An Appeal for Acceptance
“Metamorphosis” is an appeal for acceptance and fairness that never attempts to dignify nor demonize its protagonist and opposers. An impressive performance by Gold Aceron as Adam, the teenager struggling his intersexuality during pubescent stages never asks for the kind of pity usually expected on a character escaping the pressures of a minority.
The director J.E. Tiglao captures what the movie wants to achieve. “Everyone has a secret, but not all secrets are bad” according to Angel (Iana Bernardez), a sex worker and 24-year-old returnee to high school who befriends the lonely Adam as he deals with an adolescence more challenging than most. Exploring the often underrepresented theme of intersexuality, “Metamorphosis” follows Adam as he struggles to come to an acceptance of who he is and wants to be while faced with the old fashioned, conservative attitudes of those around him.
Adam is something of an outcast at school, often getting into fights with one particular boy who keeps making a point of throwing homophobic slurs at him during class which go completely unchallenged either by the teacher or fellow pupils. Adam remains very much on the margins, until a beautiful young female student transfers into his class and ends up working with him on a class project. Angel is 24 years old but in a regular high school class with a bunch of 14-year-olds and quickly becomes friends with Adam who offers to show her some of the local sites including a picturesque swimming hole. It’s during their outing that Adam discovers a change in his physique when he has begun to menstruate.
Adam and his family have always known that he was intersex though he has been raised as a boy which is what he most closely identifies as. The fact that he has started to menstruate forces him to engage on a deeper level with a sense of identity as he struggles to accept the female element of his physical body while also embracing his nascent sexuality. Angel becomes Adam’s first ally, affirming that there isn’t anything wrong with him and suggesting that he change his perspective and think of himself as someone who is both rather than neither.
Since Adam comes from a conservative home with a father who is a pastor giving sermons about how God created male and female in his own image, this is not easy to do. Obviously concerned for their son’s health, Adam’s parents consult their family doctor who directs them to a specialist in Manila. Dr. Abraham (Ivan Padilla) is sympathetic, but also perhaps too definitive in immediately trying to offer reassurance with “we can fix this” as if Adam is broken and in need of repair. That idea continues to present a problem when it is discovered that he has a functioning womb and vagina, leading the doctor and Adam’s father to conclude that he is more female than male and should therefore have his maleness removed. Nobody really talks to Adam about this. Dr. Abraham tells him that he needs to be “ready” and also that he has to want this himself, but doesn’t make much of an effort to listen to him and tells him only that “the things that are not needed we will remove”.
Adam’s father immediately starts referring to him as his daughter and makes arrangements for the surgery without explaining to Adam what exactly will be happening to him. He also thinks about selling their mango farm and moving to another town where no one will know them as if Adam is some kind of dirty secret. Meanwhile Adam has begun to explore his sexuality, attracted both to the handsome Dr. Abraham, and the supportive Angel and uncertain if he should be feeling any contradiction between the two. Only the family doctor points out that many families in other countries have regretted forcing premature confirmation surgeries on children who later came to resent them, and that whatever happens should be up Adam’s decision. This causes a reconsideration from Adam’s mother who realizes her husband has been keeping valuable information from her regarding her son’s health.
“Metamorphosis’ presents us with a strong message of acceptance as Adam begins to embrace himself as he is rather than conform to a false binary gender identity. He gains the courage to be completely himself, emphasizing that intersex identities are not broken or corrupted but beautiful in themselves. He says that if others cannot learn to step outside of socially conservative norms of gender and sexuality then it is they who need to change.
.The film has a good heart and a positive tone in telling Adam’s coping of being different from most people. Adam’s journey to happiness and life-affirming freedom leaves a lasting impression.