Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia representatives were present in the gallery during the historic discussion and welcomed the occasion.
OII president Morgan Carpenter said: ”In three extraordinary and powerful speeches we heard clear recognition that the medical treatment of intersex people is a human rights issue, that intersex is not a disorder, and that intersex people must be heard.
“Our issues are simply when regarded as issues of bodily autonomy, human rights, and individual choice of expression. Alone these statements are momentous, but the Senators also told some of our personal stories, and paid tribute to members of intersex-led organisations, OII Australia and the AIS Support Group Australia.
“We are enormously excited by today’s cross-party speeches. We hope that they will promote a better understanding of our health and human rights concerns, and policy changes that will lead to better health outcomes.”
OII vice president Tony Briffa echoed Carpenter’s sentiments.
“This is a turning point in the way that intersex people in Australia are seen and treated,” Briffa said.
“We have long fought for our voices to be heard, so to have the Australian Parliament acknowledge our existence and our issues – as discussed in detail in the Senate report – is vital.
“So one of our recommendations is that terms such as ‘disorder’ should not be used. We strongly recommend that government and other organisations use the term ‘intersex’, and do not use the term ‘disorders of sexual development’, because intersex people should not be seen to have a disorder.
“We also point out that there is no single condition that is intersex. There are in fact 30 or 40 testable genetic, anatomical and hormonal types of sex difference. We need to make sure that that is clear.
“Most importantly, we need to understand that this is a human rights issue.”
Senator Sue Boyce commented on the origins of the inquiry, and how it grew out of an inquiry into the involuntary or coerced sterilisation of people with disabilities – with many similar issues encountered.
“The issues that were similar were issues where some in the medical profession thought they knew better than anyone else; they would make decisions not only on behalf of individuals but on behalf of families as to what gender might be assigned to a baby or to a young child when this was not immediately obvious,” she said.
“What differed was the fact that the people with disabilities that we were talking about in many cases were seen as unable to give informed consent because of cognitive impairment. In the case of intersex people, the main issue was that this was being done when they were too young to give consent.”
Meanwhile, Senator Moore commented on the issues of stigma, respect, and ignorance: “We heard consistently about the issues of medicalisation. When looking at the history of intersex, we consistently see that it has been defined in a medical way.
“As Senator Boyce put it, the political focus has meant that people are ignored to a large extent and are looked upon as ‘case load’, as things that have treatment rather than people with feelings and human rights. In our recommendations we have consistently said that the issues around intersex in our country should be seen as human rights issues so that people have support, recognition and respect.