I first watched the film XXY in my Sexual Politics class my freshman year. I was still discovering all of the complexities that the Gender Studies field had to offer and then I was faced with the topic of intersex conditions. This was all new to me and never before this had I discussed such a topic of which I felt I couldn’t relate whatsoever. After watching the film XXY, I was taken back. Not only for it’s brillant cinematography in general, but because of how the film outlined the fragile yet powerful disposition of a young girl named Alex, a 15 year old suffering from an intersex condition in Uruguay. The film focuses on Alex’s struggle to deal with discrimination from both her community and family concerning her gender identity, while she internally struggles with her own sexuality.

The film really made me start to realize something I must have always believed in, yet didn’t really know how to say until I entered the field of Gender Studies. It made me realize that not everything is so cookie-cutter in our society, despite what we as a culture have all been socialized to think. There are concepts that go beyond binaries. After watching this film, I remember my teacher asking our entire 80 person lecture hall how many of us have been genetically tested to confirm whether or not we are the sex we identify as. Not a single person raised their hand. This posed a very interesting range of thoughts running through my mind. How do I really know if I am a female? Was this chosen for me? How is sex determined?… to name a few.

Vernon A. Rosario’s “Quantum Sex: Intersex and The Molecular Deconstruction of Sex” argues “for an analytics of gender and sexuality that takes the social and the biological seriously by acknowledging the complexity and depth of both influences” (268). In XXY, Alex’s parents left the decision to her in terms of what gender she wishes to identify with. Because of this, Alex has both sexual organs but is still raised as a girl. Alex’s community has a lot to do with how her and her family cope with her intersex condition. They live in an isolated fishing village in which they rarely interact with others in the community. Imagining a life without a definitive gender is one unfathomable to those who aren’t living it themselves, making constant judging and scrutiny from one’s community to be a sad reminder of the societal pressure and constructions that those with intersex conditions face. To complicate things further, Alex grows very close to another 15 year old boy named Alvaro, the son of the doctor who is supposed to perform surgery on Alex’s genitals. The relationship between the two is fascinatingly innocent, while it also possesses intense sexual tension. Alex and Alvaro eventually have intercourse, where Alex has anal sex with Alvaro in a very passionate scene. I knew that this would completely change how Alex felt about herself, how she felt about Alvaro, and how Alvaro viewed his own sexuality in relation to Alex. Both Alex and Alvaro complicate all common sense notions of what it is to be male/female and the sexualities that are associated with each, proving that there are a range of identities within sexuality.

I think because this film felt so foreign to me, it really allowed me to let my guard down and explore concepts that have only recently been discussed. Thanks to the work of such writers like Rosario, Chase, Butler, and Fausto-Sterling to name a few, our culture slowly comes closer to a more open understanding of concepts that are not as abnormal as we may think. With this comes tolerance and acceptance, two things our culture desperately really needs in relation to the range of concepts associated with sex, gender, and sexuality within our culture.

– Sophie Reynolds