Friday, November 12, 2010

Intersex Is Entertaining!: Freaks and Geeks

Welcome back for another round of dissecting how popular entertainment perceives intersex individuals, and how closely these perceptions track reality.

Although I'll be looking at some medical shows in the future (like ER and House), I really liked discussing Juno previously was because it was something I hadn't heard others talking about before. In this vein, I want to discuss an episode from the totally heartwarming, cult classic television show, Freaks and Geeks.

This come-of-age, slice-of-life comedy-drama (um, holy hyphenation, Batman...I'm out of control) depicts two groups of outcast misfits, and their middle-/high-school trials and tribulations. I haven't seen the entire series, but from what I have seen, it's fantastic, and easy to see why it's both critically acclaimed and bemoaned for having been cancelled after the first season.

Imagine my delight, then, when my partner told me there was a Freaks and Geeks episode on intersex! I was really psyched.

Unfortunately, whatever hype may rightfully be attributed to this show ultimately can't be applied to Episode 17 - "The Little Things." (Or try here at Veoh, since you WMG won't authorize audio track on 2 of the 5 parts on YouTube. Freaking corporations. Be warned, though: my computer may now be acting weird after visiting Veoh. Just sayin'.)

This intersex portion of this episode focuses on Ken (Seth Rogen) talking to his girlfriend Amy, who he's been seen earlier in the episode being cute and cuddly with, and praising her awesomeness. In one scene, while Ken and Amy snuggle on Amy's bed, Ken discloses that he doesn't invite Amy to his house because he hates spending time there. As an example of how disconnected he his to his parents, he discloses that he was raised by a nanny and not so much by his parents. Amy states that she didn't know that, and is glad Ken told her.

Here's where the problems start. In return, Amy says she's got something to tell. She bolts straight-up and positions her body in confrontation-mode, making Ken promise he won't freak out. Ken is seemingly a bit confused. After all, what the hell could be such a crisis, right? (He actually says, "If you killed someone or somethin'...*trails into incoherent mumbling*.") Whatever Amy's doing, this is apparently how to scare the living daylights out of someone.

After a brief moment of denfensiveness, Amy states that at birth, she "had the potential to be male or female," being born with "both male and female parts." Ken deadpans, "Uh-huh..." looking like he already mentally checked out of the conversation that was set up to fail from the beginning. Amy states that her parents and the doctors decided to "make [her] a girl, and thank god, because that's who I am," and follows it with, "it's still a big part of my life, and [I] thought you should know."

Ken sure doesn't look like he's glad he knows, though. Actually, Ken looks like he's going to faint or hurl or implode from sheer discomfort. He tries to comfort the visibly-upset Amy with something eloquent like, "You know, it uh, er, uh, er, uh, you're- uh, er, - you're all girl now." (And repeating it later.) And then, as an apparent mood-lightening joke, "You know, if I were dating you when you were just born, things might be a little different because...uh...all that stuff, and *trails into incoherent mumbling again*," as well as, "I had my appendix out, so...uh, I've been there."

The next day in school, Ken can barely communicate with Amy about going to chemistry class and Salisbury steak before going in for an awkward, eye-wandering hug instead of a kiss before she trudges away, looking defeated. Later, they're sitting, not touching each other, on a wooden table outside, and Amy defensively calls him out. "You can't even look at me!" Ken counters with, "How am I supposed to act after ya tell me...somethin' like that?" and then, "I don't know what to do! There's nothin' I can do...I can't change it!" Amy asks him if he can "live with it," and Ken responds, "Live with what? It's over. You know, move on." Amy counters he doesn't get it, "...that no matter what the doctors did, there's always gonna be some part of [her] that's...*stops abruptly, like it's too horrific to go on." "...a guy?" Ken helpfully offers. Amy is none to pleased with this, but it gets Ken staring off in the distance, mulling over his suggestion.

In the next scene, at a sleepover with guy friends Nick (Jason Segel) and Daniel (James Franco), Ken states he's gonna break up with Amy, out of the blue. After making half-hearted excuses, he decides to disclose Amy's intersex to his buds - "...and not to tell anyone, EVER, okay?" After a pause, "Amy's not really a girl." After a well-placed, "Huh?", he explains she's "a girl, but she's- she's kinda part guy, too." Amazingly, this doesn't clear up his friends' confusion, so he offers that, "when she was born, she was carrying both the gun, AND the holster." Cut to James Franco's WTFBBQ face. Nick asks, also rather eloquently, "Well...uh, erm, uh, does she have, uh...the gun?" "NO!" Ken responds, as though keeping all her own body parts was a ridiculous notion. "The doctors...took care of it." Nick thinks it's cool, cause she's a girl now, but Daniel says, "I don't think it works that way. Ya better get rid of her." He says he might love her, though, to which Daniel responds, "Does that mean that you're gay?" Daniel says he was joking, but Nick now has he gay for maybe loving Amy?

