We have much to celebrate this year, for Intersex Awareness Day. Complementary work by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Victorian and ACT governments proposes that people with innate variations of sex characteristics should be protected from human rights violations in medical settings. This work includes a new report on Ensuring Health and Bodily Integrity by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The ACT government and the Victorian Minister for Health and Equality have made welcome and important commitments to reform in their jurisdictions, including prohibiting harmful practices and providing for independent oversight. These are necessary steps that provide a prerequisite for other actions, such as the development of standards of care, publication of human rights affirming resources and meaningful research. We need nationally consistent reforms and standards to ensure that intersex people are protected right across Australia.
We are proud that these developments build on years of work by Intersex Human Rights Australia and other community organisations, including Intersex Peer Support Australia. Together we build community, evidence, resources and capacity. We have engaged with a 2013 Senate inquiry, with UN Treaty Bodies and human rights institutions, and with health, legal and allied professionals and academics. We have collaborated on the development of the Darlington Statement and the Yogyakarta Principles plus 10.
Morgan Carpenter, IHRA executive director, says that the report:
recognises that criminal penalties and oversight are necessary to protect the human rights of children with variations of sex characteristics in medical settings, and it calls for more action on redress and resourcing. Today we’re calling on state, territory and Commonwealth governments to act to end these abuses. We need new laws that recognise our right to decide what happens to our own bodies.
Tony Briffa, IHRA Vice-Chair and IPSA president, says:
All human bodies are different, and intersex variations are a natural part of human diversity. The report also acknowledges a need for non-medical support to affirm our human rights and dignity. We need resourcing for our peer support and advocacy groups
Can you help secure these reforms? Can you help encourage other jurisdictions to commit to reforms?
Check out some ideas, further down this page. This page also provides information on new health and education resources, and public events for Intersex Awareness Day, 2021.
Several years ago members of the MRKH community and others bravely shared their stories to inform this report released by @AusHumanRights yesterday. The recommendations of this report are important to improving the lives of people with variations of sex characteristics. https://t.co/HcP3caAklF
— MRKH Australia (@MRKHAustralia) October 18, 2021
The Australian Human Rights Commission report
Human rights violations against intersex people in medical settings, and recommendations to end them, are documented in a Commission report that carefully and thoroughly documents and responds to current beliefs and practices by clinicians in hospitals around Australia. The Commission’s report is vital reading for medical, allied health, law and ethics professionals. The recommendations build on recommendations of a 2013 Senate committee report, and they need to be implemented by all Australian governments.
“The report identifies key problems with current clinical practice, including lack of evidence, a reliance on psychosocial rationales that are better addressed by peer support and other forms of support, and a lack of attention to concerns raised by psychological and psychiatric professionals”
Aileen Kennedy, IHRA board member has said to UNE:
We’ve seen how destructive intersex surgery decisions can be in families when the child does reach an age of consent, leaving parents feeling guilty and children resentful. The AHRC’s consideration of the processes, health and legal implications has highlighted the importance of parents being better informed and hearing from intersex adults with lived experience before any decision on invasive and potentially irreversible surgery is made.
- Read the Australian Human Rights Commission report
- Read the joint response to the Commission report by IHRA and Equality Australia
- Sign the Equality Australia petition
Thank you for your powerful words, @RosCroucher!
"let us honour the strength and diversity of the intersex community, and work together to ensure that we can all live a life of full dignity, health and respect" https://t.co/ixH0n5vvfZ
— Morgan Carpenter (@morgancarpenter) October 25, 2021
More new health and education resources
On 25 October, Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT (SHFPACT) and A Gender Agenda announced publication of Including Intersex: responding to issues affecting the educational experiences of intersex students in Australia. This is an exciting new resource for schools and other educational settings and we congratulate SHFPACT and AGA on its launch.
The peer-reviewed journal Sex Education has published a special issue on intersex and sexuality education. This special issue has been edited by a team including IHRA board member and surgeon Anita Jacombs. All articles (other than the introductory piece) are open access for 6-8 weeks. Several of the articles are written by education, psychology and law experts from our region, including papers by Annette Brömdal, Agli Zavros-Orr, lisahunter, Kirstine Hand & Bonnie Hart, by Rogena Sterling, and Brian W. King.
General Practice Supervisors Australia (GPSA) has published a guide to LGBTQIA+ Health and Inclusive Healthcare in General Practice, with a standalone resource on intersex variations forthcoming. We thank Ruth McNair and the GPSA for their engagement with us.
- LGBTQIA+ Health and Inclusive Healthcare in General Practice An Introduction to Teaching and Learning (free PDF and $5 paper copy)
- LGBTQIA+ Healthcare: Health needs of people with intersex variations (free PDF)
- Members of GPSA can register for the launch webinar with Dr Ruth McNair and Dr Asiel Adan Sanchez on 28 October at 8pm AEDT
In September 2021, the Public Health Association of Australia approved and published an important new Policy Position Statement on the Health of People with Diverse Genders, Sexualities, and Sex Characteristics. It calls on Australian governments to end human rights abuses in medical settings, noting that these occur on infants, children and adolescents with intesex variations in Australia. We congratulate the Public Health Association of Australia and the members of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Special Interest Group for this important work.
Events on the day
IHRA and friends are holding a webinar on the evening of 26 October. All tickets have been taken, but the webinar will be shared here afterwards.
A range of events, some private and some public, are scheduled for Intersex Awareness Day, including the lighting of bridges in Brisbane, and of the Council House in Perth.
Words for Intersex Awareness Day
Cody Smith, Senior Projects Officer, spoke with Maggie Zhou of Refinery29:
“Doctors encourage parents not to talk about surgery [and] essentially lie about it. And so, not even having the language to understand my experiences as I was going through them was something that limited my access to the community,” shares Cody.
