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ALL BOOKED UP
with words 10
Voyage of discovery
Life's secrets: Mani Mitchell's eyes were opened when she discovered her old Plunket book.
Photo: AMY JACKMAN
By AMY JACKMAN
Documentary follows quest
to understand her past
Twenty years ago Mani Mitchell unlocked a family
secret about her gender. Now she is the face of a
documentary about what it means to be an intersex
The winner of best feature documentary at the
Documentary Edge Festival 2012, Intersexion is
about what happens when doctors cannot answer
the question: is it a boy or a girl?
Director Grant Lahood follows Mitchell as she
travels to meet other intersex people in the United
States, Ireland, Germany, South Africa and
Mitchell said being a part of the documentary was
I feel so proud and humbled by what we have
done. Proud of the documentary and that this is
the first time there has been a film where
intersex people speak for themselves,'' she said.
Mitchell said her favourite part of being in
the documentary was meeting the different
The gorgeous thing in the film is people
have very different identities and
realities. Some people identify as
intersex, some are male, female, some
identify as heterosexual, some are
same sex attracted.
I knew that would be the case.
But what really surprised me was
people's sense of joy and positivity
about the future.''
Mitchell found out she was an
intersex person 20 years ago, after her
About a year after my mother died, I was
going through my Plunket book and it's
very strange because there are parts of it
cut out,'' she said.
Mum had gone through and thought she
had cut out all the parts about me being
intersex. But there were parts she missed.
In the front my name was written on a
piece of cardboard that's sellotaped into the
book...andwhen I opened it, it fell off.
Underneath is Bruce Mitchell', so I was
originally assigned as a male child.
There are two other entries. At around
four months it says, Nice wee lad', and just
before my first birthday it says, Seen by
doctor, sex determined as female'.
When I read that, because I had grown
up on a farm, I couldn't understand how
anyone could make a mistake. I had seen,
mostly, animal genitals and I knew you
could tell when it was a boy and when it
was a girl.''
Mitchell said her journey to discover who
she was began there.
It has taken a long time and it was hard
but I have been incredibly lucky. I have met
some very special people...andthen
meeting other intersex people has been
huge for me.
One of the workshops that had the
biggest impact talked about authenticity,
that our task in life was to be an authentic
person, and that really resonated with me.
I went home and my dad had taken a lot
of photos of me as a kid and I'm looking at
these photos and there's this kid who liked
dressing up and playing with dolls, and
there's this other kid who loves going out on
the farm with her father, and knew about
engines and how to take them to bits.
I'm thinking that's not two different
people, that's me. I'm not fully female and
I'm not fully male. I'm a mixture of both
and that's who I am.''
One baby in 2000 is born with genitalia
so ambiguous it is impossible to tell if the
child is male or female. Birth certificates
are sometimes marked I for indeterminate.
The medical term today is disorders of
sex development, DSD.
Mitchell said it was a term she hated.
My difficulty is that in medicine when
you have something that is disordered you
have to fix it. That has been one of the
Instead of going, This child is different.
We don't really know or understand it but
we will support you as a parent and when
the child grows up we will be able to do
what is best for that child.'''
Intersexion premieres at Reading Cinemas,
Courtenay Central, on May 18.
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