So he goes to the guidance counselor the next day, and telling that, "...there's a small - little - chance...I might" The counselor responds that it's cool, but Ken suddenly becomes uncomfortable after learning that the guidance counselor himself is not gay, as he had assumed. (And we all know what ASSumptions do, amirite?) After a quick, "I think I better get goin'..." he indulges in listening to a bit of music before pulling out a super-secret-looking manilla envelope with two pornographic magazines - one featuring females, and one males. The scene ends with him staring from one cover to the other, looking confused as hell.

Later, Ken and Amy arrive to meet up with some friends, including Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and Kim (Busy Philipps). Daniel casually says, "Hey, guys." Ken aggressively counters, "What's that supposed to mean...Daniel?" After pointedly staring from Daniel to Amy to Daniel again, Daniel holds up his hands, saying, "Ah, geez, Ken, I didn't mean it like that..." But Ken's not havin' it. He clocks Daniel, who falls off the fence or post or whatever he was sitting on, and his other friends yell at Ken for punching Dan. Amy, putting it together that Ken discussed their private conversation with others, says, "Oh, my god," and runs off, horrified. Ken runs off to catch up with Amy, while Lindsay and Kim stand there in shock that Daniel isn't going after Ken to beat the crap out of him. Ken taps on Amy's window, and apologizes for being an idiot, but now it's Amy that's not havin' it. She wipes away some tears, shuts her eyes, and ignores Ken, who stalks off dejectedly. On the way home, Daniel gives him a lift, indicating they're cool with one another.

The next day, Ken and his friend Lindsay's younger brother, Sam (John Francis Daly), run into one another in the bathroom. Sam is grumpy and nervous about breaking up with his girlfriend - a stuck-up, belitting, controlling jerk that everyone has been encouraging him to keep dating the entire episode because she's hot and popular (and he's not widely considered either of those things). Ken shares that he's thinking about breaking up with his girlfriend as well, since things are "...very, very complicated." Sam bemoans that he and his girlfriend have nothing in common, and he has no fun when he's with her. Ken can't empathize, because his girlfriend is cool, and he does have fun with her. "God, then, what's the problem?" a cranky Sam shoots off. Ken pauses, and eventually kind of smiles and says, "I don't know."

With his newfound enlightenment, Ken rushes to find Amy among the other band kids to see her before she plays tuba for President Bush. (...Just go with it.) He blurts out, "I'm sorry...and I don't care...I'm so sorry." And then they go in for a hug and kiss, while her tuba bashes him in the head. (Karma! Yesssssssss)

In short, this entire episode is a shitshow for a whole bunch of reasons.
1) Intersex isn't some horrible, awful thing that requires you to terrify your conversation partner before discussing it. A lot of how people react to what you say is how you present it. Prefacing an otherwise really boring, mundane conversation with a scare-your-pants-off tactic somehow makes even what you packed for lunch today somewhat sinister. If you discuss talking about your healthy, normal intersex body without shame attached to it, your companion will be much more likely to have a positive, productive conversation about intersex with you. Conversely, if you present it like it's something to be ashamed about, they're probably going to internalize that view. This is a far cry from saying that it is easy to talk about intersex; there ARE certain things that are difficult to talk about, and it can be really great to be open enough to say, "Some of the things I want to discuss are difficult for me to do so, but it's important to me to do so, and I trust and value you enough as a friend to have this conversation with you." But authentically and candidly voicing your negative feelings surrounding some lived experiences is really different than generating P!A!N!I!C! regarding something that truly isn't an emergency - medical, socio-cultural, or otherwise.

2) Amy really poorly explained intersex. I can't blame Ken for being super-confused regarding what intersex is throughout the entire episode. If intersex were explained properly - as a biological way of being (and not a medical condition) that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. - then Ken may have been able to act appropriately with accurate information in hand. It's painful to see him go to his guidance counselor and initiate awkward conversations with friends wondering if he's gay or if Amy's "really" female, but if this is seriously how intersex was described to you, would you have reacted so differently? I'm unsure that I would have.

