‘Every Body’ Review: An intersex activist documentary that questions, “Who is the expert?” 2023

Every Body, a new documentary, calls the previous year of American politics “hypocrisy,” citing the surge of anti-LGBTQ legislation, school censorship, and reproductive rights rollbacks.

The call-to-action film, released in June by Focus Features and NBC News Studios, urges pro-autonomy activists to prioritize the unspoken, voyeuristic, and abusive treatment of intersex people.

Every Body follows three vocal intersex advocates: producer, screenwriter, and actor River Gallo; writer and political strategist Alicia Roth Weigel; and PhD candidate, activist, and co-founder of the Intersex Justice Project Sean Saifa Wall.

Director Julie Cohen (known for the Oscar-nominated documentary RBG) and producers such intersex Shana Knizhnik lead their voices.

The film’s personal experiences, present situations, and historical teachings illustrate the intersex community’s complexity.

Medical and social abuse over decades

Roth Weigel’s narrative begins with her family’s concealment and its effect on her dating life, then transitions into her political boldness and lobbying against Texas politicians as a political ingénue.

Gallo balances the oppressions of immigrant families in their native state of New Jersey with their goal to generate revolutionary work as one of Hollywood’s few out intersex stars and the demands of being both activist and artist.

“As intersex people, we’re used to being objectified, to being a body and having doctors be spectators that look at our body—this experiment,” Gallo told Mashable. “It’s brilliant,” I said. Actors are watched. Being a playwright and filmmaker lets me reclaim that view.”

Wall confronts medical voyeurism, the 1990s emergence of intersex community activism, and the idea of a “Intersex Utopia” while sharing his personal suffering and self-discovery.

A fourth plot, about David Reimer, who was forced socialized as a girl after a medical error, appears and disappears. Reimer’s narrative is meant to warn against normalizing genital surgery and medically invasive operations on intersex youngsters.

Needle drops, montages of school images, yearbook scans, and covers of Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” transition these sequences.

Dr. John Money, a notorious “sexologist” and one of the film’s unstated adversaries, appears in historical video. “The result is not, by any means, as dire as one expects,” Money tells a captive audience after explaining genital procedures Roth Weigel labeled involuntary castration. The video also criticizes pediatric urologist Dr. Dix Poppas’ intersex treatments.

People gasped during an early New York City viewing. Sometimes they laughed aloud. They gasped again as black-and-white images reappeared.

Cohen says she does this purposely to represent some of the many intersex experiences that comprise a kaleidoscope of medical and social realities. The film balances suffering, introspection, and intersex pleasure, dancing, art, and music. Cohen inserts pronouns for each actor and crew member during an end-credits dance sequence to symbolize binary-breaking empowerment.

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