TRANSGENDER AND INTERSEX?
The AIS Support Group Australia fully supports the probable biological basis of transsexualism, and recognises that transsexualism, like intersex conditions and homosexuality, are all variations of sexual development.
We also support the rights of people with transsexualism to access proper medical attention and not merely be treated as people with psychological conditions.
However, the AIS Support Group Australia also aware of a small number of people with transsexualism who claim that transsexualism is an intersex condition. This is, quite simply, incorrect.
We will continue to work with the Transgender community on common human rights issues, and hope our differences can be respected. For further details on what intersex conditions are, please see our fact sheets.
For a fact sheet comparing intersex conditions with transsexualism, please click here.
To read a response to the erroneous claims made following the Re: Kevin case, click here.
Australian Medical Association Definition of Intersex
The Australian Medical Association has provided a definition of intersex in their 'Sexual Diversity and Gender Identity' policy. They state:
"A person with an intersex condition is born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia or an internal reproductive system that is not exclusively either male or female. This word replaces hermaphrodite."
They have also openly supported the medical and biological fact that transsexualism is NOT in intersex condition.
ACT Law Reform
People with intersex conditions had a major victory in the ACT recently when the definition of Transgender was changed to remove people with intersex conditions, and, for what we believe is a world first, include a definition of intersex in legislation. The ACT (ALP) Government, with the support from the Democrats and Greens, passed the following definition of intersex in the Legislation Act 2001 (ACT):
An intersex person is a person who, because of a genetic condition, was born with reproductive organs or sex chromosomes that are not exclusively male or female.
This is particularly significant for the intersex community because of the insistence by a small number within the transgender community that falsely claim transsexualism is an intersex condition. Regardless of any possible biological basis of transsexualism (i.e. Gender Identity Disorder), people with transsexualism are not born with any variation of their reproductive organs and/or sex chromosomes, and have many different issues. One male to female transsexual person even described themselves as having Vaginal Agenesis (i.e. congenital imperfect or non-development of a vagina) when in fact; they were born physically male, fathered children etc. These people have a gross lack of respect and understanding of our experiences and issues. As the Democrats MLA (Ms Roslyn Dundas) explained in her media release on the 10th of March:
Intersex and transgender people are different, their needs are different, and the discrimination they face is different. Both of these communities often face discrimination and it is important our laws reflect their different needs.
An intersex person is one who is born with reproductive organs that are neither exclusively male or female, where as transgender identifies as a member for a different sex to the one they were born as.
The AISSGA looks forward to furthering the law reform process in the ACT by working closely with the ACT Government. We would also like to point out that the Liberal Party also supported the recommendations by the AISSGA, although they did not support the Bill for other reasons.
Gender Identity Issues
Unlike transsexualism and/or transgender where 100% of people have gender identity issues, only a small portion of people with intersex conditions (probably about 5-10%) have an issue with their gender. The vast majority of these cases are due to the assignment of an inappropriate sex of rearing in a child with an intersex condition, and these individuals can have their birth certificates fully corrected in all states in Australia.
World Health Organization Definition of Transsexuals
"Those who have a desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex, usually accompanied by a sense of discomfort with, or inappropriateness of, one's anatomical sex, and a wish to have surgery and hormonal treatment to make one's body as congruent as possible with one's preferred sex."
Transsexualism, Introduction and General Aspects of Treatment
This very comprehensive paper by Prof. L Gooren about transsexualism contains a number of points that substantiate the fact that transsexualism is not an intersex condition.
Firstly, the definition of transsexualism as given by Prof. Gooren is:
"Transsexualism is the condition in which a person with an apparently normal somatic sexual differentiation has the conviction that he or she is actually a member of the opposite sex. This conviction which is accompanied by a profound sense of loathing for individuals's own primary and secondary sexual characteristics, is absolute, overwhelming and unalterable (1)."
Those with normal somatic sexual differentiation do not have an intersex condition because they are biologically normal men or women.
Prof. Gooren also specifically highlights the difference between intersex conditions and transsexualism by stating:
"First, somatic intersex and all problems associated with (pseudo)hermaphroditism exclude transsexualism as a primary diagnosis. They should first be treated by procedures accepted as medically appropriate for such conditions (congenital adrenal hyperplasia or testicular feminization are such conditions)."
This statement is, of course, disturbing in that it seems Prof. Gooren supports the surgical assignment of sex in infants with intersex conditions only to treat them as elite transsexuals if doctors made an error in their sex of rearing. However, it does highlight his acceptance that transsexualism is not an intersex condition.