3) Amy says she's born with "male and female parts." Since intersex is essentialized by genitals, the viewer likely assumes she means both a penis and vagina at once. This is echoed in no uncertain terms later by Ken, asserting that Amy is packing both "gun and holster." There are lots of biological traits that we designate "male" or "female," and many of these aren't external genitalia, including body hair distrubution, breast development, nipple development, hormone types, hormone levels, bone structure, musculature, internal sex organs, and chromosomes. Amy could've been talking about ANY of these traits, but the focus is on the genitals. It appears that the writers didn't do enough (any?) research to truly understand what intersex is.

4) Amy expresses relief that her parents "made the right choice" in assigning her female, and performing genital mutilation surgery to feminize her external genitalia. How would the episode look if Amy was NOT happy about the choice that her parents made - whether or not she felt female in terms of sex or gender? The issue of right to consent to medical procedures that are not for health benefits is not discussed. While Amy might be happy she was assigned female, this episode does not address the fact that Amy could've been just as happy had surgery not been performed at all, and she'd been given the agency to decide what was done to her own body when she was able to consent - thus allowing HER to make the right choice for HERSELF. Additionally, none of the very common after-effects of genital mutilation surgery were discussed - in Amy's probable case of clitoral surgery, painful/lack of sexual sensation (including orgasm), severe scarring, trauma from multiple surgeries, etc.

5) Amy states that intersex is a "big part of [her] life," but doesn't explicate upon this. Why is it a big part of her life? This would've been a great opportunity to discuss the physical and psycho-emotional trauma intersex individuals commonly experience as a result of their experiences with the medical-industrial complex, through the sum of her own lived experiences. But she doesn't do this. If something is such a big part of her life, why wouldn't she expand upon this to help Ken (and us viewers!) understand why?

6) Ken states twice that Amy's "all girl now." Amy is all girl as long as she says she's all girl - whether or not she received genital mutilation surgery. Medical "treatment" doesn't legitimize one's sex and gender identities. Amy is who she says she is, and that should be taken seriously, at face value, because no one can know who Amy is except Amy herself. Period.

7) Ken states that "things might be a little different because...uh...all that stuff," indicating that he would be reluctant at best to date Amy if genital mutilation surgery hadn't been performed on her. Having undergone surgery without consent doesn't make one more eligible date.

8) Ken lightheartedly compares intersex genital mutilation surgery as akin to getting one's appendix out. This normalizes the view that intersex is a medical condition in need of fixing, and that medical "treatment" serves to "fix" the problem of being intersex. Not cool.

9) Apparently, it's so shaming to learn that someone is intersex that it is perfectly acceptable to not want to look them in the eye or touch them after being told "...something like that." It could totally be catching, right?! Great job, Ken.

10) Ken tells Amy to "move on" from her lived experiences because "it's over." This implies that because Amy underwent genital mutilation surgery, her ordeals being intersex are over! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! While well-intentioned, telling Amy to just get the eff over it invalidates her lived experiences, and erases both her past and identity as an intersex individual. Ultimately, it is a move toward erasure of intersex individuals in general - removing the freaks from all the good, "normal" people out there that were fortunate enough not to be born as weirdos. This also indicates that once medical "treatment" is performed, the intersex individual is "fixed," and thus doesn't really have to think about intersex ever again if they don't want to, because it's a non-issue. However, intersex individuals - whether or not they identify as intersex - often deal with the aftermath of the trauma they underwent during treatment, in their family lives, etc for the rest of their lives.

11) Amy clearly isn't out regarding her intersex, so Ken had no right to disclose Amy's intersex status to others without consulting her first.

12) Daniel's urging to "get rid of her" when Ken discloses Amy's intersex status indicates that they're something wrong with intersex individuals, and a desire to date them is misplaced, inappropriate, and kind of creepy and weird. This definitely overlaps with queer-phobia ("OMG KEN YOU CAN'T DATE SOMEONE WHO'S KIND OF A BOY THEN UR GAY WTF LOLZ") as well as trans-phobia (since Amy's now-perceived sex and gender indentities don't match up in Daniel's mind with Amy's stated sex and gender identities). This whole scene is really pathetic in how generally -phobic it is.

13) Who keeps their porn in a manilla envelope? (Seriously.)

