Intersex advocate and Hobsons Bay councillor, Tony Briffa, will boycott Melbourne’s Pride March if the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) is allowed to take part in the event.

The former mayor cited the ongoing, involuntary or coerced medical interventions on young intersex bodies performed by the hospital as the reason behind the decision.

Speaking to the Star Observer, Briffa said seeing the RCH march at last year’s Pride March was hurtful and disappointing.

“Imagine being a proud member of the LGBTI community, and a survivor of childhood and adolescent conversion therapies, and seeing the organisation that tried to make you fit heteronormative stereotypes welcomed into the Melbourne Pride March,” Briffa said.

“Current interventions by the RCH include surgically reducing the size of clitorises in baby girls who have clitorises deemed too big by doctors, forced testosterone injections given to baby boys with certain intersex variations, and the surgical removal of healthy gonads in some intersex children to remove any possible intersex trait.

“None of these interventions are medically necessary, nor are they conducted with the consent of the children involved.”

Intersex people are born with physical or biological sex characteristics that don’t fit binary ideas around male and female bodies.

There are at least 40 kinds of intersex variations and according to experts up to 1.7 per cent of the population are born with one or more of them.

Some intersex traits are visible at birth while others might not be apparent until puberty.

The invasive medical interventions continue to be carried out in Australia without personal informed consent, and are often irreversible.

They can cause permanent infertility, pain, a loss of sexual sensation, and lifelong mental health issues like depression.

Briffa said that while the RCH has made important strides in recognising and affirming trans and gender diverse people, the same recognition has not been given to intersex people.

“The same hospital and many of the same doctors that [perform medical interventions] on intersex children also treat trans and gender diverse children, but their bodily integrity and right to self determination are recognised,” Briffa said.

“No treatment of trans and gender diverse children at the RCH is conducted without the consent of the child involved.

“This is in complete contrast to intersex children… so why is the RCH marching in Pride March?”

Briffa added that organisations engaging in gay conversion therapy wouldn’t be allowed to participate in pride marches, and so organisations – including hospitals – that engage in “conversion therapies against intersex children” should be held to the same standard.

Briffa called on intersex allies in the LGBT community to support intersex people and join them in the fight to recognise their right to bodily integrity and self determination.

We should be able to be the people nature made us, and if our bodies are to be modified then we should be the ones to make that decision with our full and free consent,” Briffa said.

“I call on the Midsumma Board to make it clear to the RCH that they are not welcome to participate in the Pride March until they stop conducting involuntary or coerced medical interventions on intersex children and make amends to the many children they have mistreated.”

At this stage, the RCH is due to march in the Pride March, and will follow other youth-based contingents along the route including Parents of Gender Diverse Children and headspace.

Chief Executive of Midsumma, Karen Bryant, said the festival had been working closely with Briffa to “create a space to encourage dialogue around this issue”.

“Our role is to provide support to address the issues that affect our diverse communities as well as to celebrate the wins,” she told the Star Observer.

“We are very aware of the very difficult situations that our many and diverse communities experience on a daily basis and the huge impact that these situations can and do have.

“Midsumma Pride March is the coming together of these diverse peoples and communities to reflect, celebrate, and to shine light on the issues affecting our communities, in hope that together we can resolve them.”

For more information about the lives and experiences of intersex people, as well as the Darlington Statement, a statement outlining key priorities for intersex communities in Australia and New Zealand, visit: www.ihra.org.au

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