We had the chance to interview Director Phoebe Hart.
Telegraph21: What inspired you to make Orchids: My Intersex Adventure?
Phoebe: When I was a teenager, I found out I have a rare congenital intersex condition or ‘disorder of sex development’ called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome or AIS for short. Basically, this means I have male chromosomes and gonads but, from the outside, I look typically female. When my mother told me about it, I’d already spent many angst-ridden years as a confused teen who knew something was wrong but had no context to understand what was or was not happening to me. After I found out the truth, I was told that it should be kept secret from now on because it was something “we don’t talk about”.
For many years I carried the shame, secrecy and stigma of feeling I was different to other women if not all of humanity. I felt like a freak. At times, I wondered if aliens had dropped me on the planet as some kind of weird experiment to see how I would survive amongst the ‘real’ humans. Eventually, I got to learn that, yes, I was a little different but I’m a human with many gifts and what I am is natural. After I began to meet others like me I realized I wasn’t alone, and that sometimes it takes courage to break the cycle of silence. So I decide to start making this film – very cautiously and with fear at first – but with a certain amount of pride too. Now, I am pleased to say the film has shown around the world and I hope it’s changed how people think about intersex.
Telegraph21: What do you want viewers to take away from the film?
Phoebe: I’d like viewers to take the message away from the film that while we are all different, we are all human. Therefore, there are things we all have a birthright too — safety, intimacy, love, respect, compassion, a sense of belonging and the truth.
Telegraph21: How did you first meet and connect with the individuals you feature in the film?
Phoebe: When I began to reach out to others, I wasn’t sure how to do it. In fact, I was almost certain it would be incredibly difficult to find others. However, it was really easy. I entered “Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome” into an Internet search engine and immediately I found groups and people to talk to. The people I meet in the film, I met them thanks to the Internet and the networks that’s helped to set up. But meeting everyone in person, well, that was truly amazing because you realize you have so much in common. It’s like meeting another member of your family.
Telegraph21: Has there been increased awareness about Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) since you made the film?
Phoebe: I think there has been an increasing awareness of intersex and conditions like Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. In part, that’s due to films like Orchids that are out in the world nowadays. But it’s also due to individuals and organizations who want to see change – change to law, change to medicine and change to our societal perceptions on gender and what’s ‘normal’.
Telegraph21: Has the film been screened in educational settings? If so, what has been the response?
Phoebe: The film has been screened at many universities and schools. Mostly, I’ve only been present for film festival screenings, but I do get many emails from teachers and students who’ve seen the documentary. Overall, the response has been extremely positive. My favorite responses are from young people who say that they feel validated and that they believe world is a better place to live after hearing my story.
Telegraph21: Your favorite thing about Australia?
Phoebe: Australia is a beautiful place to live. We are so fortunate – we have great climate, nature, food, a thriving arts and cultural scene…. Hey, it’s not perfect but I’ve traveled and lived around the world and it’s still my favorite place to be.