Morbidly Beautiful

Your Home for Horror


“Who I Am Not” is a mesmerizing and meaningful look at identity, inclusivity, acceptance, and belonging through the lens of intersex people.

“What is the one thing you would do if you were not afraid? Do that.”

The stunning Who I Am Not made its North American Premiere in the Documentary Spotlight Section at the 2023 SXSW Film & TV Festival on March 11. The extensively researched and beautifully presented documentary explores what it’s like to live as an intersex person in a male-female world.

Before you go thinking the subject matter is too micro-niche to feel relatable or engaging, immediately banish that thought from your head.

While the film does seek to give voice to the long-ignored and mostly silent two percent of the world’s population, it speaks to anyone who has ever felt like they didn’t fit in or that they weren’t quite good enough. It touches anyone who has ever felt unloved or, worse, unworthy of love.

If you’ve ever wished you could be more ‘normal’ or were better able to fully embrace who you are, and all the differences that make you unique, this powerful exploration of acceptance and belonging is for you.

Romanian actor-turned-director Tünde Skovrán invites the audience to step inside the skin of an intersex person and explore what it’s like to feel like an ‘other’ in a binary world.

The film asks us to consider what defines who we are.

What makes us male or female? Does biology dictate our identity, or is it far more nuanced and multi-dimensional than that? And how can we shape our image independently of how society sees and defines us?

Who I Am Not follows Sharon-Rose Khumalo, a South African beauty queen struggling to discover that she is intersex, born male and female within one body. Feeling lost and alone, she finds Dimakatso Sebedi, a male-presenting intersex activist.

Together, they take a challenging and emotional journey to find acceptance and self-love while revealing intimate, deeply personal, and often heartbreaking revelations about the pain they’ve suffered due to the genetic hand they’ve been dealt.

The stories shared are vulnerable and deeply affecting. There are so many powerful moments that took my breath away.

It’s devastating seeing Sharon-Rose grapple with rejection after revealing to a date she can never have kids and then watching her question whether she will ever be enough. And I felt a deep pang of empathy and understanding when she wondered if her ambition was just overcompensation for feeling inadequate or inferior.

I was infuriated watching Dimakatso be dismissed during a job interview because hiring them would be inconvenient. And it’s painful watching the older male hiring manager rebuke the request to refer to Dimakatso with gender-neutral pronouns.

“Come on,” he scoffs — as if the request was unfathomable and ill-logical. And I died inside, while Dimakatso somehow remained professional, patient, and kind.

I felt gutted when Dimakatso expressed guilt over the pain and loss their parents faced because their child’s “being” — their mere existence — was a problem for so many. I cried alongside them as they bemoaned how exhausting it was to find their way when nothing came easy.

But I also felt so much joy and hope at seeing Dimakatso and Sharon-Rose move past the pain, regret, and judgment and into a place of confidence and self-actualization.

It’s a stand-up and cheer moment when Sharon-Rose is asked, “Who’s a woman?” She assuredly replies with a big, beautiful smile, “Someone who chooses to be a woman.”

And it’s deeply inspiring when she steps in front of a camera to explain her desire to be there for people like her, to be the someone she needed when she was struggling.

“When someone looks at me, they will know they are not alone. Our differences are what makes us the same.”

It’s Dimakatso that delivers perhaps the most powerful message of the film:

“I don’t let anybody make me feel like a mistake or like I’m not normal. It takes a lot to get to that stage.”

When Sharon-Rose asks, “Are you at the stage,” Dimakatso responds with the purest and most honest answer. “I’m heading there.”

The film does a remarkable job of reminding us all that we are not defined by just one thing.

Society doesn’t always want you to embrace who you are. It demands you pick a team, pick a lane, and pick a gender. If you won’t — or can’t — it shuns you and shames you for being fundamentally flawed or even disingenuous.

It can make even the most well-adjusted person feel broken. Something must be wrong with us, we believe, if we can’t fit neatly into this pre-defined box.

But if the box can’t fit all of us, with our many unique differences and perspectives, then the box isn’t big enough. And it’s time to expand the box rather than ask others to shrink themselves to fit.

Executive produced by Patricia Arquette, Who I Am Not honors and celebrates the nearly 150 million people worldwide who are born with intersex traits. This group rarely has its stories told and is almost never represented in media, despite a growing increase in diverse representation and LGBTQ+ stories. And it’s critically important that they be seen, heard, understood, and embraced.

Some may not be inclined to see stories about experiences foreign to their own. Yet, this film is a powerful reminder that there is far more that unites us than separates us.

While the intersex community is an extremely small minority, the engaging subjects in this film share insecurities, heartbreaks, fears, and personal challenges that feel familiar and relatable.

It’s a film about the courage to live an authentic life, to trust who you are, and to refuse to be who society wants you to be. It’s about loving yourself, accepting yourself, and understanding that neither comes without hard work and deep soul-searching.

When you don’t feel like you belong anywhere, you must work to make your place in the world. It’s a journey, and it’s not always an easy one. But this film gives hope to those who feel excluded, for whatever reason, that it is possible to get to the other side and feel proud of who you are and who you are meant to be.

If you’ve ever felt defined, not by who you are but by who you are not, I urge you to see this uplifting and inspiring film as soon as possible.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4.5

Leave a Reply

Allowed tags:  you may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="">, <strong>, <em>, <h1>, <h2>, <h3>
Please note:  all comments go through moderation.
Overall Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.