The annual Isabelle Lake Memorial Lecture is organised jointly with the University of Western Australia. The May 2018 lecture provided a personal insight into living as an intersex person and was given on IDAHOBIT (international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia).
Cr Tony Briffa, now Deputy Mayor of Hobsons Bay, is a passionate human rights advocate, co-executive director of the organisation Intersex Australia, and a member of various LGBTI advisory committees.
Acting Commissioner John Byrne said Cr Briffa was approached to give this year’s lecture because she was one of the first Australian public figures to speak publically about being intersex.
“Cr Briffa will also be the first person to identify as intersex to deliver the Isabelle Lake Memorial Lecture,” he said.
Cr Briffa shared her (preferred pronoun) story of being born with androgen insensitivity syndrome which meant she was born with sex characteristics that were mostly female externally, but with some male attributes internally. She spoke about the dilemma most parents face when medical staff advise them to place their babies under hormone treatment and surgery, to better fit within the stereotypes of the binary sex system.
“Intersex babies as young as six weeks are given inappropriate hormone treatment in the hope it will make them heteronormative boys, and some baby girls still have their clitorises surgically reduced in size without any medical need."
“Perfectly healthy genitals are operated on to make these children better conform to society’s idea of what a boy or girl should look like,” she said.
Tony also explained that the damaging stigma around being born intersex had meant a person’s intersex status was often not discussed, with some intersex adults finding out for the first time while undergoing fertility treatment or trying to obtain a home loan.
“Families need greater access to intersex support groups right from when the baby is born through medical staff at the hospital, so they can make informed decisions and better understand the needs of their intersex child going forward,” she said.