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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 Klinefelter’s 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 Money’s ‘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 baby’s 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 Money’s 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)?

what are the ways that society and the medical profession can better ‘deal’ with intersex individuals. 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. Answer the following questions: How many intersex conditions are listed? Seventeen conditions are listed. like infections and the need for subsequent surgeries. 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. parents can raise their child into a healthy adult who can make their own decisions about their genitals and gender. especially in performing surgery on intersex babies’ genitalia. 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. What are the ISNA’s recommendations for nonsurgical sex assignment at birth? How would parents decide? The ISNA’s 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. Many were depressed and at times suicidal. According to the individuals featured in the and click “FAQ”. 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. and were traumatized by the procedures and other medical treatment they were put through. 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.Many of the intersex individuals in the film dealt with severe medical problems in their childhoods as results of their genital surgeries.isna. The psychological side effects were also extremely damaging. Extra questions Go to the website www. had anxiety about and hatred towards their bodies. Some had difficulties in their romantic relationships because of their bodies.

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. According to the website.” Accord Alliance’s mission is to be a central hub for patients. This problem can be addressed by administering cortisone. and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female. The medical risks listed are Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) medical .accordalliance. Go to the website www. a hormone which helps the body respond to stress (like a cold. clinicians. families. support groups. but only if medical professionals know that the person has CAH. CAH is the only cause of intersex which may be life threatening. Gonadal tumors typically only occur if the Y chromosome is present. or severe trauma in a bad automobile accident.Describe the medical risks that may be associated with intersex. For this reason. who may be intersexed) have problems making their own cortisone. or a broken bone. 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. and researchers to keep information flowing between all parties to work together to support individuals with DSD so they can have better lives. “People with CAH (both XY individuals. healthcare administrators. some CAH people wear Medic Alert bracelets.” CAH can also lead to “salt wasting” which is when the body cannot control its salt levels. and Osteoporosis.” . 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. or undergoing surgery). and XX individuals. and may not occur at all so a gonadectomy should not be performed at birth because functioning gonads are greatly preferred to HRT. Gonadal tumors. secrecy. who are not intersexed.

interviews them all about their experiences with their families. the healthcare system. their childhoods. 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. The narrator. 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. 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 seemed very genuine and informative. I greatly appreciated this film.Reflection: Intersexion is a film that receives the stories from a group of intersex individuals from a variety of backgrounds. an intersex person from New Zealand. I don’t 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. 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. especially in contrast with those individuals who had not grown up with the same trauma. It truly was made by intersex people to tell their stories honestly and openly. and their adult lives.

everyone should be taught about the difference between sex and gender because that fundamental misunderstanding will only continue to isolate and polarize everyone. The healthcare system. schools. and society need to change to protect intersex individuals from the crimes of the past. especially when considering how common being intersex is. you are allowing them to make the same decisions every other person gets to make. When schools teach that someone can only have XX or XY chromosomes. or abnormal. 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. because they are equally as common and equally as false. Firstly. even if it does not conform to the binary. By allowing intersex people to make their own decisions about their bodies. doctors need to stop scaring and pressuring parents into “treatments” that are harmful to the wellbeing of intersex people throughout their entire lives. People are afraid of what they do not understand. they are teaching their students a lie. bad. Intersex is seen as being abnormal or bad by many people because of the importance culture places on the binary. Secondly. Gender is a social construct and everyone has the ability to know what their gender is. Also. and intersex individuals are at risk because of that fear in most of society. schools need to teach how common it is to be born intersex and that it is not good. Intersex kids are . It is like teaching children that you cannot be born with red hair.

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. 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. and not that of their parents.capable of knowing that they are intersex and should be able to decide how they want to live their lives. . It calls for the acceptance of intersex people and offers hope to those who feel victimized by society for being intersex.