14) More conflation of sex and gender variables occurs when Ken assumes his guidance counselor is gay based on...what, exactly? How he acts? dresses? What? *Kennnnn...?!*

15) Ken's overreaction at Daniel's use of the plural, "guys" when addressing Ken and Amy reinforces the fact that no matter how Amy identifies herself, she'll always kind of be a guy or something anyway. By virtue of Amy being intersex, Ken's incorrect notions have priority over Amy's professed identities.

16) Don't go in for a passionate kiss when your head is close to heavy metal things, dumbass. Really?

The one great thing about the intersex portion of this episode is that Ken comes around to the realization that Amy fucking rocks, and neither her sex and gender identities or her intersex lived experiences are going to change that. He loves Amy for the person she is, and throwing away his great relationship isn't worth it just because her body form is less typical. But, this heartwarming ending is simply too little, too late; a few seconds of smooching amidst shiny things doesn't make up for an entire episode's worth of ignorance.

Intersex people aren't freaks. You'd think a show called Freaks and Geeks would've gotten that, right?


  1. I've never seen this show, but I think you've got it.

    On point one- I agree, but this is about Highschool, right? Highschoolers tend to overreact about that stuff and it wouldn't surprise me if Amy has had bad experiences (like the one Ken just put her through- did he get seriously told off for outing her like that? He deserves it. Did Amy get any time of Ken making it up to her, trying to do damage control, etc or was she expected to be happy that he deigned to date someone like her?).

    It wouldn't surprise me if part of her trouble is having to present it like THAT- I doubt anyone gave her the words or knowledge that she can describe her experiences however she wants, if I were a woman I'd feel uncomfortable having to say that. And that, of course, is the writing staff's fault, they should've done their damn homework, but it's a problem with society at large. We constantly privilege doctor's playing God and deciding what they consider biologically male/female over individuals' self-identity and let that stop people from using words about their own bodies and experiences that are empowering because cis non-IS people like this will just go "But biology...". It's a bad system.

    While I was reading that, the "And thank God for that" made me severely uncomfortable on a couple of levels- 1. What, you couldn't have been a woman if your parents had left your body without violating it? 2. Does that really feel 100% okay that someone made a decision about your body like that?
    It reminds me of the times I can think of in fiction where a black character in a white-produced/written/directed (and often animated, so it's possible the ACTOR isn't black) says something to make it seem like black people didn't think slavery/segregation/etc wasn't that big a deal. It probably has nothing to do with how actual people of color feel- but it's thrown in so that white people get to feel better about ourselves. I don't know if the writers/producers/directors polled intersex people who could have had Amy's experiences to see how they felt about it, but I really doubt they did. It feels like it was put in just so that doctors/parents/other non-IS people feel better about removing the rights of intersex people to control their own bodies.

  2. I completely understand what you're saying. Highschool Claudia was still entirely convinced that intersex was a medical condition, there was something vaguely wrong and shameful about her body, and that she could NEVER. EVER. TELL. ANYONE. or risk being even more of a social pariah than she already was. (I was the reading-a-science-fiction-novel-at-lunch kinda nerdy misfit.) The thing is, though, as you had stated, the writers had a responsibility to make Amy's character farther along than highschool Claudia had been. Yes, everyone has got to go through their own personal evolution to come to terms about how they feel about themselves, processing their past and present, how they identify - these are all lifelong ventures. The difference is, my own personal process wasn't filmed for TV so that I could spread the misinformation I believed to thousands of TV viewers, who will walk away from that episode with a very skewed notion of what intersex is and what it's about. You're right - the writers should have done their homework and portrayed intersex in an accurate way. While it may have been more realistic for Amy to portray intersex inaccurately, as I would've done at that time in my life, you can't just miss the mark on something very important, knowing that public perception of what intersex is justifies the human rights abuses committed against intersex indivdiuals. Not cool.

    My phrase "And that the gods for that," or whatever I had said, was meant to be completely sarcastic. Meaning that there is absolutely no reason why it's bad to be intersex, or that it's okay that intersex people's bodies and psycho-emotional well-being are being damaged with harmful "treatments." I use sarcasm a lot, but perhaps I should find ways of making it mroe explicit in the future? Regardless, thank you for clarifying this. If I had said that in a non-sarcastic sense, that's not okay, and I should NOT be writing this blog!

