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To operate or not to operate? Intersex 14-year-old Alex is under pressure to choose in this groundbreaking Argentinean drama.

This is a sensitive and unprecedented drama about a teenager exploring her sexuality. Hardly groundbreaking, you might think, but Alex is intersex – the XXY of the title refers to an extra chromosome which can give people both male and female sexual organs.

Alex lives with her parents in a remote coastal area of Uruguay where her father works as a marine biologist. When she was a baby they had refused an operation to choose her gender, but, now that she’s 14, her mother, particularly, feels she has to choose. So, her mother invites a friend to stay, who brings her husband, a cosmetic surgeon specializing in gender operations, and her son, Alvaro, who’s the same age as Alex.

Of course, given the set up, things can only go one way – Alex and Alvaro are very interested in each another. Alvaro has one or two surprises – Alex isn’t ‘out’ – but she is mature and aware of the shifting nature of Alvaro’s interest. Ines Efron, playing 10 years younger than her real age, is very good at getting across Alex’s turmoil in establishing her identity. The script handles her situation too sensitively: we never get a sense of the brutality – emotional and physiological – of medical intervention. But this is still a groundbreaking feature.


New Internationalist issue 411 magazine cover This article is from the May 2008 issue of New Internationalist.
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