Michelle, the WA Representative for Intersex Peer Support Australia has written for the City of Perth:
Intersex bodies are natural bodies. They are ours and ours only, no one has the right to change them except us. I wish for the day that we can be accepted for who we are by all of society and treated equally.
Morgan, Cody and Mimi appear in an article on ABC Everyday talking about some fundamental issues and intersections:
Growing up, Mimi says she felt like “a failure as a female.” The 24-year-old from Canberra was ferried between doctors, unable to experience female puberty and was put on hormones. Her parents and doctors told her she had a disorder with a long and convoluted name, which she felt was so shameful it had to be kept secret, even from close friends and siblings.
“It was an extremely rewarding experience to say, ‘actually, I’m not weird, I’m not unnatural, I’m not strange or deformed … I’m intersex’.”
In Archer Magazine, Phoebe Hart writes about her experiences of twenty years of advocacy:
Our actions began to have ripple effects, which built towards a wave. Some of us took on legal reform in official documents, federal human rights and anti-discrimination law. Others attended and spoke at global forums, researched and wrote scholarly articles, and even addressed the United Nations. The key motivation behind our efforts was to rupture stigma. We wanted to get the message out: stop performing unwanted surgeries on intersex children.
Darling Award, 2021
The winner of the 2021 Darling Award has been announced. The award celebrates organisations that go beyond an affirmation of the Darlington Statement. Congratulations to Queensland Council for LGBTI Health! CEO Rebecca Reynolds says:
QC is proud to be the winner of “The Darling” 2021 – Intersex Ally Award, awarded by the Darlington Consortium of intersex-led and allied organisations, and community members working towards implementation of the Darlington Statement. We welcome the trust that is placed in us as an organisation, from intersex-led organisations, to have the sometimes difficult conversations about our own power and privilege in the systems in which we work, live and play. We are committed to holding the spaces for the voices of people born with intersex variations to continue to shape, hold and guide their own futures in whatever shape that needs to take. Sustainable change only happens when you are willing and able to sit with the discomfort that comes from power being reallocated. We commit to keep on trying to make this happen and to not walk away from that obligation to our communities even when it is the easier option.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has announced commencement of protections on grounds of sex characteristics in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.
Our friends in Aotearoa New Zealand are holding a mini film festival on the evenings of 25 – 27 October.
The Aotearoa New Zealand government has announced huge changes, with a commitment to a rights-based approach:
Noah is an icon.
Also, The ABC approached a number of surgeons who operate on children with intersex variants, but none would speak to them on the record.
Why the silence doc, aren’t you just doing what’s in the best interest? https://t.co/g9agvAVbjv
— Anick (@IntersexAF) October 18, 2021
What can I do to help?
- My Body My Choice Campaign: Equality Australia has been working really closely with IHRA to build this campaign, it’s a good way to show solidarity with the work that is already happening. https://equalityaustralia.org.au/intersex-rights/
- Keep the conversations going: Sharing stories and resources maintains public interest in the issue, and creates opportunities for you to bring more people on side. Increased interest in the topic also creates more opportunities for intersex stories to be platformed. Share a news story or some of the social media tiles on this page.
- Other solidarity: The Darlington Statement has been the backbone of our advocacy for several years now. Even with the AHRC report out, it’s never too late to go back and affirm the Darlington Statement. It’s still one of our best tools. https://darlington.org.au/statement/
- Stay in the loop: IHRA now has a mailing list, it’s a pretty good way to keep up with current information and actions. Also consider subscribing to us on social media. https://ihra.org.au/subscribe/
- Back to basics: It never hurts to write to your MP. This page has a lot of good advice for contacting people federally. But also remember that the state governments have a lot of influence on this issue as well. If you’re involved with any political parties, you can also push them for intersex policy as well. https://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Guidelines_for_Contacting_Senators_and_Members
- Donate! A lot of time and energy goes into this work and the organisations involved are still drastically underfunded. 6% of charity funding goes to LGBTQA orgs, with only 0.14% reaching intersex led orgs. IHRA itself, despite being a nationally acclaimed organisation, gets by on three part time workers and limited funding. A little can do a lot. https://ihra.org.au/donate/
- Get training: Not everyone has a lot of disposable income they can afford to part with. We get that. However with a little creativity you might be able to find other opportunities in fundraisers or encouraging your workplace to pay for yellow tick training. Yellow Tick training is always delivered by people with lived experience, and it means that you get to learn in-depth, beyond just acronyms and definitions. All that money goes right back into the community, ensuring our work remains sustainable. https://darlington.org.au/yellowtick/
- Share materials on inclusive practice with your employer: Our inclusive practice resources were published jointly last year with Intersex Peer Support Australia and the LGBTIQ+ Health Alliance. https://ihra.org.au/inclusion/
- Need information on forms and data collection? We’ve got you covered. https://ihra.org.au/forms/
- Other stuff: You might have thought of something we haven’t. Maybe instead of money, you have time or a platform, or a skill set you can donate. We don’t always know what’s available to us, so it’s always worth dropping us an email if there’s some other way you can chip in. email@example.com
Remember it’s with your help that we’re going to get this across the line. Help us be bigger than ourselves.
If you have stepped up to help already, we see you and appreciate you. Your actions fill us with hope and gratitude.
Deciding whether to have surgery on your own body is a basic human right. For too long this right has been denied to Australians whose bodies don't happen to conform with typical male/female bodies.
This crucial report sounds the alarm & sets an agenda for positive change. 1/5 https://t.co/k6b9XP2zHk
— Edward Santow (@esantow) October 17, 2021
Keep an eye on this page! It will be updated throughout the day and week to reflect announcements and other newly published activities.
— UN Free & Equal (@free_equal) October 18, 2021