Today is Intersex Awareness Day, a day to bring awareness to the challenges that intersex people face in an international day of action to end the shame, secrecy and unwanted cosmetic surgery on intersex children.
This weekend the spire of Arts Centre Melbourne will be lit up yellow and purple, the intersex colours to celebrate the day.
“Arts Centre Melbourne is a place for everyone and our values around inclusion are clear and unequivocal,” an Arts Centre spokesperson told the Star Observer.
“Our position is, and always will be, one of embracing equality, love and respect, regardless of our cultural heritage, ethnicity, race, religion, political beliefs, gender identity or who we choose to love.”
“I’m so pleased the Arts Centre agreed to celebrate Intersex Awareness Day like that,” Tony Briffa, the world’s first openly intersex elected official told us.
The Williamstown Town Hall in Melbourne will also be lit up in intersex colours this weekend, with some councils also flying the intersex flag.
What does it mean to be intersex?
There are many misconceptions out there, but the term is used to describe a variety of conditions for when a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definition of male or female.
“The usual misconceptions we face are that (a) intersex is a third sex or gender, or (b) that intersex is trans or gender diverse,” Briffa tells us.
“Intersex is just about being born with biological sex characteristics that are different to the stereotypical expectations of male or female bodies, but most of us are female or male, and most of us identify in the sex we were raised.
“Like the rest of the community, some intersex people might also be gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, left-handed, blue-eyed, tall, short, and so on.”
In our own communities we have no problem using the term LGBTI, even when we don’t fully understand what the I actually means—but this video can help you to better understand.
Because there are many variations (more than 40) to what it means to be intersex, many people find it difficult to understand, as it can’t be categorised into a simple box the way that same sex attraction is.
We have no firm figures of the number of Australians who are intersex. Intersex Human Rights Australia suggest a figure of 1.7 per cent of all births.
“I would love for everyone to know what intersex is, and that intersex infants and children are still being abused in Australian hospitals.” Briffa said.
“This includes little girls having their clitoris surgically reduced in size, children being castrated, and even babies being given sex hormones to try to make them heteronormative.”
Earlier this year Briffa boycotted Melbourne’s Pride March as the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) were allowed to take part in the event.
“This is a very invasive and abusive form of conversion therapy and should be banned,” Briffa said.
In 2017, intersex advocates in Australia and New Zealand issued the Darlington Statement, which outlines key priorities for the intersex community, prioritising legal reform to recognise bodily autonomy, effective rights-based oversight of clinical decisions, access to affirmative heath care and peer support.
Since then individuals and organisations have been called on to affirm the statement. ANZ became the first major publicly listed company to announce support for intersex communities in Australia and New Zealand by affirming the Darlington Statement in 2018.
“For businesses or individuals to affirm the Darlington Statement would mean that they have taken the time to get to know the issues experienced by intersex people and that they’ve taken the first steps to becoming an ally of intersex people.” Briffa told us.