Thursday, December 15, 2011

XXY review

XXY is an Argentine film about an intersex pre-teen and zir struggle with coming to terms with zir sexuality. Ze is addressed as “she” in the film, because ze has been living as a girl named Alex. Alex’s mother invites friends from Argentina, where the family used to live, to their home in Uruguay. One of the family friends is a surgeon with whom Alex’s mother wants to discuss the possibilities of a sex operation. Alex is also taking hormonal medicine. Throughout the course of the film Alex realizes that ze does not want to undergo any of these socially-imposed procedures. Alex has penetrative sex with the family friends’ son, Álvaro, and they later express their desire for each other but Álvaro’s parents reject. Later on, a throng of teenagers force Alex to take off zir pants and reveal zir genitals.
The story of Alex – while it straddles between zir parents’ hope for normalcy and Alex’s need for choice – asks ultimately if this disheartening decision needs to be made in the first place. Parents are often forced to make a decision about the sex of their child when they give birth to intersex babies. However, the basis for sex cannot be solely determined by biology, and this is what XXY questions the entire time. Alex’s life is from the very beginning labeled by all these medical and biological demands, but the film enters zir life narrative when ze rejects this approach and makes a choice for zir identity. Alex makes a decision about zir life that is often not a part of an intersex person’s life until much later. Intersex people are thought to be incomplete from birth, their parents are forced into a life of secrecy and exile like Alex’s parents so that they can live in some kind of in-between state until the crucial box of “girl” or “boy” is checked off. XXY shows through Alex’s life story that it does not have to be a life like this. Alex’s father in particular is extremely supportive of his child’s decisions, and that is the most important of all sentiments that Alex needs. Zir sexuality is still ambiguous towards the end, but this is not what matters, the film seems to say.
XXY is not like the other films. The film is one of the very first to feature an intersex person in a Latin American film, and consider the themes in a truly mature way. The issues of sex, sexuality and gender expression are not even considered in opposition to wider issues of revolutionary politics. They are dealt with very individually, and within the confines of the nuclear family. Is this the direction in which queer movies are headed in the Latin America? Is this the only way that LGBT politics can be expressed in the public sphere – through a look into the personal lives of the people on the screen?

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