Film note: Turbulent times for transgender teens

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XXY tells the story of Alex (Inés Efron), a hermaphroditic Argentinian teenager on a quest for her sexual identity. Alex, who physically appears female, is sheltered by her parents: the family moves to a remote portal town in Uruguay so that Alex won’t be treated “like a freak.”

XXY, a film directed by Lucia Puenzo. Showing on June 27 as part of the Queer Takes film series at the Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. For tickets ($8) and information, see walkerart.org.


The beginning of the film is a little hard to follow, but it slowly picks up steam. As the family attempts to lead a “normal life,” Alex faces the prospect of surgery. She stops taking her medication, and soon begins to display teenage male aggression. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Alex simply wants to be her/himself. Her father (Ricardo Darín), who is afraid of what the future holds for his child, meets with a man who has had a sex-change operation. The meeting reveals to Alex’s father that his child’s choice of gender will be a very personal one. Further, he discovers that he cannot always protect his child. Even in the safety of rural Uruguay, a gang of teenage boys mock Alex and force her to show them her genitalia.

When a family friend visits with his teenage son Alvaro (Martín Piroyansky), the sexual tension between the two teenagers keeps the audience wondering throughout the film if they will eventually make love. Alvaro’s own sexual identity is not clear: Is he a “a freak like Alex?” His sexual frustration is displayed when he masturbates in anguish out in the woods on a rainy evening.

The movie is moody and depressing, but it sheds light on some of the personal challenges faced by intersex individuals.

Nekessa Opoti is the publisher of kenyaimagine.com, a Kenyan online magazine and newspaper.

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