Brisbane filmmaker Phoebe Hart will lay her life bare on Australian television screens this week in an inspiring tale of self-discovery.
Hart was born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), or intersex condition, which means her body contains some male chromosomes.
In the intensely personal Orchids: My Intersex Adventure, Hart travels the country to hear stories from other people with intersex to help overcome her own battles with secrecy and shame.
“I had an idea I’d want to do this film for a long time but I didn’t have the confidence and felt afraid of exposing myself,” Hart told the Star Observer.
“I decided to finally do it, not only for my own cathartic reasons, but because by putting my story out there might help other people or families in a similar situation.”
Hart found out when she reached puberty she would never be able to bear children. It wasn’t until she was 17 years old that her parents revealed why.
“As I got a bit older I realised it was much more than not being able to menstruate, it was something that affected me more broadly,” she said.
“As a teenager it was quite rocky for me because I knew there was something wrong with me, I didn’t know exactly what it was and I knew other people knew more about it than I did.”
When she finally learned of her condition, she said things started falling into place.
Much to Hart’s surprise, she discovered her younger sister Bonnie also had AIS.
The close sisters had been separately guarding the same secret the whole time.
“It was a shock because I actually thought I was a one of a kind. I thought I was almost like an alien that had been dropped down on earth as some kind of social experiment.”
Bonnie is part of the film project which Hart says helped when it came time to interview her parents.
Hart says she does not harbour anger at her parents’ decision to keep her in the dark for so long.
“The way these intersex conditions were treated in the past doesn’t reflect how it is today, and it was all about doctors advising parents to keep this from their children because it might psychologically ruin them to know they are hermaphrodites.”
INFO: Orchids: My Intersex Adventure screens Sunday, January 29 at 10pm on ABC1.