Reviews for: Me, My Sex and I, BBC One, 11 October

From metro (London paper):

When a friend has a baby, what’s the first question you ask? ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ has to be pretty near the top of the list. It seems a straightforward question but how would you deal with the answer: ‘We don’t really know yet’?

Except that only the bravest parents will be able to say: ‘We don’t really know yet’ when confronted with the news their baby has been born with ambiguous genitalia and is clinically defined as ‘intersex’.

It’s a situation still shrouded in stigma, a point underlined by Me, My Sex & I (BBC1), which could only approach the subject from the perspective of hindsight, concentrating on brave individuals who had met the problem head on and come out the other side.

There were contributions from those still dealing with it but here the screen was blurred for fear of how society would judge them. It’s estimated that around one in 50 of us are affected by disorders of sexual development, or DSDs. However, we live in a world that clings to certainties and feels threatened by ambiguity. It’s boy or girl with little room for in-betweens.

At least that’s the attitude that has led many parents to inflict gender choices on babies. For the fabulously named Dr Tiger Devore, who had 20 surgical procedures while young because of his indeterminate sexual status, it’s defined his life: he’s now a sex therapist who has undergone the same pain. What he wants is a world where sex and gender is not so cut and dried, where the choices are left open.

Just as the people it featured had found themselves caught in a curious kind of sexual limbo, so Me, My Sex & I found itself hovering between the hard science and the human emotions of its subjects. For every harrowing tale of childhood confusion there was a slice of diagnosis or medical information to back it up and, at times, it made for an uneasy balancing act.

But this was a sensitive and intelligent attempt at opening up closed doors. The final word had to go to the admirable Janet, whose childhood had been haunted by the question ‘why am I different?’ As an adult she found her answer: ‘People don’t fall in love with genitals, they fall in love with your soul.’

From the Times:

Now I come to think about it, the doctor chosen by my school to break the facts of life told us that gender was sometimes hard to distinguish at birth. To avoid trouble, he would ask the midwife how “she’s doing”, so if the clinicians had made the call that the child was, after all, a boy, they could reply “mum’s fine”. Flash forward 40 years to the sensitive yet revelatory documentary Me, My Sex and I, and it turns out he was not joking. Disorders of sexual development are as common as twins or red hair.

Their prevalence makes our unwillingness to discuss it all the more unfortunate. In Britain nowadays people will appear on TV to talk about anything, but they won’t talk about “intersex” issues. So for much of the film we heard from Americans, where discretion really is dead. Janet told us that her grandfather, when informed of his grandchild’s indeterminate sex, suggested that it might be best if she were allowed to die; she is now a mother and, after much unhappiness, has come to the conclusion: “People don’t fall in love with your genitals, they fall in love with your soul.”

A wonderfully named sex therapist, Dr Tiger Devore, whose gym-stretched muscles indicate his sex with a clarity that his genitals, perhaps, after 20 surgeries, cannot, circles the whole of the “M or F” boxes on forms, making him a “morf”.

The British on the documentary were generally more understanding of the tough decisions made by clinicians forced to determine sex (there are six tests, from chromosomes to the appearance of the genitals). But we did not get to see them. One mother was played by an actress and the film’s most moving moment came from a blurred female figure who said she wished she “could refocus that camera and say ‘hello’”. Born with XY chromosomes and therefore legally precluded from marrying, she is lobbying for a change in the law. Kudos then, to Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, aka Wilf Stevenson, who not only said that he would help her but revealed, on camera, that he suffered from a mild form of hypospadias himself.