When discussing the etiology of transsexualism, Prof Gooren writes:
"In summary, there is as yet no scientific proof that neuroendocrine differences, which play an important role in the sexual behavior of lower mammals, can be extrapolated to human sexual behavior."
This is consistent with the AISSGA's opinion about this topic which is reinforced again in Prof Gooren's paper when he wrote:
"Gender identity, a typical human attribute, is not likely to be explained exclusively by either hormones or rearing; but science is still far away from a solid theoretical model that unifies and explains the many expressions of gender dysphoria encountered in clinical medicine. However, as in other areas of clinical medicine, treatment is often provided on empirical grounds rather than on the basis of a full understanding of the etiology."
Family Court of Australia Judgment on the Validity of a Transsexual Marriage
On 12 October 2001, in the Family Court of Australia at Sydney, The Honourable Justice Chisholm found that a marriage between Kevin, a man of transsexual background, and his wife Jennifer, was legal for the purposes of the Marriage Act (File No: SY8136 of 1999 refers). The validity of the marriage had been challenged by the office of the Federal Attorney General on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia. The judgment recognised Kevin?s identity in society as a man and that he should be legally considered male for the purpose of marriage as a reflection of that identity.
The judgment has generated much interest, however, some have mis-interpreted comments made by Chisholm J. as a ruling that transsexualism is a form of intersex when in fact the judgment draws clear distinctions between the conditions.
AISSGA's media release regarding Family Court of Australia Judgment on the Validity of a Transsexual Marriage
On 12 October 2001, in the Family Court of Australia at Sydney, The Honourable Justice Chisholm found that a marriage between Kevin, a man of transsexual background, and his wife Jennifer, was legal for the purposes of the Marriage Act (File No: SY8136 of 1999 refers). The validity of the marriage had been challenged by the office of the Federal Attorney General on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia. The judgment recognised Kevin's identity in society as a man and that he should be legally considered male for the purpose of marriage as a reflection of that identity. The judgment has generated much interest, however, some have mis-interpreted comments made by Chisholm J. as a ruling that transsexualism is a form of intersex when in fact the judgement draws clear distinctions between the conditions.
Chisholm J at 160 ruled that a previous case involving an intersexed individual held no relevance in the case of a transsexual, and at 224 to 228 Chisholm J further discussed those with recognised medical conditions stating "cases include chromosomal variations from the norm, ambiguities in the gonads or genitalia, and variations in the production of hormones. There can be incongruities among the various factors, or within them. In short, people falling into these categories have incongruent features in terms of their genitals, chromosomes and gonads: not all of their characteristics are uniformly male, or uniformly female. Resulting conditions include the Klinefelter Syndrome, hermaphrodism, and androgen insensitivity syndrome". Chisholm continues "the problems involved are readily characterised as biological. The individuals involved are usually called "inter-sex". Their biological characteristics are not unambiguously either male or female. Transsexuals, however, do not have any of the incongruities or ambiguities of these kinds". Chisholm J. makes clear that this judgement was made based on Kevin?s recognition as a man by society, his family and peers, and the fact that he underwent surgical reinforcement of his self-identified gender, not any perceived relationship between transsexualism and intersex conditions.
Justice Chisholm's full conclusions in this case are listed as follows:-
1. For the purpose of ascertaining the validity of a marriage under Australian law, the question whether a person is a man or a woman is to be determined as of the date of the marriage.
2. There is no rule or presumption that the question whether a person is a man or a woman for the purpose of marriage law is to be determined by reference to circumstances at the time of birth. Anything to the contrary in Corbett does not represent Australian law.
3. In the context of the rule that the parties to a valid marriage must be a man and a woman, the word "man" has its ordinary current meaning according to Australian usage.
4. There may be circumstances in which a person who at birth had female gonads, chromosomes and genitals, may nevertheless be a man at the date of his marriage. Anything to the contrary in Corbett does not represent Australian law.
5. In the present case, the husband at birth had female chromosomes, gonads and genitals, but was a man for the purpose of the law of marriage at the time of his marriage, having regard to all the circumstances, and in particular the following:-
(a) He had always perceived himself to be a male;
(b) He was perceived by those who knew him to have had male characteristics since he was a young child;
(c) Prior to the marriage he went through a full process of transsexual re-assignment, involving hormone treatment and irreversible surgery, conducted by appropriately qualified medical practitioners;
(d) At the time of the marriage, in appearance, characteristics and behaviour he was perceived as a man, and accepted as a man, by his family, friends and work colleagues;
(e) He was accepted as a man for a variety of social and legal purposes, including name, and admission to an artificial insemination program, and in relation to such events occurring after the marriage, there was evidence that his characteristics at the relevant times were no different from his characteristics at the time of the marriage;
(f) His marriage as a man was accepted, in full knowledge of his circumstances, by his family, friends and work colleagues.
