Director: Julie Cohen
As conversations continue across the world about the rights of the composite parts of LGBT+, this documentary delves into the ‘+’ that, when disseminated, covers intersex people. Although the term is well-known, the secrecy surrounding it tends to mean that there is no real human face that can be put with it. Every Body intends to change that, proudly presenting the testimonials of three self-assured and confidently intersex people.
We meet Saifa, Alicia and River, all of whom were subjected to questionable – and sometimes downright abusive – medical treatments during their childhoods without their consent. Each of these were to “normalise” them, based on the theories of renowned sexologist Dr Money that have since been discredited. He believed that a child can naturally assume the traits of an assigned gender, as long as this is begun in the first two years of their life. Subsequently, treatments have attempted to correct anatomical “non-comformity” from a very young age.
These three figures each have their own story to tell, explaining how their true identities were hidden from them, with mysterious surgical procedures and unexplained medication. Today, they are toughened activists, but their past pain is clear and their stories deeply moving.
The documentary’s most interesting chapter explores Dr Money’s famed treatment of a man called David Reimer, which set the tone for treatment of intersex people for decades.
Following a botched circumcision in infancy, the doctor compelled the child’s mother to bring him up as a girl. Known as Brenda, the child grew as a rebellious tomboy and the disparity between his true identity and this enforced gender expression just grew and grew. Dr Money had published his supposed “cure” based on Reimer’s childhood, but when this was disproved he failed to publicise any rebuttal. Treatment based on his techniques subsequently continued, including all three of the subjects of this film.
The film makes much of the importance of visibility, ensuring that the public understands and can see real intersex people in the media. The latter part of the film, which depicts what these three figures are doing today, does sag somewhat and is unfortunately the weakest portion of the film. But it does succeed in creating three moving portraits of worthy ambassadors for their community.
UK Release: 15th December 2023 in cinemas, released by Dogwoof