Newburyport Documentary Film Festival to Screen Stories of Intersex and Faith

Five Intersex Stories of Sex, Gender, and Religious Faith

September 4, 2019

NEWBURYPORT, MA Intersex and Faith’s documentary film Stories of Intersex and Faith will be screened at the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival on Saturday, September 14th, at 12:00 p.m. Stories of Intersex and Faith is an eye-opening documentary that explores the unique medical, religious, and social barriers that intersex people continue to face today. Through sharing the stories of five intersex people, Stories of Intersex and Faith ultimately helps viewers enter a more constructive conversation on one of the most divisive issues facing not only faith communities, but society as a whole.

Shamed into silence and scarred by surgeries, intersex people are fighting their way out of invisibility, advocating for the freedom to exist. “Intersex people will tell you that their biggest concern is to stop the three S’s – shame, surgery, and silence,” says filmmaker Megan DeFranza, “since the 1950s, doctors in the United States have been operating on infants and children in order to hide their differences, telling parents not to talk with their kids, and telling kids not to tell anyone else. Parents were trying to protect their children from feeling shame, but the surgeries and silence produced shame—and scar tissue—anyway.”

In addition to being permanent and often harmful, surgeries on intersex children are frequently purely cosmetic, causing the United Nations to call these needless surgeries a human rights violation and torture. While the medical community seeks to “fix” intersex children, many religious communities struggle to understand how intersex people fit into their male/female binary. Yet, these five remarkable stories reveal how some intersex people find healing and hope in their religious faith. Together they insist, “It’s society that needs to be healed, not us.”

The Newburyport Documentary Film Festival is an annual film festival that will take place September 13-15, 2019, in Newburyport, MA. Over the last 14 years, the festival has screened over 300 films and this year Stories of Intersex and Faith is one of 25 documentaries accepted. In addition to showings, the festival offers Q&A sessions, panel discussions, filmmaker receptions, and workshops. For a full list of events during the course of the weekend festival, visit

Stories of Intersex and Faith was produced by Megan DeFranza, Lianne Simon, and Paul Van Ness. Megan DeFranza is a Christian theologian with a Ph.D. in religious studies and author of Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God. Lianne Simon is a Christian Intersex woman, intersex advocate, and author of Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite and A Proper Young Lady. Paul Van Ness is an award-winning filmmaker and owner of Cinema Salem in Salem, MA.


Intersex and Faith is a nonprofit started by Megan DeFranza and Lianne Simon, which works to support advocate with, and educate others about intersex people in order to help faith communities welcome those born outside the male/female binary. To learn more about Intersex and Faith, Megan and Lianne, or Stories of Intersex and Faith visit

Written by Nicole Smith, Admin & Communications Coordinator. September 4, 2019.

Author profile

Nicole received her BA in Photography and minor in English Writing from Montana State University. She has a passion for impactful nonprofit work and the storytelling power of visuals combined with text after working in the newspaper industry and serving a year in the AmeriCorps VISTA Program in New Hampshire as a Graphic Design and Communications Coordinator.