6. For these reasons, the application succeeds, and there will be a declaration of the validity of the applicants' marriage.
The AIS Support Group Australia reaffirms its support for the transgender community, and sincerely wishes Kevin, Jennifer and their family well with the appeal.
Statute Amendment Bills for Transgender and Intersex at Victorian Legislative Council
The Victorian Legislative Council has been very busy securing the rights of the State's non-normatively gendered citizens. During the Second Reading of the Statue Law Further Amendment (Relationships) Bill firstly in 23 November 2000, Member Hulls (the Attorney General) made the following comment:
"As the government stated in its pre-election commitments, it considers the achievement of substantive rights for lesbians, gay men and transgender people as being vitally important. Human rights necessarily involve a respect for the equal dignity of all persons, without discrimination. Lesbians, gay men, intersex and transgender people have historically been denied their human rights. This bill is an important step in redressing that historical injustice."
Then in 19 September 2001 Member Hulls said:
"The words 'irrespective of gender' are important, as it also recognises the relationships of transgender and intersex people.
"The bill makes it clear that for the purposes of determining whether persons are domestic partners of each other all the circumstances of their relationship are to be taken into account, including any one or more of the matters referred to in section 275(2) of the Property Law Act as may be relevant in a particular case. The list of matters to be taken into account was inserted into the Property Law Act by the Statute Law Amendment (Relationships) Act earlier this year.
"Factors to be taken into account in determining whether persons are domestic partners of each other include the duration of the relationship; the nature and extent of common residence; whether or not a sexual relationship exists; the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support between the parties; the ownership, use and acquisition of property; the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life; the care and support of children; and the reputation and public aspects of the relationship."
Finally, in 30 October 2001, Member Powell made the following comment:
"It is a great reflection of the maturity of our community and the long-overdue recognition of unacceptable discrimination against members of the gay, lesbian, transgender and intersex communities."
Member Katsambanis added to this comment with some of his own:
"The legislation in question imposes obligations on people, and this bill extends the purview of those obligations to people living not only in legal marriages under the Marriage Act but also those living in de facto relationships, be they of a heterosexual, same-gender or intersex nature.....
"...The process that the legislature and we as individual legislators went through when the original Statute Law Amendment (Relationships) Bill was being discussed, debated and in many ways dissected almost word for word created a number of lasting and very beneficial relationships between the public and us as their elected representatives. Since that time my own relationship with the gay, lesbian, transgender and intersex communities has become one of greater understanding, greater knowledge and greater trust.....
"...I commend the initiative of my colleagues -- the Honourable Andrea Coote in this place, and the honourable member for Prahran, Leonie Burke, in the other place -- who together with me formed a group that meets regularly with representatives from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities in Melbourne. It is a loose group that enables us to have an open and frank discussion on issues that are important to those communities."
Intersex issues raised in Victorian Parliament (Australia)
The following are quotes from a recent sitting of Victorian Parliament in the second reading of the Equal Opportunity (Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation) Bill.
"Since the introduction of the bill in the other house I have pondered how I would feel as a parent if one of my children had been born intersex.
"It would be onerous for parents to have to decide whether to choose the gender of a baby very early after birth and have surgery to make sure the child had only one sex. I have come to the conclusion that if one of my children were affected I would probably leave the child as it was and wait to see what the child wanted. It would be a difficult decision for parents to make. The fact is that regardless of whether the need to change is psychological, hormonal or physical, any person who decides he or she relates better to the other gender needs the full support, understanding and acceptance of our community."
Another Member of Parliament said:
"A person of indeterminate sex is someone who is born without being clearly either male or female, and includes the following: hermaphrodites, who are born with equal male and female chromosomes and have both male and female genitalia; pseudo-hermaphrodites, who have 46 XX female or 46 XY male chromosomes and are anatomically mixed between the genders; people with Klinefelters syndrome, who have 47 XXY chromosomes and are biologically mixed between genders; and people with Turners syndrome who have 45 XO chromosomes and are biologically and anatomically mixed between the genders.
"I ask honourable members to consider what it would be like following the birth of a baby to face a situation like that. It is something honourable members have probably never thought about. However, it is something I thought about when undertaking research for the bill. I feel for people born that way. It is imperative that as a community we sensitively address the issue, which would be horrifying, to say the least.
