assignment is to label the

baby as a boy or a girl depending on which of those genders the child is
more likely to identify with growing up. This definitely does not involve
normalizing surgery. The ISNA also recommends counselling for both the
family and the child and disclosing all the information about them being
intersex to the child when they are old enough.
Describe the medical risks that may be associated with intersex.

The medical risks listed are Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) medical
risks, Gonadal tumors, and Osteoporosis. According to the website, People
with CAH (both XY individuals, who are not intersexed, and XX individuals,
who may be intersexed) have problems making their own cortisone, a
hormone which helps the body respond to stress (like a cold, or a broken
bone, or severe trauma in a bad automobile accident, or undergoing
surgery). This problem can be addressed by administering cortisone, but only
if medical professionals know that the person has CAH. For this reason,
some CAH people wear Medic Alert bracelets. CAH can also lead to salt
wasting which is when the body cannot control its salt levels. CAH is the
only cause of intersex which may be life threatening. Gonadal tumors
typically only occur if the Y chromosome is present, and may not occur at all
so a gonadectomy should not be performed at birth because functioning
gonads are greatly preferred to HRT. Osteoporosis occurs in intersex
individuals who do not have adequate testosterone or estrogen levels in their
body as a result of having to HRT or having had a gonadectomy. Osteoporosis
leads to brittle bones that are more likely to break.

Go to the website .

What is DSD and what is the mission of the Accord Alliance? How is
it different from ISNA?

DSD stands for disorders of sex development. Accord Alliances mission is

to be a central hub for patients, families, healthcare administrators,
clinicians, support groups, and researchers to keep information flowing
between all parties to work together to support individuals with DSD so they
can have better lives. The ISNA was founded to advocate for those
individuals who felt they had been harmed by their experiences with the
healthcare system and now is devoted to systemic change to end shame,
secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy
that someone decided is not standard for male or female.
Intersexion is a film that receives the stories from a group of intersex

individuals from a variety of backgrounds. The narrator, an intersex person

from New Zealand, interviews them all about their experiences with their

families, the healthcare system, their childhoods, and their adult lives. It is

an emotional journey with many of the individuals opening up about the

trauma and pain they had been through as a result of the abuse from the

health care system that they had received. The film also discussed the basics

of what intersex is and how it is commonly viewed in the healthcare system

and in society.

I greatly appreciated this film. It seemed very genuine and informative.

It truly was made by intersex people to tell their stories honestly and openly.

I dont think any parent with an intersex baby who saw this film could even

consider putting their child through the surgeries and medical procedures

inflicted on many of the individuals, especially in contrast with those

individuals who had not grown up with the same trauma. I am certainly

biased for accepting all genders and being against any abuse towards

intersex individuals as someone who is well acquainted with many binary

non-conforming individuals. I was very happy with how this film was made in

contrast with The Gender Revolution because it actively stated that being

intersex was not abnormal or bad or hard to understand. It did not pander to

an unaccepting or uneducated audience about the issues they faced and also

gave truthful information about being intersex and what their identities are

and could be.

Culture has traditionally forced intersex individuals into conforming to

the binary in some way through nonconsensual surgery and medical

treatment and the vigorous gendering of intersex children to conform to the

gender they were assigned at birth. Intersex is seen as being abnormal or

bad by many people because of the importance culture places on the binary.

When schools teach that someone can only have XX or XY chromosomes,

they are teaching their students a lie, especially when considering how

common being intersex is. It is like teaching children that you cannot be born

with red hair, because they are equally as common and equally as false.

People are afraid of what they do not understand, and intersex individuals

are at risk because of that fear in most of society.

The healthcare system, schools, and society need to change to protect

intersex individuals from the crimes of the past. Firstly, schools need to

teach how common it is to be born intersex and that it is not good, bad, or

abnormal. Secondly, doctors need to stop scaring and pressuring parents

into treatments that are harmful to the wellbeing of intersex people

throughout their entire lives. Also, everyone should be taught about the

difference between sex and gender because that fundamental

misunderstanding will only continue to isolate and polarize everyone. By

allowing intersex people to make their own decisions about their bodies, you

are allowing them to make the same decisions every other person gets to

make. Gender is a social construct and everyone has the ability to know what

their gender is, even if it does not conform to the binary. Intersex kids are
capable of knowing that they are intersex and should be able to decide how

they want to live their lives. They will be better able to make those decisions

with the support of their parents and the support of counselors who can help

them make their decision and transition into a gender of their choosing, and

not that of their parents.

Intersexion gives the raw truths about being intersex and does not shy

away from the realities of the pain one can suffer is they are mistreated from

birth, as any person who suffered systematic abuse from their doctors and

family would. It calls for the acceptance of intersex people and offers hope to

those who feel victimized by society for being intersex.