Friday, 30 July 2010

The Mail [Australia]: Briffa goes boldly as 'other'
7.7.10 by Goya Bennett

[Click on image to enlarge.]

HOBSONS Bay deputy mayor Tony Briffa is thought to be the only person to describe his sex as 'other' in the Victorian Local Governance Association survey of numbers of males and females in local government.

The Altona Ward councillor was born with an intersex condition, which saw him incorrectly assigned as female gender as a child.

Asked why he described himself as 'other' when he fought so hard to be male, Cr Briffa sets the record straight.

"I fought to be me. It wasn't so much about me becoming Tony, a male; it was more about finding out who I was meant to be had doctors not interfered.

"I wanted to understand my true nature and be the person I should have been before doctors castrated and modified me through surgeries and hormone treatment.

"I was born ambiguous in terms of my sex and doctors weren't sure what my sex was at birth.

"As a child, then even as a teenager, I questioned whether I was a boy or a girl.

"I was always a feminist; I always believed in affirmative action and equal opportunity.

"I was attracted to girls, not boys, which was also confusing to me, particularly as I was at an all-girls' school.

"It's about being true to myself and that whole journey about discovering who I would have been had it not been for the medical intervention, and just being the person that nature made me."

As vice-president of the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group Australia, Cr Briffa has long lobbied for childhood gender assignments not to be surgically reinforced.

"Thanks to the work that we've done and the support group that I run at the Royal Children's Hospital, they've done a 30-year follow-up study of children with these conditions treated at the Royal Children's Hospital," he said.

"If a person's got my condition, for example, if they were raised as a female it would be unlikely they would then do irreversible surgeries like castration as a child. The records at the Royal Children's speak for themselves: 8 per cent of children in that 30-year study period were raised in the wrong sex, which is a horrible statistic given that they reinforce that sex surgically."

Cr Briffa said the VLGA survey, marking the Year of Women in Local Government, specifically asked for councillors' sex.

"I just thought, to be true to myself and to have the record accurately reflect the situation, let's put 'other'.

"In any elected position these days in Australia, it's a nonsense, it's a fiction to think that women aren't able to participate as equally as men. Our Governor General is a woman, our Prime Minister is a woman, and our local member is a woman.

"There's no impediment to public office if you're a woman."

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