Altona, Victoria, Australia
|Known for||First known intersex mayor, intersex activist and educator|
|Television||60 Minutes (2005)
7.30 Report (2013)
Tony Briffa born Antoinette Briffa in Altona, Victoria is an Australian, born to Maltese immigrants, who has Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. Tony Briffa was an independent councillor, mayor and deputy mayor in the City of Hobsons Bay, Victoria and Vice President of Organisation Intersex International Australia.
Tony Briffa was raised as a girl, then lived for a time as a man, and now chooses to live as both female and male. Briffa is considered the world's first openly intersex mayor and public office-bearer and one of the first people to be public about their indeterminate birth certificate.
Tony Briffa is the world's first openly intersex public mayor, and "the first known intersex public office-bearer in the Western world", serving as Deputy Mayor of the City of Hobsons Bay, Victoria, between 2009 and 2011, and Mayor between 2011-2012. Briffa resigned as a local councillor on 14 February 2014, effective on the appointment of a successor.
Tony Briffa has previously served as the President of the Genetic Support Network of Victoria and is currently the Vice President of the Organisation Intersex International Australia and Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group Australia. The groups have been described as "the two leading groups advocating for the rights of intersex people in Australia".
Tony Briffa was born with Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, raised as a girl and castrated at age seven to impose that assigned sex of rearing. Speaking to a 2013 Senate of Australia inquiry into the Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people in Australia, Briffa describes how doctors "convinced my mother to approve me to be castrated":
"I have a few pages here from my medical records...It says: 'Mother now ready for gonadectomy.' ... The histology reports, which I will also tender, show that they were healthy testes. But there was no Family Court approval. If we are talking about coercion, doctors coerce families, parents, into believing by saying: 'We need to remove these testes because it will make your child normal'."
At a hearing on intersex sterilisation in March 2013, Briffa said that:
It has a serious impact on us in terms of our sexual health, our relationships, being able to reproduce, and being different. One of the things that they say to us is that we need to have our gonads removed because we are different—'We want to make you look normal.' Of course, part of the whole sterilisation thing is that you have pretty big surgery and scars, so they are making you different! ... [and surgery is] usually over the summer holidays, so your summers are spent in hospital am a twin ... I have a non-identical twin sister. She does not have AIS. So I have a perfect example of someone who is normal and someone who is nothing like normal. Following the castration surgery I had scars. Anything like swimming lessons or camping was out. It did not happen.
Parts of Briffa's life story are depicted in a short online animation.
Indeterminate birth certificate
While Norrie May-Welby is popularly regarded as the first person with an indeterminate birth certificate, that status is still legally uncertain, and Tony Briffa is one of the first people to obtain such certification. Alex MacFarlane is believed to be the first.
Tony Briffa possesses a birth certificate with an unspecified sex. It is publicly stated on Tony Briffa's website that "my birth certificate is silent as to my sex". Speaking to the Senate hearing on intersex sterilisation in March 2013, Briffa said:
My birth certificate, from the state of Victoria, does not classify me as male or female. I have certainly had a female birth certificate, I had a male birth certificate at one stage and I have a blank birth certificate now. But we are hoping that one day in the future our birth certificates will actually be able to reflect, for those who want it, the way nature made us. If people feel female that is great, and if they feel male that is great, but there are also people like me: I just accept the way nature made me. I am happy for my birth certificate to say that I am both male and female. One day, hopefully, we will have that as well.
Tony Briffa has been reported as requesting that fellow councillors not use gender-specific pronouns. The Herald Sun newspaper reported, "Cr Briffa has sent a note asking councillors to abide by equal opportunity laws and the state's human rights charter 'by not addressing me using female or male pronouns and salutations'."
Briffa made the following statement: "I am very public about being born biologically partially female and partially male and that I was raised as a girl and lived as a woman until I was 30. I ask all my friends and colleagues to respect my sex as what nature made me; both female and male."
Legal issues presented by Tony Briffa's non-specific birth certificate mean that Briffa cannot lawfully marry in Australia. On 27 September 2013, Tony Briffa married Manja Sommeling in Dunedin, New Zealand. Organisation Intersex International Australia notes:
Tony was born in Victoria with Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS), one of many intersex variations, and Tony’s birth certificate does not state a sex. Marriage in Australia is currently only permissible between a man and a woman, and Tony is not eligible.
Tony is able to marry in New Zealand because legislation providing marriage equality was passed earlier this year. Tony has had to declare an “indeterminate” gender for the purposes of today’s marriage.
- "60 Minutes". Nine Network. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- Living outside 'male or female', Australian Broadcasting Corporation 7.30 Report, 8 July 2013
- "About Tony ... | cr Tony Briffa", Briffa.org, 2012
- Councillor Tony Briffa JP, Cherry Lake Ward, retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Animation: NICHE IDAHO Campaign: "I", Tony (YourStory), Video animation
- "Intersex Mayor Elected in Australia", Advocate.com, December 9, 2011
- Briffa to march in mayoral robes, Star Observer, December 8, 2011
- "Tony Briffa Of Australia's City Of Hobsons Bay Becomes World's First Intersex Mayor", HuffingtonPost.com, December 10, 2011
- "World's first intersex mayor, Cr Tony Briffa does not want to be called he or she", Herald Sun, April 15, 2013
- "Melbourne elects Australia's first intersex Mayor", SameSame.com.au, 9 December 2011
- Australia elects world’s first intersex mayor, The Raw Story, December 10, 2011
- Intersex ex-mayor of Hobsons Bay Tony Briffa calls it quits, Herald Sun, 14 February 2014.
- Resignation Announcement, Cr Tony Briffa, 14 February 2014.
- 3rd Asia Pacific Outgames Human Rights Forum - Keynote Speakers
- Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people in Australia, Australian Senate Community Affairs Committee, October 2013.
- Transcript of hearing of Community Affairs References Committee, Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities in Australia, Senate of Australia, Community Affairs References Committee, Thursday, 28 March 2013.
- "OII VP Tony Briffa to wed partner in NZ ceremony - Gay News Network", Gay News Network, 27 September 2013
- "Congratulations, Tony and Manja!", Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia, 27 September 2013
- "X marks the spot for intersex Alex", West Australian, via bodieslikeours.org. 11 January 2003
- "Ingrid Holme, "Hearing People's Own Stories", in Science as Culture, Volume 17, Issue 3, 2008"
- "Neither man nor woman", Sydney Morning Herald. 27 June 2010
- Newsletter of the Sociology of Sexualities Section of the American Sociological Association, American Sociological Association Sexualities News, Volume 6, Issue 1, Summer 2003
- Ten years of ‘X’ passports, and no protection from discrimination, Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia, 19 January 2013
- SameSame.com.au, 8 October 2013, "Tony and Manja's little Kiwi wedding"
- "OII VP Tony Briffa to Wed Partner in NZ Ceremony", Gay News Network, 27 September 2013