A Senate inquiry has heard that intersex people, including children and newborn infants, regularly undergo unnecessary surgery and hormone therapy at the urging of doctors and medical staff.

Established in September, the Senate Committee into the Involuntary or Coerced Sterilisation of People with Disabilities in Australia released its first report on July 17, but has extended its running time after hearing evidence from intersex rights groups of widespread forced sterilisation and gender reassignment surgery practised on intersex people.

In its submission to the inquiry, Organisation Intersex International Australia (OII) claimed that “every individual member of OII Australia has experienced some form of non-consensual medical intervention” and cited numerous specific instances of intersex people being pressured by medical professionals to undertake non-essential genital surgery, gonadectomies, clitorectomies and hormone therapy.

One testimonial included in the OII submission recounts how an intersex man reluctantly agreed to hormone therapy after his doctor unsettled him with “threats and horror stories” and claimed the therapy “would turn me into a ‘real man’”.

“It was insinuated, even blatantly stated on occasions, that my life would be worthless; that I would be a freak; that I would never achieve my potential, and that I would never have any self-esteem … So, eventually, from the age of 28, after about six years of constant threats and ‘counselling’ by my medical specialists, I began testosterone therapy. And I found it to be a horrifying experience,” the testimonial states.

“Testosterone therapy generated profound and traumatic changes in me … I was mortified when I began to grow large amounts of hair, where hair had never been. My voice dropped. I developed a very strong libido, but found the feelings unwelcome. The therapy turned me into someone I was not.”

Speaking at a Senate public hearing, OII Secretary Morgan Carpenter said that such interventions were carried out to “erase” intersex people from society.

“Clitorectomies, clitoral recession and other genital surgeries are carried out unnecessarily, without patient consent or regard for the full range of possible life paths. In non-intersex girls this is commonly decried as female genital mutilation,” Carpenter said.

The evidence prompted the Committee to prepare a separate report dedicated on the sterilisation of intersex people, which will likely be ready for public presentation by early August.

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