The latest documentary by award-winning filmmaker Antony Thomas (HBO’s Celibacy), Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She sensitively explores the controversial subject of the blurring of gender as well as the serious social and family problems – even dangers – often faced by those whose gender may fall somewhere in between male and female. Narrated by noted author Gore Vidal and filmed in the United States, Europe, Asia, and South America, Middle Sexes examines the ways different societies and cultures handle the blurring of gender, sexual identity and sexual orientation. Through interviews with transgender, intersexual and bisexual men and women, as well as experts from the scientific and academic communities, the film considers the entire spectrum of sexual behavior, personal identity and lifestyles among people of different backgrounds and cultures. From this, a theme of tolerance and appreciation of diversity emerges in the film.
** Along with thought-provoking personal experiences of transsexuals, intersexuals, transvestites and their partners and families, Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She interviews scientists, anthropologists and psychologists who offer ground-breaking research on the biological and cultural influences on gender identity and sexuality.
** Researchers cite examples from the natural world, where species display a wide range of sexual variation, and point out that humans show more diversity than the strict male-female dichotomy. About one in every 100 people is born with anatomically ambiguous genitalia; these individuals, formerly called hermaphroditic, are now known as “intersex.”
** Other research reveals biological explanations for differences in sexual identity. At the Dutch Institute for Brain Research, Prof. Louis Gooren found that tiny clusters of nerve cells in the brain structure of male-to-female transsexuals were more like a female structure; likewise, in female-to-male transsexuals, they were more like a male structure. This, he says, “explains that the brains of transsexuals have not developed in agreement with their genitalia.”
** The filmmaker interweaves these findings with the personal stories of individuals and their partners and families. In the film we meet: (from the U.S.) 8-year-old Noah, who gets teased for acting like a girl; Calpernia, a transgender woman whose boyfriend was killed when her true identity was revealed; and Max, an intersex male who was raised female for most of his life; (from India) Veejay, secretly married to a male partner while maintaining a “normal” heterosexual marriage; and Nandini, who undergoes a sex change operation as part of an ancient religious ritual; (from Thailand) Go, who, though born male, is a successful actress and model, and Kui, a transsexual who met her western boyfriend on the internet; and (from Suriname) Elli, who lives in a culture where sexual orientation is seen as fluid and has had a non-stigmatized 20-year relationship with her female partner.
** Among the noted experts featured: Dr. James Pfaus, Concordia University, Montreal; Prof. Alice Dreger, Michigan State University; Prof. Louis Gooren, Free University Hospital, Amsterdam; Dr. Joan Roughgarden, Stanford University; Prof. Anne Fausto-Sterling, Brown University; Prof. A.W. Richard Sipe; Prof. Milton Diamond, University of Hawaii; Shivananda Khan, OBE, Naz Foundation International; Prof. Sam Winter, University of Hong Kong; Dr. Gloria Wekker, University of Utrecht; and Dr. Lester Wright, Western Michigan University.
** A co-production of HBO and Granada Television, Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She was written, directed and produced by Antony Thomas, whose credits include six other AU documentaries for HBO: 2004’s Celibacy, 2001’s A Question of Miracles, 1997’s Body Doubles: The Twin Experience, 1996’s To Love or Kill: Man vs. Animal, 1993’s By Satan Possessed: The Search for the Devil and 1992’s Never Say Die: The Pursuit of Eternal Youth