New show on identity asks why we are as we are

Wed Nov 25, 2009 10:51am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A new show on human identity tackles one of life's most fundamental questions -- what, or who, is the real me?

Scientific advances from fingerprinting to DNA profiles provide some answers to what distinguishes one person from another, but they do little to address the fascination and anxiety people feel over their identity.

"Identity: 8 Rooms, 9 Lives" at the Wellcome Collection in central London focuses on nine individuals whose lives have been bound up in various issues associated with identity.

From "twins" born three years apart to sex change pioneer April Ashley and the Big Brother reality TV show, the exhibition centres on the themes of how and why people differ and to what extent they can change from the person they were at birth.

Ashley was one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment in Britain, and the room dedicated to her story traces her often difficult path from man to woman and the legal and emotional complications it caused.

The exhibition features newspaper articles from a 1969 trial when Arthur Corbett successfully sought to have his marriage to Ashley annulled on the basis that Ashley had been born a male.

By ruling in Corbett's favor, the court based its judgment on chromosomal evidence and disregarded Ashley's psychological profile and surgery. It also set a precedent only overturned with the introduction of the Gender Recognition Act of 2004.

TWINS HOLD CLUES   Continued...