Today marks the 22nd anniversary of a demonstration by ‘Hermaphrodites with Attitude’ and allies outside a paediatrics conference, from which intersex advocates had been excluded. Today, our voices can no longer be dismissed.
To mark Intersex Awareness Day, five intersex advocates representing three organisations returned to the Commonwealth Parliament on 16 October. We met with Labor, Greens, Liberal and Centre Alliance parliamentarians. Two co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of LGBTI group, Graham Perrett MP and Senator Janet Rice, spoke in Parliament on the day. Here is the speech by Graham Perrett MP in the House of Representatives, where it has to fit a 90 second timespan.
Friday, 26 October is Intersex Awareness Day. Intersex Australians are people whose biological sex characteristics at birth are not typically male or female. These people make up the ‘I’ in LBGTIQ. Most Australians do not hear of these people and have little understanding about them, yet being born with intersex characteristics is as common as being born with red hair. Too often intersex Australians are invisible. As a co-convener of the Parliamentary Friendship Group for LGBTIQ Australians, along with my co-conveners the member for Leichhardt and Senator Rice, I am hosting a delegation from the intersex community in Parliament House today. I acknowledge Morgan and the rest of the delegation in the gallery and welcome them to Parliament House. They will be meeting with many politicians from all parties to raise awareness of issues of concern for their community.
The Australian Human Rights Commission is currently conducting a project that will consider how best to protect the rights of people born with variations in sex characteristics and non-consensual medical interventions. Intersex Australians just want the same rights as all other Australians—bodily autonomy, self-determination and legal recognition. It is important that, as leaders, we have these conversations about the rights of all Australians, including intersex Australians. Next Friday, on Intersex Awareness Day this year, instead of being invisible, let’s make sure intersex Australians are seen and heard and are proud to be citizens of Australia.
Here is an extract of an adjournment speech by Senator Janet Rice, which is not not subject to the same time constraints:
today my Greens colleagues and I were fortunate enough to sit down with members of our intersex community, representatives from Intersex Human Rights Australia, the AIS Support Group Australia and A Gender Agenda, to listen to and reflect on their lived experience. Their visit to parliament was in recognition of Intersex Awareness Day Friday next week. Their stories were incredibly powerful. We heard stories from people born with variations in sex characteristics who experienced horrific and invasive non-essential surgeries and medical procedures as infants, children and adults. We heard stories of families with intersex infants, children and adolescents not being given accurate information and not being offered options that respect the bodily integrity of their children. And we heard stories of intersex people not being offered referrals to peer support groups that would help them to feel less alone and enable them to connect up with others in their situation. What’s more, we heard that this isn’t the reality of 30 or 40 years ago but the reality of people born with intersex variations today. Human rights violations are perpetrated against intersex infants, children and adolescents in Australian hospitals today, and the structures of consent are simply non-existent.
Today we were also presented with copies of the Darlington Statement, a joint consensus statement by Australian and Aotearoa/New Zealand intersex organisations. The statement outlines what needs to happen to ensure that the human rights of people born with intersex variations are protected, and it outlines a way forward for intersex people to thrive. The statement calls for legal protections for unnecessary medical interventions, together with effective oversight, standards of care and resourcing for peer support and systemic advocacy, because the reality is that intersex peer support remains largely unfunded and advocacy funding remains precarious and limited. The few intersex-led organisations rely solely on volunteers to address the many gaps in services left by other well resourced health, social services and human rights organisations. This is not good enough.
One of the most powerful things I heard today was a quip that the I in LGBTI stands for invisible, and in some respects it’s true. The representatives I met with are so incredibly hardworking, but they are desperately underresourced and urgently need more support to continue the important work that they do. My Greens colleagues and I are committed to working towards a future where the parliament works with peer-led intersex organisations, advocates, human rights experts and health professionals to recognise and respect the human rights and dignity of all people with variations of sex characteristics. I implore the government to do the same. Please, listen to and take note of our intersex community, and please affirm and implement the Darlington Statement and its recommendations. It’s so important that you do this. The intersex community’s wellbeing depends on it.
