Who I Am Not: an intersex South African beauty queen and activist documentary
Every year for two weeks, BFI Flare showcases the best LGBTQ+ cinema worldwide in its Southbank venue. This year, it brought to the British screens “Who I Am Not” for the first time, an intimate documentary following the lives of two intersex individuals in South Africa.
From medical appointments to dates, the documentary showcases the day-to-day reality of the two subjects and the joys and struggles that come with their identities.
Sharon-Rose Khumalo was a beauty queen finalist for Miss South Africa 2016. Shortly after the competition, she revealed on her YouTube channel that she was born with XY chromosomes and gained national attention. The documentary portrays her navigating her unique experience of womanhood. We watched as she grieves her inability to have a biological child, the extra complications dating now holds, and her lack of belonging in the traditional pageant world.
Dimakatso Sebidi, the other individual portrayed, directly opposes her. With a masculine appearance, the use of gender-neutral pronouns, and a queer relationship with a woman, Sebidi actively rejects a heteronormative existence. While we also watch them contend with their sense of identity and feelings of belonging, their hardship is more about their surroundings not accepting their identity. As we witness employers rejecting them based on their gender and family members vocalising their grudges, we can’t help but empathise with them.
Throughout the documentary we see the two build a close friendship despite their significant differences. Alongside their hardships, we also witness them find peace in their search for an existence that feels right.
Stories of intersex individuals have historically been sensationalising and unkind. In “Who I Am Not,” we are exposed to a vulnerable portrayal where intersex people are owning their narrative. Unpacking gender, religion, family notions, and so much more – all in the unique context of South African society – “Who I Am Not” showcases the plurality of experiences within the intersex identity gently and warmly.
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