“That this does not leave here.” This phrase had to be heard by an adolescent Laura Vila from the mouth of a doctor. The supposed secret was her sexual characteristics, which did not coincide exactly with what a woman is supposed to be, and which in that consultation took the form of a clinical diagnosis: Morris syndrome. “I just wanted to belong to a group of friends, that’s how I kept that information and spent many years without being myself,” she reflects years later.
Intersex people demand not to be treated as sick or operated on for cosmetic reasons
Vila, 36, is an intersex activist who has long since ceased keeping that secret. With the collective Do not leave here, baptized in a sarcastic tribute to that doctor’s phrase, this week premiered a play that for the first time brings to the stage his testimony and that of different intersex people, who tell their stories of silence and violence. The piece is called Hermaphrodites on horseback or the rebellion of desire and it came out applauded from the Fira de Tàrrega (Lleida), waiting to be programmed in other theaters.
It is often said that i Intersex is the least known letter of the acronym LGTBI, although according to the UN 1.7% of the population fits that definition. It is about those people whose sexual characteristics – gonads, external or internal genitalia, sex chromosomes or hormones – escape from the binary pattern that corresponds to the male or the female. Their bodies are valid and healthy, but sometimes they undergo surgery to correct them without necessarily a medical reason behind it.
Laura Vila learned in her late teens that she was intersex. Years after her period did not drop and she realized that her body development was different from that of her friends, she began a journey from a doctor’s office to a doctor’s office, from a karyotype to an ultrasound, until she was told that she had undescended testicles. Its chromosomes are XY.
The “monsters” tag
“The intersex reality is explained to no one in class. In general, you have signs, then the diagnosis arrives and that is what certifies you as different. As a monster, because that is the label we receive and that is why we hide it, ”says Vila. This supposedly rarity brand, although it is about healthy bodies – “and therefore desirable,” he adds – is what makes coming out of the closet very difficult. “But things are changing. Five years ago I can’t imagine doing a show like this. Now yes, “he says.
The origin of Hermaphrodites on horseback It goes back to a small piece that Vila performed in 2019 at the proposal of Miquel Missé, for the Cabaret Trans in Barcelona. From that moment on, the project began to slowly take shape, which the actress has carried out together with the playwright Raquel Loscos and the art historian Víctor Ramírez Tur, the two directors of the play.
Halfway between the pedagogical and the parodic, the work flees from a melodramatic format but without sparing the viewer the testimony of Vila herself and eight other intersex people who were compiled during a participatory process and presented through audiovisual projections. “It seemed important to us to collect diverse realities and not a single voice, to escape from those LGTBI products that are based on a single experience,” says Ramírez.
‘What’s under her panties?’
From three parodies of television shows, which presents Vila, delves into some of the violence suffered by this group. Perhaps the clearest are the show Cut and paste, alluding to unnecessary surgical interventions, and What’s under your panties. “By sharing their reality, this automatically means that people want to know what they have under their panties and under their skin. This is something that is not required of anyone ”, Ramírez gives as an example.
The work also adds to the long tradition of appropriating insults and derogatory qualifiers and vindicates the word hermaphrodite. As it happens with fagot among homosexuals or nigga among African Americans. This, Vila clarifies, is more a personal bet than something assumed by the collective, although it is true that the first intersex activists in the United States called themselves Hermaphrodites with Attitude (pissed-off hermaphrodites, in Spanish).
“It is clear that there are no human persons who can self-fertilize, but hermaphrodite It is the word that has been equated with the monster in our stories. When I looked for my diagnosis on the internet, I got this word. And what we want is to reappropriate it and fill it with beauty ”, he points out. Not in vain, part of the work also explores the role that the concept of the hermaphrodite has had in different religious beliefs and for different historians.
In the middle of 2021, some things are changing. Without going any further, the LGTBI and Trans law has been approved, which prohibits surgery on babies to make them fit one gender or another, without compelling medical reasons. Parents are also allowed to extend the period for specifying the mention of their children’s sex in the registry for one year. “There is no one who is 100% male or female. It is not my body that makes me different, because I left the consultation being the same person. What makes me different is the violence I have received ”, recalls Vila.