Not being associated with any particular political party, Tony Briffa is an independent councillor whose focus has remained on representing his community (where he has lived all his life), community diversity and environmental issues.
Speaking enthusiastically at the launch of the Midsumma 2012 program on the weekend before the Hobson’s Bay election, Briffa who was a councilor at the time, said he was proud to be a member of the queer community and excited about the involvement of the city he represented in the full cultural life of Melbourne.
At the launch, he announced his intention to run for mayor, promising that should he get the top mayor position that he would be attending Victoria’s Pride March in February 2012 in full mayoral robes. Since officially becoming Mayor of the city of Hobsons Bay, Briffa has re-confirmed his intention to march at Pride March in the official robes. The City of Hobsons Bay, which includes the suburbs of Altona, Brooklyn, Laverton, Newport, Seabrook, Spotswood and Williamstown, has played an increasingly significant role in Melbourne’s queer cultural celebration the Midsumma Festival over the past few years, becoming a major hub of the 2012 program.
“I am excited about the future of our community and look forward to serving the city with enthusiasm and pride,” Briffa said following his election.
National LGBTI Health Alliance Board Member Gina Wilson says Briffa is inspiring.
“Tony is an inspiration and a role model for a whole generation of intersex people, both those who have suffered early interventions and those who have come to their differences later in life,” Wilson said.
“We share Tony’s hope that his election will break down taboos associated with intersex differences. Tony is a wonderful example of how intersex people can overcome the devastating and unnecessary medical treatment meted out to so many intersex children, and go on to become champions of human rights and cultural diversity for everyone.”
The following is provided to help people understand who I am on a more personal level, particularly given my genetic intersex condition and some of the media articles about it. (Note that intersex conditions are sometimes also referred to as Disorders of Sexual Development, but I like to consider them as just a variation in nature).
The first thing parents are told when a baby is born is whether the baby is a boy or a girl. In my case, doctors weren’t sure because I was born with physical attributes of both sexes as well as missing attributes of both (i.e. a genetic intersex condition). This means I am biologically not exclusively male or female but somewhere in between (or both). My doctor immediately referred me to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne who ran a number of tests including chromosomal karyotyping, hormonal analysis, a laparotomy and biopsies. They diagnosed me with an intersex condition called “Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome” and the treatment paradigm – likely elsewhere in the world – dictated that I was to be raised as a girl, any male physical attributes had to be surgically removed if possible, and I was not to be told the truth about my condition. This was a particularly difficult time for my parents.As a result of my diagnosis I was named Antoinette and raised as a girl. I went to Mount Saint Joseph’s Girls’ College in Altona and lived as a woman until I learned the truth about my condition and sought to find out who I would have been had the medical profession not sought to “normalise” me. I didn’t have a gender identity issue; I just wanted to be the person nature had intended. Frankly, after learning about my condition I felt like I was living a lie as a woman given I did not have a complete female reproductive system and was also born with some internal male organs.
After starting hormone replacement therapy to replace the hormones my testes would have produced had I not been castrated as a child, my body started to change. My voice deepened and I started to grow hair in places where I never had hair before. It started getting more difficult being “Antoinette” so I had my identity documentation “corrected” to state I was male. I didn’t particularly feel male because I didn’t have all the basic male attributes and the male upbringing, but it made public life easier. The funny thing is that my birth certificate is as wrong stating my sex as male, as it was when it classified me as female.
Years later I feel very comfortable having accepted my true nature. I am not male or female, but both. I am grateful for the years I lived as a woman and the insight and experiences it gave me. I am still “Antoinette” and have now also incorporated and accepted my male (“Anthony” or “Tony”) side. I feel whole. I’ll continue to live as Tony but I feel I am now at a point in my life where I can celebrate being different.
I am very touched that despite my condition the Altona and Hobsons Bay community has always accepted me. I think it shows our community is genuinely accepting and understanding of people who are different.
The following articles are just some examples of things I’ve done or articles written about me and my condition. My personal story has also been featured twice on 60 Minutes and I continue to advocate strongly for the rights of children born with intersex conditions and their families:
• “Choosing the Right Gender”, The Age (1 February 2005)
• “He’s the Man”, 60 Minutes (4 September 2005)
• “Human rights close to home for Tony Briffa”, Hobsons Bay Weekly (2 September 2009)
• “Dilemmas when gender is uncertain”, The Australian (19 March 2005)
• “Tony Briffa goes boldly as ‘other’”, The Hobsons Bay Weekly (7 July 2010)
• “Award-winning research gives hope to children of uncertain sex”, IBM Output (Winter 2007)
• Presentation by Tony Briffa at an Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW forum at the NSW Parliament House in 2003