Every Body

For anyone wondering what the ‘IA’ recently added to the LGBTQIA acronym means, along comes director Julie Cohen ("RBG," "Gabby Giffords Won't Back Down") and her three fearless subjects to clue you in about the ‘I’ part of the equation in “Every Body.”

Laura's Review: B

That ‘I’ stands for ‘intersex,’ the definition of someone who is born with one of upwards of forty combinations of several sex characteristics that fall outside the more typical male and female definitions.  In the past, intersex people were referred to as hermaphrodites, a misleading term implying the presence of both male and female genitals, a condition which, according to this documentary, doesn’t actually exist.  But more intersex people exist than one would imagine as they comprise 0.7% of the U.S. population, or 230,000 Americans.  They are well represented here by Sean Saifa Wall, Alicia Roth Weigel and River Gallo.

Cohen sheds light on the horrific history enabled by prominent sexologist Dr. John Money, shown here being interviewed by the likes of (a young) Oprah Winfrey and Dick Cavett.  He believed in assigning a ‘predominant’ sex at birth and ‘correcting’ intersex people with surgery.  This was, of course, done without the child’s consent and, incredibly, often even the parents.  Before the documentary even points it out, conservative hypocrisy on this subject is obvious as they promote nonconsensual surgery on children to conform to their own rigid standards, but condemn it for those making their own choice (and, to be clear, no one promotes transsexual surgery on underage minors, a fallacy spread by the right).  Money’s most famous case was David Reimers, one of twin boys whose penis was burned off as a young child due to medical malpractice.  Money’s solution was to have him brought up as Brenda, a ‘solution’ which failed miserably, causing the young boy a life of misery.  (Although he went on to have reconstructive surgery and married, he committed suicide in 2004.)

All three of Cohen’s subjects suffered because of this legacy, but the documentary finds them all in a good place now.  Alicia is a political consultant who went on to ‘out’ herself with testimony to the Texas senate over their bathroom bill that her very existence (she was born with the male xy chromosome and internal testes, which were removed) proves there is no pure male and female.  (More amusing is her reverie about what all the conservative male politicians who hit on her over the years would make of this information.  More horrifying is that she was told at the age of 11 or 12 by a doctor to use a dildo on herself to ensure she could have penetrative sex with a man and not to tell her parents.)  Sean Saifa Wall’s parents were told he was a girl to ‘protect’ them (he was also born with internal testes) with ‘corrective’ surgery justified with a lie about cancer, his abnormally small penis referred to as a clitoris.  He speaks of being put on display in the nude for medical interns, a common dehumanizing and humiliating experience for intersex people.  River grew up thinking they were a ‘normal’ boy until a doctor told them at the age of twelve they were born without testes.  Their clitoris was removed – the very female genital mutilation thought barbaric when performed in other countries is being performed in the good old U.S. of A.

“Every Body” begins to get a little repetitive in its home stretch, but it is an informative and compassionate piece of work that sheds light on information too many people are misinformed about.  Sean Saifa, Alicia and River all believe their experiences should also broaden people’s minds about their brethren, the transsexual community.

Robin's Review: B

Focus Features releases “Every Body” in theaters on 6/30/23.