  3. Well, after House M.D. dealing with a CAIS female by shouting, 'you're a man' and telling the father that raping his daughter ISN'T rape anymore but that, 'you're gay' (because I guess like the UK courts until a bit ago, you can't rape a intersex female), Freaks and Geeks has been the standard for some slight reflection of reaction to intersex conditions. Of course, ER and every other medical show has this act down as well, usually where the father looks down at his darling CAIS daughter, who has recessed testes with a look of disgust mixed with potential violence.

    And since of the 200,000 or so intersex individuals, there is all of, er, two functioning intersex blogs (by functioning I mean, they haven't stopped posting for a year, just months at a time), that one can suppose no matter how many balloons and sparkles, telling someone you are intersex in the bed isn't the most joyful occassion.

    The writers at Freaks and Geeks did not intend to do any research at all, it was just another 'freaks' they decided to include. Only the producer told them they HAD to do it right, and so they talked with intersex organizations and individuals and reflected those experiences into the episode. Which is why the episode won an award.

    I guess I have a hard time getting upset at an episode where a intersex female is portrayed as a cool person to be with, and no, they did not pick out on of the dozens of conditions, and could have spent 15% of the show explaining 5 alpha, or Turners and webbing but I am not sure how that would make people act less like asses when told. It was Ken's story, the story of the person who is told and acts like an ass, and goes right to the stereotypes which is portrayed as both a realistic experience and as a not cool or nice way to act. It is about Ken getting over his Intersex prejudice and exposing his homophobia along the way.

    The point of the episode boil down to 'what does it matter? You either love the person or you don't.' - and it seems that most of the complaints you have about the episode are that a) Ken acted freaked out and did some hurtful and idiotic things - though this is actually how a lot of people act regardless of how you tell them and b) a high school girl isn't the tuned in intersex advocate in the age pre-internet, and willing to out herself to the entire school or spend long periods of time talking about what is a private issue and (as the point of the episode) not one which is really that relevant to whether you like someone or not.

    If you think that your BF would have acted differently, and that you would have been all hip and not reluctant to tell at all, then I guess it doesn't reflect your experience - but it does reflect a lot of high school intersex kids experience, and those who find out, if anything, not becoming more of social pariah is the optimistic end. The Japanese manga IS/Intersexual does try to talk about specific conditions and also shows discrimination, and intersex is more 'accepted' as medical in Japan, however the point of the manga is to advocate that those who find out late or who can should have no surgery or hormones at all, which would eliminate that 'and I'm glad they did' comment, but doesn't really reflect what a lot of people want in their life: unresolved body biology but a fixed gender identity. And despite that no one in the series has anyone who loves them once they share who they are, at least not beyond a platonic level, it is criticised as 'too upbeat' and unrealistic (like shows where the gay kid stops getting beat up all the time).

    I'm glad you talked about it, and watched it. And I'm glad you must have other representations of your experiences in western culture, because for me, that episode is about it.

  4. YES. Oh man, the House MD episode is a shitstorm. I plan on talking about that one later. AUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH.

    I understand your point. It wasn't as bad a portrayal as some, the message of ultimate acceptance of others at the end is good, yes, I hear you. I still don't think, though, that a feel-good ending and the dubious honor of not-as-bad-as-the-House-MD-episode (cuz seriously, that's not difficult to achieve!) outweighs the fact that F&G had the opportunity to ACCURATELY portray an individual with a form of intersex and simply didn't do so. And spread a bunch of misinformation and -phobic things in the process. Without resolving any of the cans of worms is opened up, and just seemingly accepted it all at the end.

    F&G did a better job than some stuff out there, but it doesn't mean it did a good job in and of itself. If you are going to portray intersex, it should be portrayed accurately. Not-so-bad portrayals, to me, do not outshine the fact that people will walk away from that episode having no greater idea as to what intersex is than before they sat down at the TV, and to boot are now filled with misinformation that they may pass on to others, making raising awareness more difficult.

    I'm still not happy with the episode. I want to see episodes about intersex with the feel-good endings, but with accuracy preceding it! When those episodes are made, I will be very glad.

  5. Thanks so much for writing this! I'm not very well read up on intersex issues, but I felt shitty about that episode and I wanted to find out exactly what was wrong with it from someone who actually knew what they were talking about. Looking forward to browsing your blog and learning more.

  6. No problem hh! Yeah, I felt shitty about that episode, too (evidently!, ha). I think that it's good that intersex is being mentioned in the entertainment industry, but no so much if it's going to be inaccurately portrayed. I would argue that that serves to spread misinformation, which ultimately doesn't help to raise awareness and allow for understanding of what intersex is all about. Thanks for commenting!

