Gender and Sexuality Alliance raises intersex awareness

MCCC students watch "Orchids" in the La-Z-Boy Center.

It’s tempting to slot people into a male-female binary, but it’s not always accurate.

Intersex people are not often spoken about; and when they are, it’s often in less-than-glowing terms or they’re confused with transgender people. There are over 70 varieties of intersex between the fully male and fully female sides of the spectrum. The subject of the movie “Orchids”, Phoebe Hart, is only one of them.

“Orchids” is a documentary by Hart and her sister Bonnie, both of whom were born with Androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) and are, genetically-speaking, male. However, their bodies reject androgen, resulting in them developing as female. In the film, they document a journey of self-discovery, meeting other intersex people throughout Australia.

The film was exhibited in the Z Building atrium, to a crowd of around 30, by MCCC’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA). Popcorn was served for those who donated any amount of money. Advising the club and leading the post-film discussion was MCCC psychology professor Melissa Grey.

Psychology professor Melissa Grey discusses issues raised by the film.

“I thought it went really well,” she said. “Everybody seemed interested.”

Grey was pleased by the turnout.

“It’s encouraging to see so many people see somebody impacted like this in such a thought-provoking way,” she said, “and that they’re interested in someone like Phoebe, who’s telling us a story that we don’t always get to hear.”

The students that attended the film seemed to enjoy it. Most cleared out quickly, but around half remained for the ensuing discussion, which focused on several issues raised by the film.

“Taking away from it… I thought more about how society is so structured on two genders and having only the two genders,” said student Kathryne Robert. “I would hope that other people aside from the LGBTQIA community will view this film and know this film. So that they could learn from it and see that intersex people are just as human as we are.”

GSA members serve popcorn to anyone who donated money. 

Declan Landis, a member of the GSA, thought the film was very interesting.

“It’s interesting to learn about and know more about,” she said.

“What I took away from the film was that it was a journey of self-discovery of an intersex person and an exploration of some of the problems that come along with not normalizing intersex conditions,” said student Andy Adkins, who had contributed to the post-film discussion.

“I am transgender,” he said, “and I feel that there are some shared experiences in regards to being stuffed into gender roles or having things done to you medically that you don’t consent to. There’s some overlap there.”

The overall reception to the film was positive, and it may be worth the GSA’s while to show more films like this. There appears to be an audience.