Film Focus: Orchids: My Intersex Adventure

Phoebe Hart was born genetically male, but due to what is now known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, did not develop any male characteristics. Her parents raised her as a girl and buried the details until she was a young adult coming out of a confused and tumultuous adolescence. Phoebe and her sister Bonnie set off across Australia together seeking to shed light on the poorly understood minority of intersex individuals.

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During this journey, Phoebe and Bonnie interview several intersex individuals across all spheres of life. Through this experience they are forced to confront the demons from their own past, the lies, the fear, the pain, and the struggles that have continued to follow them well into adulthood. This ultimately culminates in an interview with their parents, who faced their own share of obstacles.

This was an interesting film as it delves into a topic that is considered taboo to many and it does so unapologetically. Through the personal stories shared I realized that intersex individuals are marginalized across society even within the LGBTQ community, we just don’t see or hear about them very often. My heart went out to the sisters and the people they interviewed; I cannot imagine the anguish they suffered growing up.

The film raises several questions with no concrete answers:

To what extent does biological sex determine our fates as human beings?

Who creates these “boxes” people get forced into?

We would like to say only we can make that decision for ourselves but what about our parents and society in general, do they shape our perceptions of ourselves and is this fair?

4/5 Ticket Stubs

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Film Focus: Perks of Being a Wallflower

Charlie is a quiet and thoughtful young man and we follow him through his first days of high school, watch him struggle to make friends, and tackle all the obstacles of adolescence. We meet the eccentric Patrick and his step-sister, Sam and see how they change Charlie. There is a common thread connecting them: they all get bullied, abused, and people take advantage of them. A prominent part of the film, that was personally striking, is the issue of LGBT bullying including the fear of being “outed” in a hostile environment, the self-hatred that develops, and the façade that closeted youth have to put on in order to just get through the day.

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The issues and characters are all easy to relate to. This movie is an ode to lost youth everywhere desperately trying to find out if and how they fit into their lives. It’s a reminder of the days when our friends were our only lifelines in an otherwise confusing and harsh world. It’s about not always being able to hold things together, when being “okay” is a tenuous thing, and it’s about pulling ourselves back together, with a little help, when we fall apart.

This is a powerful movie and it’s slow buildup and tragedy appears unexpectedly and through the amazing performance of the actors (Emma Watson tries valiantly to be not-English)we experience loneliness, depression, rejection, hurt, and so much more which I won’t spoil for you.

The movie was funny and touching, and the ultimate message is don’t despair if you’re a misfit because you are certainly not alone and while some people will hurt you, many more people will love you.

4.5/5 Ticket Stubs!

Did this movie resonant with you? Did you identify with the struggles of the characters (depression, bullying, not fitting in, etc?)

Also:  Academy 6 Theatres in Pasadena has an awesome Wednesday Night Special! Movies starting at 6 PM and later are a great deal for you and a buddy! You and a companion get 2 admissions, 2 popcorns and 2 sodas for only…drum roll please… $10.00!

Perks of Being a Wallflower is playing there now!

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

I’ve been a fan of John Green for a while; he and his brother Hank have a large following on Youtube where they are enthusiastic advocates of education and philanthropy. But this is only the second book of his that I have ever read and I honestly thought of putting it off because the subject matter hits close to home, but I decided to get it as a Christmas gift for myself last year shortly after my father was diagnosed with cancer.

And that’s what this book deals with: cancer. But it’s not a cancer book. It’s a book about growing up, falling in love, dealing with loss, and finding life beautiful even when it seems ugly.

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The novel’s protagonist Hazel Grace Lancaster is sixteen years old and she is dying of thyroid cancer. She is sarcastic and wry about it all throughout. She goes to support group meetings at a local church and meets Augustus Waters, not much older than she, and in remission from his own bone cancer. For her, he is beautiful and dangerous and for him she is earnest and intriguing. They fall in love and teach each other a great deal about the fragile wonder of life.

I’m reviewing this book a year after reading it because I lost my father to cancer a few months after finishing the novel and since then I’ve taken the time to really chew on the message of the book.

It boils down to this, life is unpredictable and sometimes we get hurt, but it’s a risk we take by simply living and loving and not holding back.

The ending of the novel leaves us with this, “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world […] but you do have some say in who hurts you.”

 4.5/5 Stars

MLK Jr. Day: The Kinsey Collection: The African American Experience Through Art

In the 1960s Bernard Kinsey met his future wife, Shirley, on the campus of Florida A&M University. They were both active student leaders on campus at the time. Now after forty years of marriage and a deep shared passion for African American art and history, The Kinseys have amassed a large collection of art spanning some 400 years of history.

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As part of one of their life principles, “To whom much is given much is required,” the Kinsey’s sent their art on tour in 2007 in an effort to share the largest private collection of African American historical artifacts with others. The collection, which has traveled to several museums, has now been experienced by more than 3 million visitors. Among the artifacts are an early draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, letters from Malcolm X to Alex Haley, and a 1773 first-edition copy of poems by Phillis Wheatley.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Bernard, Shirley and their son Kalil will be here at CSULA on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 at 6:15pm in Los Angeles Room on the 3rd floor of the University Student Union to give a slide presentation of their collection. Come and hear the Kinseys discuss the struggles and successes of African Americans over four centuries.

Farewell Violence Against Women Act, We Hardly Knew Ye

I have often been told that I am too opinionated…for a woman. But I’m going to take this opportunity to go right ahead and get really mad and be really opinionated about something anyway.

Recently the 112th U.S. Congress has failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act which, since 1994, has served to provide services to victims of sexual and domestic violence and strengthened legal consequences for perpetrators of such crimes.

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But this all seems rather silly, what rational and good human being wouldn’t immediately throw their support behind VAWA? Well, there has been much partisan conflict over updated versions of the bill which would have extended protections to immigrants, LGBT individuals, and Native Americans. Some conservative politicians were unwilling to reauthorize the bill with these new provisions included.

However, this isn’t a liberal vs. conservative issue. Whenever political conflict leads to terrible consequences for the people, then our leaders have failed us. Someone is assaulted in the U.S. every two minutes according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, and that’s a conservative estimate since most victims of sexual/domestic violence do not report the crime. This is a national crisis, a cause for alarm and now after more than a decade the protections of the VAWA are going to be stripped away from everyone.

And for what cause? Because our politicians couldn’t decide whether immigrants, LGBT individuals, and Native Americans deserve equal protection under the law? Because some rape or abuse victims are simply more or less worthy than others? Because personal prejudices mean more than helping victims of crimes?

I am absolutely appalled and disappointed by this lapse of good judgment. But there is good news, the 113th Congress will be the most diverse yet (though it will still fall short of adequately representing the U.S. population). Here’s hoping they will do a better job.

What do you think of the end of the Violence Against Women Act?