  7. One thing I think you might not be factoring into account is that this show is set in 1980, and I don't think there was a lot of intersex education available and certainly not very much public activism. It's quite possible that Amy herself wasn't educated completely about what intersex is, or given any personal choice by her parents as what to identify as. Would teenagers in 1980 suburban Michigan have any access to accurate information about intersex people? Would their parents, teachers, and friends allow them to access that kind of information? Just something to think about.

  8. Hi, Lixia! Yes, I agree that the fact that the show is set in 1980 means that individuals would not have had access to a lot of info on intersex. It's really amazing how much the Internet has changed things for the better, in terms of having the opportunity to learn about intersex, talk with other intersex individuals online, and build some community even if everyone's not in the same location. Having not grown up with the Internet, and actually not really regularly using it until later high school, it's kind of crazy to think about how intersex activism might look today if intersex individuals had access to the Internet in the 1950's, when John Money's guidelines for "treating" intersex were first instituted.

    That being said, I think that even though the show is set in the 1980s, it's still not good enough to present the popular view of the day without clearly showing how those views are wrong, and how we've evolved from more discriminatory views. The I-love-her-as-a-person-whether-she's-intersex-or-not sentiment is really nice, but what troubles me is that viewers walk away from the episode with conceptions about intersex that aren't accurate. I think that shows that show something about a group of people being misunderstood and/or discriminated against have a responsibility to make it clear that those views are messed up. In the episode's end, Ken just sort of says, "Intersex is not ideal, but it's not a deal-breaker if I love her." That's really different from saying, "Oh, intersex is not this weird thing. It's actually this normal variation of sex and [accurate information here!]. I am a total jerk for being so intersex-phobic, and am a total idiot for almost losing this awesome person I love." You know?

    What if we set this show further back in time, let's say in the early 1950's, before the Civil Rights movement. Instead, Ken is a white male and Amy is a black female. The gist of this episode would be, "Being black is not ideal, but it's not a dealbreaker if I love her." No accurate information would be presented on that show, to the tune of, "Um, being black is not something bad. It's in no way worse than being white, and anyone who thinks that is clearly a bigot and that is UNACCEPTABLE." Even though the sentiment of the day was overwhelmingly people of color = not equal, a TV show or movie today focusing on the issue of race discrimination has the responsibility to create characters that share the less discriminatory views of today that would have been progressive for their time, to show that those views are totally bullshit. Because the point of the show should be to raise awareness about the issue, and tell the story of how messed-up that discrimination is by looking backward at views that were also backwards.

  9. I just barely saw this episode (I'd never heard of the show before and have been quite enjoying marathoning it the past few days! It brings back many personal memories of Highschool in the Late 70s, early 80s for me.)

    Claudia, thank you for your insight and analysis on their handling of the intersex issue. I think I identify with Elizabeth McClung's comment above as well. The one thing that comes to mind for me is to cut the writers a little slack due to the fact that this show was produced in 1999 and 2000. I know that for myself, during that time, I had little to no understanding of Intersex individuals at all.

    To me, the way the show portreyed Amy in telling Ken and Ken's reactions and processing of the info seemed fairly realistic. And when you consider the timeframe that the show was actually produced, the ultimate storyline seems very supportive and ultimately inspiring. There could've been so many worse directions they could've taken things that I think more benefit must've come from this episode than if they had never taken on the issue or if they had taken a more steriotypical direction or tact.

  10. Hi, kkellogg! Yes, I do agree that it could have been a lot worse. I feel that, even if the dynamics of Ken being confused and not getting it, and Ken and Amy's relationship getting rocky due to misunderstanding could be true to life, I think the writers still have a responsibility to get the details about intersex right. The take-home message of Amy is a person, and she's awesome, and her body parts shouldn't change any of that is great, but my worry is that after seeing that episode, all people are going to remember about intersex is that we have "a gun and a holster," and that it's okay because the doctors can "fix" you. Intersex activism didn't start until the mid-90's, but I think that if you're going to do a show on an under-represented demographic, you gotta be accurate. Otherwise, I don't know if it's really doing a service to put misinformation out there, you know?

  11. Watching this show now. It is an excellent and realistic presentation of how high school students would react to encountering unfamiliar gender identity issues. I think it is amazing that the show tackled the issue and presented intersex as a gender identity & Ken's misplaced correlation of this with sexual orientation in a sensitive way.

    C'mon people! It's a television show from the 1990's.