Documentary filmmaker, Phoebe Hart, comes clean on her journey of self-discovery to embrace her future and reconcile the past shame and family secrecy surrounding her intersex condition. Despite her mother's outright refusal to be in the film, Phoebe decides she must push on with her quest to resolve her life story and connect with other intersex people on camera. With the help of her sister Bonnie and support from her husband James, she hits the open road.... Written by
I took a punt watching this docu on the ABC, over a week ago, on a Sunday. Thought it might have been prurient but it wasn't and the sympathetic subject (Phoebe Hart) makes for an engaging host. It's my guess that this docu is her PhD project. The docu has a narrative arc, of sorts...Phoebe's journey to connect with others that share her condition and her desire for her parents to participate in her documentary...which proves a challenge for her. She has less trouble getting others with her condition to appear on camera.
Anyway, her condition is that she is, in fact, male. There's a medical name for her condition...hmm...don't see a note on that...something to do with the body being allergic to male hormones or something, which makes the person look female (to a lesser or greater extent) even though they are actually male...oh, found it "A.I.S"...Googled that acronym...it means "Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome".
I must say, that Phoebe makes for a great looking woman! Phoebe has a boyfriend (then husband) in the documentary. This fact brings up some interesting philosophical questions...James Davidson, her husband, actually had to grapple with some of them...as in does loving Phoebe make him gay? Not raised but which came to mind is the fact that Phoebe was able to get married...how is that possible? It is perhaps an odd state of affairs where homosexuals cannot marry each other but intersex people can marry, it seems. Is that fair? Logical? On first thinking about this issue I thought that maybe the issue had to do with "choice" as in perhaps gays are seen as "choosing" their lifestyle and that "choice" isn't sanctioned by society. However, a simpler explanation has come to mind, on reflection...paperwork. Chloe would, no doubt, have "female" listed as her gender on her birth certificate...thus, marriage in her case was possible and wasn't made into an issue of biology, but rather bureaucracy. It would be interesting to know if someone with Chloe's condition, if identified at birth, would have had a change to their listed gender on their birth certificate. Is there a third option for gender? "Other"?
Other issues which go to the ethics of this situation...
* Phoebe and her sister Bonnie (who shares Phoebe's condition) had surgical intervention in their early teens to make them look more female. You have to wonder about that...the medical profession perhaps unnecessarily promoting surgery? Did the girls have a choice? Why not give them time to make an informed choice...when they're older, perhaps?
* Perhaps it would be ethical to abort unborn babies with this condition? One of the Hart sisters does say that they would be happy to keep a child of theirs with this condition (that may be Sophie, I think, who is biologically female but a carrier of the gene which creates this condition...like their mother).
* One feels that their should be some sort of etiquette about informing sexual partners about one's condition before sexual intercourse...I think it was Phoebe who mentioned not always doing that. You can certainly feel for them about being reluctant to do so, yet there is the flipside of the poor form in not doing so. For some reason Phoebe seems an excellent role model...she seems very well adjusted (or just finely tuned? Sorry...I have no idea what that distinction means...it's a line from a Do Re Mi song!). You could imagine someone being a berk if they hadn't of been told by Phoebe of their condition...pity all people can't be so well adjusted as Phoebe...apart from a lack of honesty at times.
Both Phoebe and Bonnie, I think, mention being treated like freaks by the medical profession...like slabs of meat. I can relate to that...but gosh, not in the same class like those two...I just had to get some medical exam (nothing major, I don't think) and I felt that the person performing the task was treating me like a piece of meat too, which I resented...maybe it wasn't personal Phoebe and Bonnie? Perhaps it's just the kind of character trait which is overrepresented in medicine? Even though this is a documentary, the scene with Phoebe and Bonnie in a tent did seem contrived. Bonnie's a performance artist of some sort and actually has some very weirdly titled songs in the end credits!
If I can be allowed to interpret here, a photo of Phoebe's father (perhaps with his family at a young age) seemed to convey that he had the weight of the world on him...just looking at his eyes.
To close, you can view teenage years as being a universal experience of everyone feeling like a freak. Some people actually have real, profound issues to deal with, like Phoebe and Bonnie. Phoebe does come across as a great role model for people with A.I.S. She has come out of her traumatic teenage years stronger and committed to living life to the full. Once again, it's just the way that she seems so extraordinarily well adjusted which makes a positive impression on you...and it doesn't hurt that she is so good looking. This film is yet another testament to the power of story telling to make you feel sympathy/empathy for a human being who is different to you...and it's a power which is also used by some to create or feed hate for others who are different to you.
I did notice that Phoebe wrote the plot summary for this IMDb entry. It would be nice to think that coming out in this way has been a positive experience for her and that it's not only people with A.I.S. who find her worth knowing...there should be courses in being nice and well adjusted.
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