OII Australia speech to the marriage equality rally, Sydney Town Hall, 28 November 2009

On behalf of Organization Intersex International Australia…

I am here today to support marriage equality.

Let me tell you how that seems from an intersex perspective.

Intersex people are people who are born with physical differences of sex, differences that challenge the notion of what it is to be male or female, man or woman.

Intersex people are individuals who have genetic, hormonal, congenital and other differences that might be seen as being both male and female at once, not entirely male or female, or neither male or female.

Intersex puts the lie to the idea that the only two possibilities in sex differentiation are male and female. Intersex demonstrates that we all live on a continuum between maleness and femaleness and that those two terms are trends between being perfectly male and perfectly female, and not absolutes.

Intersex shows that there is no black and white when it comes to the reality of male and female.

Very few of us know exactly where we are on that continuum and very few of us here today can say with any certainty whether they are or are not intersex.

Intersex is thought to make up between one and four percent of the population depending on just what differences are considered intersex.

Now the Howard government amended the Marriage Act some time ago so that the definition of a marriage was between a man and a woman.

An intersex person cannot be sure exactly what that is supposed to mean, indeed none of us can if we are honest about what constitutes both those terms and just what an exact definition of them might be.

Is the reference to gender roles or does it mean sex embodiment? If the reference is to gender roles, well, most intersex can play the part of a man or a woman well enough to qualify.

If the reference is to sex embodiment then intersex do not qualify.

Intersex does not qualify under the current act and it will not qualify under a same sex act.

That is why OII Australia supports marriage equality.

OII supports the right of all human beings to marry, not just males and females… everyone!

The need to enforce sex binaries so that married relationships are between males and females, to the exclusion of all others, has lead to a nearly complete denial that there are people who are neither. That denial has made a kind of war that is fought on the bodies of intersex people.

That sex binary enforcement is prepared to allow surgeries to be carried out on infants in the first months of their lives so that they will, in time, be marriage-ready. That is to say to be able to be penetrated or to penetrate in the heteronormative ideal of the current Marriage Act.

Sex binary enforcement is a kind of torture enacted on intersex that includes:

  • A life of shame, secrecy and denial.
  • Social exclusion for the noncompliant.
  • Gender role reinforcement where the reward for compliance is to be left alone.
  • Punishments for noncompliance such as:
    • a diagnosis of a mental illness;
    • inflexible medical protocols with requirements to take medications that might be life-limiting or life-threatening; and
    • the lack of human rights and protection under the law.

Human rights and the law are, of course, reserved for ‘acceptable’ men and women.

Just like marriage!

We encourage everyone when considering marriage and the rights of individuals to participate in it, to remember those who will not qualify so long as absolutes of maleness and femaleness are requirements. We encourage you to look beyond sex binaries and include everyone in your thinking about the rights to marriage, even those who are, by the fact of their bodies, intersex.

We encourage you to support marriage equality. That is, the right of all people to participate in that rite and not only men and women.

Thank you all for your support for intersex, for intersex rights and especially intersex’ right to marriage as ourselves.

Thank you for your support for marriage equality.