The Third Sex
Sunday October 30 at 11 pm ET/PT on CBC News Network
Someone around you has a secret, a family secret. He or she was born with both male and female genitals. He's not handicapped nor is he mentally challenged. But he is faced with a continuing unresolved personal issue: should life go on this way?
The strain of not being able to share with others is unbearable, as the frustration of medical dead-ends leads to stress and the issue of being physically a man, but feeling like a woman (or vice versa) can become obsessive or even fatal.Patrick Verret, was born intersexed, was raised as a girl and is now living as a man.
The sexual identity of a person is usually the first question one asks about a newborn: "Is it a boy or a girl?" To most parents the answer is a simple one. But what about the parents of a child born with both female and male genitals? It's a reality no one dares to speak about, the so-called third sex. Most people are unaware that this situation exists, and institutions are not designed to recognize a sex outside male and female.
The majority of parents of intersexed children still choose surgery to avoid social stigmatism, but many intersexuals are critical of the choices made for them when they were infants. While Dr. Nihoul Fekete thinks parents should determine the sex of their child at birth and that surgery should be performed right away, Vincent Guillot (Paris), the founder of Organization Intersex International, calls the surgery he had as a child a "mutilation". He describes himself as neither male nor female.
The Third Sex explores the plight of several intersexuals and their families in Canada, France and Thailand. Arthur (Paris) and Patrick (Montreal) were both raised as girls, but in adulthood have decided, with the help of surgery, to live as men. Thai boxer Nong Tum is in the process of becoming a woman while continuing to practice her sport. And the mother of an Ontario boy born with an extra chromosome describes the dilemmas she faces as a parent. There is genuine concern that a child would face devastating public humiliation if their unusual secret is revealed.Patrick Verret as a man.
In Toronto, some families receive support from Barbara Neilson, a social worker who specializes in the care of intersexed children at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. She understands first-hand, not only the fear and shame of parents from every ethnic community, but also the reality of children face living with a DSD (disorder of sexual development).
But more and more, adult intersexuals want to speak out about their situation. Sometimes publically, but usually through the internet, they're sharing stories, asserting their unique gender identity, and are often denouncing the mutilation that many say they've suffered at the hands of modern medicine.
The world of sport has long been faced with controversy about the gender of some athletes. It became an issue at the Olympic Games in the 1930s when people openly questioned the actual gender of some women athletes. Dr. Patrick Schamasch, the International Olympic Commttee's Medical and Scientific Director, outlines the IOC's changing approach to gender verification since the 1960s. As they better understood the complexity and difficulty of gender verification they were forced to adopt new rules for competition.
The Third Sex was directed by Guilhem Rondot and produced by Mark Collings and Luc Sauvé ( PRB Media, Gatineau, Quebec) in association with CBC Newsworld and Radio-Canada.