Watch Hermaphrodites Speak! the first intersex documentary

“The problem is not with the [intersex] child, the problem is with the attitudes towards the child.” — Hida Viloria, 1996

“I know, from my experience of my very own body… the really wonderful sensitivity that I had before surgery, in terms of genital sensation, and the tremendous orgasms that I had before… so it’s very painful for me to conceptualize that what’s been taken is a very specific eroticism… It means that I do in fact have a less than reliable sexual response, but most importantly it means that that very special form of sexuality and arousal, with all of that that was uniquely hermaphroditic, was taken, and that’s the crime.” 
— Angela Moreno, early intersex American activist featured in Hermaphrodites Speak.

Hermaphrodites Speak is a, “A rethinking of sexuality, gender, body and sex as told through testimonies of intersexual interviewees who discuss how their “ambiguous” identity positions them in society.” It is the world’s first intersex documentary, filmed in August,1996, at the first known intersex American community gathering in Northern Californina, and features our own Hida Viloria, along with Angela Moreno (quoted above) and other retreat attendees who  discuss their lives, the medical treatment and parenting they received, and the impact of meeting their fellow community members.

As Viloria shares in the film, “I finally started feeling a sense of identity that I’d never felt before. What I’d felt  was an identity of isolation, mostly.” When asked what s/he felt isolated about, Viloria responds, “My hermaphroditic status!” with a laugh.

Today, twenty years later, “hermaphrodite” is no longer in vogue, but the term “intersex status” is often used when discussing anti-discrimination protections for intersex people. This is because in 2013, Australia added the term “intersex status” to their Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) [my emphasis] Bill 2013, making them second country in the world to attain legal protection from discrimination for intersex people (the first being South Africa in 2006, due to the work of the late great intersex activist Sally Gross, of Intersex South Africa, aka OII South Africa).

We appreciate this testament to the interconnectedness and continuity of human rights consciousness and discourse, and we are deeply grateful for and commend all those who paved the way before us, such as the brave individuals speaking candidly and eloquently in this early film, and all those working today to make the world a more loving, accepting place for intersex people. We also thank singer and songwriter Natalie Merchant for the use of her song, “Wonder”, for the closing credits, which features lyrics that seem as though they could have been written about the birth of an intersex baby.