SBS Insight screen episode on intersex people and medicine

On 7 November, SBS Insight screened a program on the medicalisation of intersex people. Several members and directors of OII Australia participated, in addition to parents and clinicians. The episode is available to view online.

Insight on SBS talked about the medicalisation of intersex people in episode 31, November 2017.

Alex David was raised as a girl but is chromosomally male, born with ambiguous genitalia and internal gonads that did not turn into anything. Alex is Intersex which is when someone is born with male and female characteristics. Alex had surgery when young to look more female because doctors reportedly didn’t have a clue about Alex’s sex. Growing up, Alex felt out of place and from the age of 17 tried to live as a male. Alex now identifies as non-binary.

Bonnie and Phoebe Hart were born with testes in their abdomens instead of ovaries and a uterus. At the age of 12 and 17 they both had surgery to remove the testes because they were told there was a high cancer risk. They were then instructed to do vaginal dilation which would better enable them to have heterosexual sex. They said it was a painful and unsupervised process.

‘Louise’s’ first child was born with a condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Louise and her husband decided to operate on their daughter when she was a baby. She had a clitoral reduction, labiaplasty and her vagina was formed. They don’t regret the decision and say it was to ensure she lived as a normal girl.

Nearly two per cent of Australians have some sort of Intersex variation. It’s as common as people with red hair. Intersex advocates are calling for a ban of surgery on Intersex infants and say procedures on people before they are old enough to consent are a violation of human rights. However, doctors say any ban would affect many families and individuals who are happy with the surgery they had as children.

This week Insight speaks to people who are Intersex about how they navigate life and the medical system.

We express our thanks to the producer, Jodie Noyce, associate producer Nicola McCaskill, and the presenter, Jenny Brockie. We also thank the entire crew for their hospitality and considerable effort to respect participants in a challenging discussion of harmful medical practices.

More information

More information on the SBS website
Watch on YouTube
The program is also available via SBS On Demand and has since been screened again
Alex David wrote a companion article for SBS, published on 7 November 2017