For my second feature focused on the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, which concludes today, I will be reviewing No Box for Me: An Intersex Story. This film examines the limits of binary visions in connection to sex and gender. Floriane Devigne reflects on the way that intersex people re-appropriate their bodies and construct their identities outside of the societal idea that being intersex is something that must be treated or repaired. By doing this she questions social norms and the idea of male and female identities.
It is important to note that this film is entirely in French, but it does have English subtitles. The story examines primarily intersex people who live in European countries and their experiences may differ from those in other areas of the world. The film focuses on information being collected for a dissertation regarding intersex people and their experiences. Deborah, the person creating the dissertation, has been contacted by other intersex people and one of these people is known only as M. While they are willing to discuss how they were told about the surgery that was undertaken as a child, they did not learn that they were intersex until much later in life. M is shown not as a person exactly, but rather a white humanoid shape. We do not get to see who M is, which also draws into the idea of identity. You cannot tell how they present or whether they exhibit more masculine or feminine characteristics, which ultimately reveals how unimportant this is to understanding a person. Deborah is in Switzerland and notes that things are changing and work is being done to ensure that intersex children are not operated on at such an early age. M is from France and based on the discussions between the two people it appears as though France is far less advanced in views pertaining to intersex people.
The film allows people who fall throughout the intersex spectrum to discuss how their identity has impacted them. One woman says that she went through early surgeries with no issues and initially believed that everyone who was intersex had no issues. She felt comfortable as a woman and had no issues with her doctors, but over time she realized that there were others who did not feel the same way. Deborah was assigned female by doctors, but later learned that this was done even though XY chromosomes were present, this led to a struggle concerning the idea of being assigned male instead of female at birth. Deborah feels comfortable in an identity that falls outside of standard male and female stereotypes. There is also a discussion with a man who is intersex and is XXY. He discusses how testosterone helped him to become more stable and while this led him to experience a very late puberty, he feels stable in his identity. No Box for Me showcases a group of people who are often entirely misunderstood and who find themselves outside of the gender binary, but in many ways forced to fit into a box that may not actually properly fit them. I found the film exceptionally informative and I really enjoyed the conversational tone used to discuss the topic of intersex and intersex people.