"I am concerned that the bill does not deal with intersex people who do not wish to have reassignment surgery and who wish to live as an intersex individual. The bill does not deal with such people, who must be among the most discriminated and most vulnerable in the community. I hope the government will address the issue very soon, and as the Honourable Andrew Olexander said, that issue should have been included in the bill."
Also stated was the following:
"The first related to intersex people, who are people of indeterminate gender who make a choice to live as either male or female. However, following discussions with intersex people the opposition has been advised that some people choose not to live exclusively as either male or female. Many decide to live the way that they were born, as intersex individuals. It is very clear that the bill does not cover or protect them in any way. Those people are born with chromosomal variations. They are born into a situation and deserve protection under a bill such as the one before the house. In the words of the Leader of the National Party and my colleague the Honourable Carlo Furletti, they do seem to have fallen between the cracks and should not have. They should have been included in a bill such as this."
Members Wayne and Burke also contributed to the debate:
"Transgender identity disorder is an internationally recognised medical condition, as contained in the United States diagnosis service manual no. 4. Generally people with a gender identity disorder do not feel that the role society assigned to them at birth is appropriate. They have genuine and deeply felt concerns about self-identity. They are not flippantly exercising a choice to have a bit of fun by changing their sexual identity for the time being; they are seeking to adopt an entirely new gender role.
"Transsexuals in particular identify as being trapped in the wrong body, which I think is a beautiful description.
"Research at the Melbourne Gender Identity Disorder Clinic at Monash Medical Centre concludes that there is evidence that gender identity disorder is biologically caused. Most physical changes are achieved through hormone therapy rather than surgery -- and you can understand how people would prefer to do that. It is in that transition time when many people have difficulties, making an emphasis on surgery as the test of bona fides both inaccurate and problematic. Intersex people are born with physical medical issues, such as indeterminate genitalia. Genuine cross-dressers are not drag queens, who are entirely different and should never be confused with transgender people. Drag queens are entirely different and have an entirely different sense of it. For them it is not a problem; it is more about entertainment or theatre. Transgender people have entirely different problems."
Discussion on Sexuality Discrimination Inquiry
On 7 August 1996 the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee discussed discrimination on the basis of sexuality in Sydney. One committee member, Mrs Jones, put forward the following:
"The situation of the transsexual is that they are born normal males, and that is what we are talking about in transsexuals. The person who has an abnormality, such as a Y chromosome, might have Klinefelter's syndrome, Turner's syndrome or androgen insensitivity syndrome. There was a Spanish hurdler who created a lot of interest a few years ago. New Scientist published an article about this person who had androgen insensitivity syndrome and problems with the buccal smear, but she was not a transsexual. The transsexual person, per documents I have read over the past months and years, is a physically normal male--they test correctly as a male. If you test them with a buccal smear, they will show as having a Y chromosome. They will have had male gonads at some stage, so they will have the male chromosomes and other male reproductive organs, and testosterone will have been a part of their system until they started the change, but the transsexual male is different from the person who is an intersex.
"When reading the literature I have noticed that intersex people are never mentioned. The popular literature, the media magazines, mix up the hermaphrodite with the transsexual. People mix them together. There was an article in the Australian a while ago, maybe in the past two months. They opened the article with an example of a hermaphrodite and it looked as though they were trying to relate it to a transsexual. Of course, I felt quite upset at this. I thought, `No, this is a hermaphrodite, this is a person who is an intersex and who has a bit of both sexes.' That is different from being a transsexual. No-one has found a biological basis for transsexualism. They are different."
Copyright Notice: Copyright in all of the materials on this website is owned by the AIS Support Group Australia Inc. unless otherwise indicated. Unless otherwise stated, the AIS Support Group Australia authorises copying of any material published by the AIS Support Group Australia placed on this website for non-commercial use only, provided that any copied material from the website retains all copyright or other proprietary notices, contact details of the AISSGA and any disclaimer contained thereon. Personal biographies are not to be copied or distributed without the prior permission of the AISSGA.
Trademark Notice: The AIS Support Group Australia logo and artwork is the property of the AIS Support Group Australia Inc.
Disclaimer Notice: The content of the AIS Support Group Australia Inc. website is provided for information purposes only. The AIS Support Group Australia makes no claim as to the accuracy of the content contained in the website. The AIS Support Group Australia makes no representation as the accuracy or any other aspect of the information contained on servers linked to the website via hyperlinks from the AIS Support Group Australia. This information is provided on the basis that all persons accessing the website undertake the responsibility for assessing the accuracy of its content and that they rely on it entirely at their own risk.
Last update: 31 January, 2012
Website Design: hartflicker