Sunday, November 20, 2011

Documentary - Me, My Sex and I (on Intersexuality)

I found this at Top Documentary Films - it's a sensitive look at the experience and challenges of those born as intersex, not biologically male or female. Here is a useful definition of intersexuality from Wikipedia, along with the distinction between intersexuality and androgyny:
Intersex, in humans and other animals, is the presence of intermediate or atypical combinations of physical features that usually distinguish female from male. This is usually understood to be congenital, involving chromosomal, morphologic, genital and/or gonadal anomalies, such as diversion from typical XX-female or XY-male presentations, e.g., sex reversal (XY-female, XX-male), genital ambiguity, or sex developmental differences. An intersex individual may have biological characteristics of both the male and the female sexes.[1] Intersexuality as a term was adopted by medicine during the 20th century, and applied to human beings whose biological sex cannot be classified as clearly male or female.[2][3][4] Intersex was initially adopted by intersex activists who criticize traditional medical approaches to sex assignment and seek to be heard in the construction of new approaches.[5][6]

Some people (whether physically intersex or not) do not identify themselves as either exclusively female or exclusively male. Androgyny is sometimes used to refer to those without gender-specific physical sexual characteristics or sexual preferences or gender identity, or some combination of these; such people can be physically and psychologically anywhere between the two sexes.[7] This state may or may not include a mixture or absence of sexual preferences.[8][9]

When doctors encountered intersex children in the 1950s and 1960s (and even today) a sex was assigned to the child and the necessary surgeries were performed. Because it is generally easier to "make" female anatomy, that has tended to be the choice of parents and doctors.

A similar case, that of David Reimer, who was the patient of the infamous Dr. John Money, helped to change the way intersex was handled by doctors. David was born male, but was re-assigned as female when his penis was destroyed in a bad circumcision. Under the care of Dr. Money, who had done extensive work with intersex patients, he was raised as "Brenda," but he never really identified as female, so when puberty hit all hell broke loose for him. After returning to life as a male, he eventually married; but he later took his own life after suffering severe depression, financial challenges, and troubles in his marriage.

Dr. Money, who had worked with intersex patients, had developed a theory of gender identity that relied almost entirely on the social construction of gender.

According to Wikipedia,
The proposed revisions for DSM-5 include a change from using Gender Identity Disorder to Gender Dysphoria. This revised code now specifically includes intersex people as people with Disorders of Sex Development.[53] This move has been criticised by one intersex advocacy group in Australia,[54] and criticism from the intersex community has been lodged with the appropriate DSM5 subcommittee.[55]
Many people involved with intersex rights would prefer that their lives not be pathologized and that their lives be recognized as a third sex.

Sociological studies have challenged the idea that gender is socially constructed and that sex roles are exclusively binary.
The first sociologist to work on 'intersexuality' was Harold Garfinkel in 1967 using a method derived from sociological phenomenology he called ethnomethodology. He based his analysis on the everyday commonsense understandings of 'Agnes', a woman undergoing social and surgical gender reassignment.[31] Ethnomethodology was also used in 1978 by Kessler and McKenna, who argue that, while gender can be seen as a social accomplishment, cross-cultural studies render gender as problematic as they highlight how it is usually regarded as a fact, when it can be shown to be constructed in different ways. They point to different cultural approaches to gender roles, and how 'hermaphrodites' and 'berdaches' are incorporated socially, as disruptive to fixed ideas about sex, gender, and gender-roles. They argue that what we 'know' about gender is grounded in the 'everyday social construction of a world of two genders', where gender attribution seems more important than gender differentiation.[32]
With that background, here is the documentary.

Me, My Sex and I

Me, My Sex and IWhat is the truth about the sexes? It is a deeply-held assumption that every person is either male or female; but many people are now questioning whether this belief is correct.

This compelling and sensitive documentary unlocks the stories of people born neither entirely male nor female. Conditions like these have been known as intersex and shrouded in unnecessary shame and secrecy for decades.

It’s estimated that DSDs (Disorders of Sexual Development) are, in fact, as common as twins or red hair – nearly one in 50 of us.

The programme features powerful insights from people living with these conditions, and the medical teams at the forefront of the field, including clinical psychologist Tiger Devore, whose own sex when born was ambiguous.
Watch the full documentary now (playlist – 50 minutes)

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