Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Chilean TV Documentary Shoot In Berlin

Last Saturday I travelled to Berlin as I announced in an earlier blog post. Despite careful planning and leaving my apartment well on time, an issue with the travel planner for the Karlsruhe trams and me slavishly following its instructions led to me missing the booked high-speed train. Fortunately I could take the one after it, which also turned out to be a direct connection to Berlin instead of having to transfer once. Unfortunately a strike in Switzerland resulted in this train having a fifty minute delay.

Long story short, taking this alternative train was no problem with the Deutsche Bahn employee checking my ticket, allowing me to settle in for the about six-hour journey. As we approached Berlin, the announcement was made that due to a technical issue the train would not be travelling past a certain station.... which fortunately was Berlin Hbf where I had to leave the train anyway. Leaving the train station it took me a minute to orientate myself, but then found the hotel which had been booked for me within a few minutes of walking.

Checking in was also very easy, so that I was soon getting lost in the maze-like structure of the hotel. I was staying on one of the top floors, so it took a moment or two to figure out the structure. Before long I was sitting on the side of the bed I'd be sleeping in that night, readying myself for a good night's rest. At that point I was feeling rather exhausted, having arrived in Berlin just past 11 PM. Despite my usual issues with sleeping in a strange place (sudden/unknown noises), I slept okay that night.

I had received a call from the producer of the documentary informing me that they'd pick me up at the hotel 10 AM that Sunday, but when I got back to my room after consuming breakfast I noticed a text message informing me that they'd be later. I spent that time catching up with world news via CNN International on the room's TV. It was the beginning of a day in which I'd be speaking virtually only English.

After checking out I sat in the hotel's lobby, waiting for the team to pick me up. Ultimately they were a bit later again, but this was no problem for me. Walking outside to meet up with the team I got introduced to all of them: the two presenters (Rodrigo Jarpa and Nathalie Nicloux) and the audio and video guys, in addition to the German producer who had initially contacted me for this production. Putting my luggage into the back of the van, we then left for the first part of that day: a boat tour along the sights of Berlin. On the way I was surrounded by people chatting in Spanish, German and English, which formed an interesting mix.

Before we got onto the boat, I spent a while talking with Nathalie. We ended up discussing a lot of topics, mostly about me and my background, but also some things in general. She said that she had read a lot of my blog before meeting with me, which just added to the sense that she was genuinely interested in my situation and me as a person. It felt very nice to sit there in the shade alongside the river, talking about so many things in my life in-depth with someone I felt really got the issue. Also despite Nathalie's claims that her English skills weren't very good, we had absolutely no problems understanding each other. I almost felt sorry when we had to join the others again to prepare for the first part of the interview.

Equipping ourselves with the usual wireless microphones, we waited a bit for the tour boat to arrive. I spent some time chatting with the producer - born and raised in Sweden - with whom I ended up chatting about a range of topics, including the Scandinavian countries. My experiences in Norway were quite relevant here. As the tour boat arrived, we all got on and set up for the interview on the top deck, in the bright sun.

Not allowed to wear sunglasses during the interview and missing out on the sights around me, the interview was a matter of trying not to squint too much while focusing on the interview. Both presenters asked me questions, each first in English followed by the Spanish version. The interview went quite well. The focus of the interview was both personal, but also very generic in a sense, asking me for my opinion on many broader questions instead of just asking me to recite my story yet again.

The second and last part of the shooting would take place in a park near where the tour boat docked. This location was picked because it used to be the no-one's land between East and West Berlin, symbolic of the no-one's land we intersex people inhabit in society. Here it took a while to pick out a proper spot to do the interview as the park was rather crowded due to the very pleasant and warm weather. Ultimately we found a good, shaded spot where Nathalie did the rest of the interview with me, sitting on these stone steps in the side of a hill.

The questions for this part of the interview were more personal, though I also got asked what my opinion on this new law for intersex children in Germany is, and what I thought would be the next step there. I replied there that I think that medically unneeded surgeries on (intersex) infants should be criminalized due to the completely lack of scientific necessity for such a thing. I pointed out that transgender individuals already prove that one's chromosomes (XX/XY) are not indicative of one's preferred gender role and that thus the 'gender-check' using sex chromosomes on infants is a complete fraud.

Near the end of the interview I got asked to say something to the families of intersex children in Chile, and later something to the intersex individuals themselves. To the first I expressed my sincere belief that there is nothing wrong with an intersex child. That they're perfectly fine the way they are born and that it are only the adults who feel uncomfortable with a child that is 'different'. To intersex individuals I tried to make it clear that while they may feel completely alone and abandoned, there are so many more like them and that we can, nay, must combine our powers. We can do this together, to change society and improve our standing in society.

With the shooting just wrapped up, we left for a nearby Thai restaurant to eat dinner. Here things quickly got more informal and we had a pretty good time until first most of the Chilean team had to leave and then I had to go to the train station. Saying my goodbyes to the producer and Nathalie, the woman accompanying the producer drove me with the van to the station where I bid her goodbye. Leaving Berlin a few minutes later was a strange experience. It felt like I was leaving something pretty big and something very pleasant behind me.

Hours later I had to transfer in Frankfurt Hbf, with my connecting train delayed by fifty minutes as I was becoming used to. I arrived back in Karlsruhe after midnight, catching a tram home and practically collapsing on my bed upon entering my apartment.

Being at the office the next morning felt very weird. I felt like part of me had stayed behind there in Berlin, with this group of people I had met there and in particular my with conversations with Nathalie. As I write this all down I know that this was an experience which has changed me. Both in showing me a glimpse of an alternative future, maybe a taste of comforting understanding and an interest in my well-being. The past days as I was at home I spent a lot of time just feeling miserable and crying a lot. It wasn't a definite feeling which made me feel miserable, but just a general sense of loneliness and being ignored by society. The kind of pain which makes one just want to withdraw completely from society, even kill oneself in order to escape the pain of living.

I feel that I did a good thing with my appearance in this Chilean documentary and that I did just what I said I would in the previous blog post on this. I'm doing it for others, though there is no hope for me any more. I got asked questions about the surgery I'd still want and this monthly pain during the interview as well, but in the knowledge that for as long as I'll still live it has to be in the knowledge that no hope is left there.

In some way my experiences in Berlin are like this idyllic dream, flooded with golden sun light. It was pleasant while spending time in it, but like a midsummer night's dream, it had to come to an end. It's a world which will never become a reality, as painful it is to accept.


1 comment: said...

What a great story, Maya. I missed the earlier post on the subject so I'll have to go look for that one next. I'm curious as to why there is so much interest in the subject from people in Chile.

Of course, I don't need to say that the end of the post had some sad overtones. I hate to see you feel like there is no hope. There is always a chance. There is always hope. Just remember that you are a vibrant, creative, beautiful young woman. No surgery will make you more so, and no lack of surgery will make this any less true. I know your body probably tells you something else. I'm just saying you are wonderful the way you are.