Documentary Combats Secrecy And Shame Around Intersex Conditions

To challenge the culture of silence she felt surrounded intersex conditions, Phoebe Hart decided to make a film about her own diagnosis of androgen insensitivity disorder. Along the way, she met others who had suffered because their bodies didn’t fit society’s expectations of gender.

Phoebe Hart with her sister Bonnie, who also has androgen insensitivity disorder and appears in the film.

Hart was diagnosed with androgen insensitivity syndrome — in which the body is chromosomally male but doesn’t respond to testosterone, so it develops as female — as a child, but didn’t find out about it until she was a teenager. She later found out her sister Bonnie also has the condition. In Orchids: My Intersex Adventure, which premieres this Wednesday on Showtime, Hart says wishes she knew about her AIS as a child so that she could have understood her body. Instead, she feels her parents and doctors kept her in the dark, which left her feeling isolated and ashamed. In the film, she visits other people with intersex conditions, some of whom have faced discrimination. Below, her high school photography teacher, Chris, reveals how his own intersex condition — as a teenager, he began to develop breasts — lead to merciless teasing and ultimately a surgery he didn’t want.

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