Hart bears her soul

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - TIM MARTAIN ORCHIDS: MY IN­TER­SEX AD­VEN­TURE, ABC1, tonight, 10 o’clock

QUEENS­LAND film­maker Phoebe Hart had a much more trau­matic time dur­ing pu­berty than most other girls.

Although out­wardly phys­i­cally fe­male, Hart ( pic­tured) is genetically male and was born with un­de­scended testes.

She has a con­di­tion called An­dro­gen In­sen­si­tiv­ity Syn­drome which means her body does not respond to testos­terone. De­spite the pres­ence of male go­nads in her ab­domen, her body de­vel­oped as fe­male and her par­ents hid the truth from her. But when she was a teenager and re­alised she never men­stru­ated, she knew some­thing was amiss. At 17, her par­ents fi­nally told her the truth.

She un­der­went an orchidectomy – an op­er­a­tion to re­move her testes – and a crip­pling iden­tity cri­sis fol­lowed.

She has shared her ex­pe­ri­ences in a heart­felt doc­u­men­tary called Orchids: My In­ter­sex Ad­ven­ture, which screens tonight on ABC1.

‘‘ I was poked and prod­ded and pho­tographed like a med­i­cal odd­ity. There wasn’t any­body to talk to me. I was just ex­pected to get on with it,’’ Hart said.

‘‘ That in­ter­ven­tion can leave you not sure who you are any more, I was re­ally con­fused: should I like boys or girls?’’

These days Hart de­scribes her­self as ‘‘ a woman with male chro­mo­somes’’ or sim­ply ‘‘ in­ter­sex’’.

She made her film be­cause she wanted to help other in­ter­sex peo­ple feel less alien­ated as well as try to dis­pel per­cep­tions that gen­der is strictly bi­nary: male or fe­male.

‘‘ It’s amaz­ing how many vari­a­tions can be pro­duced by a hu­man body, just one gene mu­tat­ing or hor­mones be­ing re­leased dur­ing preg­nancy and it can re­sult in some­thing that doesn’t fit ei­ther male or fe­male def­i­ni­tions,’’ she said.

Orchids also fo­cuses on Hart’s mother’s re­luc­tance to face the re­al­i­ties of her daugh­ter’s con­di­tion and how the de­ci­sions made on her be­half af­fected her.

When the film pre­miered at the Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in 2010, there were many peo­ple in the au­di­ence with in­ter­sex con­di­tions.

Hart said the way they showed their ap­pre­ci­a­tion was sur­pris­ing.

‘‘ Peo­ple said they were happy some­one had dared to tell a story that had sim­i­lar­i­ties to theirs, that they had been ac­knowl­edged and some­one was speak­ing for them,’’ Hart said.

‘‘ But when it was over, they didn’t come to me. They mobbed mum, they hugged her and said they loved her.

‘‘ So I think it helped mum re­alise what this film could do as well. There were ques­tions in that in­ter­view I’ve never asked her openly and she thought she would be judged on her par­ent­ing and the de­ci­sions she made, but I just wanted an­swers.’’

Hart said mak­ing the film had changed her life for the bet­ter, too.

‘‘ I have a friend who said to me, ‘ Phoebe, I’ve known you and liked you for a long time but there was only so much you let me get to know, like there was a wall there, some­thing I couldn’t get past, and now it seems to be gone’.

‘‘ I’m more open and happy to chat about things than I was be­fore. It’s helped me to be more happy with my­self and happy to share my­self with oth­ers, and now I have a film I can show oth­ers with­out hav­ing to ex­plain my­self.’’

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