In the lead up to Intersex Awareness Day, our members have spoken at a range of events. including events at Swinburne, Monash and Sydney Universities, SAP and Thomson Reuters. Alex David spoke with 4ZZZ FM A group of intersex people will speak on Joy 94.9 on Intersex Awareness Day at 7am, ADST. Cody Smith of A Gender Agenda spoke to RTR FM also, this month.
In connection with his role with GATE, co-executive director Morgan Carpenter has an invited blog post at Reproductive Health Matters journal today: “Intersex human rights: clinical self-regulation has failed”. Here’s an extract:
There is neither clinical consensus nor clinical evidence to support current coercive practices . Clinical bodies face multiple challenges in constructing evidence to support these clinical practices. A deliberate historic practice of concealing diagnostic information  means that it is likely most intersex people lack information about their bodies that can help them manage their health, let alone make them reachable to clinical researchers. Legacies of poor treatment, trauma and medical display mean that many individuals will not engage with health services that they may actually need . Most damningly, research to ascertain the impact of forced practices reveals human rights violations. In some cases, as in attempts to gauge the post-surgical clitoral sensitivity of children, clinical research practices themselves violate human rights .
— SRHM Journal (@SRHMJournal) October 26, 2018
There is a lack of evidence supporting unconsented & unnecessary medical interventions on #intersex people.
Medical professionals – ask yourselves "Where is the evidence?"
We invite intersex people to join in the conversation #IAmTheEvidencehttps://t.co/Y10Aq6Vwp6 #IAD2018 pic.twitter.com/ADSmTydEOB
— GATE (@GATEOrg) October 26, 2018
Hobsons Bay and Darebin Councils in Victoria will fly the intersex flag. Our co-executive director Tony Briffa is deputy mayor of Hobsons Bay.
Intersex Awareness Day in Melbourne's west today. City of Hobsons Bay Civic Offices, Altona. Great to see the council continuing to support intersex people. @intersexaus @ILGAWORLD @ILGAOceania @comish_ro_allen @star_observer @LOTLmagazine @VGLRL pic.twitter.com/wjbl1z5g7z
— Cr. Tony Briffa JP (@tonybriffa) October 26, 2018
The City of Darebin in Victoria is also flying the flag – thanks! – and they have an excellent picture:
Today is #IntersexAwarenessDay! Darebin Council reaffirms its commitment to promoting human rights and the health and wellbeing of the city’s intersex community. The intersex flag will be flown above Preston City Hall until the International Day of Intersex Solidarity on 08/11 pic.twitter.com/PNlC3humy9
— City of Darebin (@CityofDarebin) October 26, 2018
On 27 October, the Story Bridge in Brisbane will again be lit in purple and yellow for Intersex Awareness Day. Folks will gather at Wilson Outlook Reserve in New Farm. The lights will be switched on at dusk, expected to be at 6.02pm.
In 2018, intersex advocates in Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand held a second advocacy retreat. To mark Intersex Awareness Day, a consortium of intersex organisations and advocates have awarded the first ever Darlington intersex ally award.
More about the inaugural Darling Award and the winning nomination
We thank the Australian Human Rights Commission for conducting honourably an ongoing inquiry on protecting the rights of people born with variations in sex characteristics in the context of medical interventions. We have offered encouragement to individuals with many different perspectives to contribute to this inquiry, and the Commission has heard many such perspectives. We hope that the Commission will report on its fundings in early 2019.
Human Rights Watch have published a statement on the Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry:
Public pressure is growing in Australia to end the harmful and unnecessary medical practices imposed on intersex people – people born with variations in sex characteristics. Today, we mark Intersex Awareness Day amid signs that the global push to ban these harmful procedures is gaining momentum.
We will add to this page throughout the day.