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3 posed shot_C Intersex activists Sean Saifa Wall, Alicia Roth Weigel and River Gallo from EVERY BODY, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of FOCUS FEATURES / © 2023 FOCUS FEATURES LLC

“Every Body” reviewed

In “Every Body,” an activist named Alicia Roth Weigel sits on her couch, swiping through profiles on a dating app and explaining to the camera — and a public who’ve likely never had the opportunity or occasion to think about such things — how challenging it is to find a match. Weigel was born with both male and female biological traits, which a doctor immediately sought to correct via surgery (Weigel describes the loss of her testes as “castration”) so the child would conform to society’s idea of female. But Weigel is not female; she/they are intersex, and her/their story is one America needs to hear.

Why? Well, for starters, in the past six months, an estimated 560 anti-trans bills have been introduced in 49 states. Trans and intersex are not the same thing, representing two entirely different letters in the catch-all LGBTQIA+ label. Still, acknowledging the existence of intersex individuals — “whatever that is,” a noxious Fox host sneers in one clip — gives the public an entry point for a much-needed conversation about the great many people who don’t fit neatly into the conventional boxes of “male” and “female” (as they might appear on a DMV application or restroom placard).

Statistically speaking, 1.7% of babies are estimated to be intersex. Astonishingly enough, definitive data does not exist, as many doctors attempt to force infants into one category or the other, often through surgery. Does the conversation make some people uncomfortable? Clearly, but as Weigel tells an insensitive conservative pundit, “I’m sorry I don’t have a box of tissues for you.”

To the extent that a frank discussion of all things intersex is long overdue, “Every Body” offers the most accessible and constructive example I’ve seen to date (with Africa-set festival breakout “Who I Am Not” serving as a useful additional-viewing recommendation). After a playful opening montage of over-the-top gender reveal festivities — which just goes to show how invested parents are in their kids’ traditional male/female identities — director Julie Cohen eases into a sit-down interview with three intersex activists.

There’s nothing fancy or particularly sophisticated about her filmmaking. Indie-rock covers of classic songs keep the convo from sounding too stuffy or academic, while talking heads and archival footage (including dated talk of “hermaphrodites”) do the job of contextualizing the subject. The dynamic Cohen creates is a far cry from the Roman arena represented by 20th-century daytime talk shows, wherein aggressive audiences shame guests courageous enough to let themselves be thrown to the lions. By contrast, Cohen fosters an environment where the trio can share and compare their experiences, addressing topics rarely spoken of in public.