Pride March Melbourne last Sunday was a great success, despite the searing temperatures.
But not for everyone.
Tony Briffa didn’t come to Pride this year. Tony is probably the best known intersex person in Australia. She’s a third-term Councillor, current Deputy Mayor and former Mayor of the City of Hobsons Bay (Melbourne, Australia). She is also a passionate human rights activist and a Co-executive Director of Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia, Vice-President of the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) Support Group Australia and a member of various government LGBTI advisory committees.
But this year she did not march in Pride down Fitzroy St., St Kilda. I’ll let her explain in her own words:
I did not march at Pride March this year – the first time in years.
When I was at Pride last year I was very stressed, anxious and disturbed that the Royal Children’s Hospital – the perpetrators of ongoing abuse of intersex infants and children, and who are yet to apologise for their abuse of the past – were marching.
It was very confronting and distressing. This hospital should not be applauded at a GLBTI event. Where is the consideration and respect for intersex people and what our mental health? How offensive that the RCH would be cheered on while they continue to cut up intersex children and refuse to admit and apologise for their wrongs?
I’m flabbergasted and horrified they are in this space. Yes I get that they do some good for trans kids, but their abuse of intersex kids should not be ignored.
Unnecessary operations on children
OII says many operations are not medically necessary and are performed to reinforce a particular gender. OII says surgeons should wait until a child reached an age of informed consent. The Royal Children’s Hospital, however, performs operations on infants and small children.
Associate Professor Sonia Grover, director of the department of gynaecology at the Royal Children’s Hospital, says studies show girls with CAH would identify as females and want to have periods and sex later in life and that surgery done early produced good results. All infant surgery is conducted with the informed consent of parents.
“While we have the data to say they are going to end up identifying as females … and we have evidence that surgical outcomes are good, and sensory outcomes and sexual function are good, where’s the pressure to change the practice?” Grover says.
We dispute these statements, and have the medical data to support our analysis. We know of numerous cases of “girls… where childhood assignment as female is/would be wrong. There is medical evidence that assignments are wrong in at least 8% of cases. We have evidence from RCH and elsewhere that patient outcomes are poor. Evidence is provided in our submissions to the Senate Inquiry on sterilisation. [OII]
Tony says the RCH have recently reaffirmed their position.
The RCH confirmed they are still conducting surgeries in October and tried to defend their position on SBS Insight program in November 17. They shouldn’t be welcomed in the LGBTI space while they continue to abuse the human rights of intersex people.
The SBS program on Intersex is online here https://www.sbs.com.au/news/insight/tvepisode/intersex
Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital performs one or two gonadectomies** a year on infants with undescended testes. It also performs 10 to 15 genital reconstruction operations a year, often on girls under the age of two.
Ms Wilson [OII spokesperson] points to several studies showing dissatisfaction among people with congenital adrenal hyperplasia who had surgery as infants.
**gonadectomy – surgical removal of ovaries or testicles
The UN Human Rights Committee has made a powerful call to recognise the human rights of intersex people, including through ending irreversible medical treatment that is not absolutely medically necessary, and that takes place before a child can comprehend and provide informed consent.
the stirrer contacted Midsummma for their reaction:
We are not aware of any complaints issued to us last year about the RCH marching, but take this recent response offered to you very seriously.
Midsumma Pride March is an open access march where participation is encouraged by all organisations to express Pride in the work that they do.
While we are aware that some parts of our communities do not agree with some of the work by some of the participant organisations, it would only be in very extreme circumstances that Midsumma would not allow a group to march.
Thank you for drawing this to our attention however, and we look forward to hearing the response you obtain from RCH regarding this matter.
The I on the End
Our “brand” is LGBTI. The I stands for intersex. Intersex people like Tony are fighting to be allowed to make their own choices about their own bodies. Instead, many are growing up facing the consequences of choices made by others, without their involvement or understanding, and without their consent. With irreversible lifetime consequences. Should the doctors who facilitate this, who carry out these operations, be welcome at LGBTI celebrations?
The RCH have been invited to state their case here on the stirrer.