Thank you for taking the time to learn more about me and what I am passionate about. Having resigned from public life after successful terms as Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillor, I am now focusing on my career in aviation whilst also undertaking small contracts for Public Speaking and Intersex/Diversity Consultations in Australia and overseas.
Who is Tony Briffa?
When I was a Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councillor the media often reported things about me that were not true. They regularly mislabeled me as being transgender or transsexual, and failed to comprehend or respect my journey and experiences as an intersex person. To be clear, I was not born one sex and changed to the opposite sex. Nature made me biologically part female and part male, and as confusing that might be for other people I wish they would understand how challenging and confusing it can be for me. I am a woman and I am a man. That is my biological reality and I accept that. Like you, I am what nature made me. My gender reflects the biological sex I was born.
The first thing parents are told when a baby is born is whether their 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. I was born with a genetic intersex condition). This means I am biologically not exclusively male or exclusively female but parts of 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 – like elsewhere in the world at the time – dictated that I was to be raised as a girl, have any male physical attributes surgically removed if possible, and not told the truth about my condition. This was a particularly difficult time for my parents. It was very difficult, lonely and confusing for me too.
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 intersex 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.
I subsequently took male hormones for a few years and after my voice deepened etc, it started getting more difficult being “Antoinette” so I had my identity documentation changed 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. Nonetheless, I was living a lie pretending to be exclusively male. Nature made me both female and male, so why deny myself who and what I am?
After a very difficult journey I now 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”) side. I feel whole. I’ll continue to live as “Tony” but I am now at a point in my life where I can celebrate being different. I prefer to be recognised the way nature made me – male and female.
I am also lucky to have met a person that loves me the way I am and am now happily married. We don’t have the right to marry in Australia, but I will continue to pursue that. My wife and I married in New Zealand in 2013 where marriage equality allows two people to marry irrespective of their sex.
I am very touched that despite the way nature made me and the subsequent changes throughout my life, 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:
Public Speaking & Intersex/Diversity Consultancy & Training
As a Public Speaker I have spoken at various conferences in a passionate, humorous and informative way about topics ranging from:
- Community work and making a difference;
- Overcoming personal challenges and resilience;
- Successfully overcoming the challenges of being a public official that is also gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse or intersex (GLBTI);
- Importance of diversity in public life and in organisations;
- Intersex human rights issues;
- Marriage Equality in Australia;
- Walking the walk regarding inclusion of minority groups; and
- Intersex lives – the power of personal stories.
My consultancy work includes developing and review policies for organisations seeking to be genuinely inclusive of all diversity, including intersex people. I have also developed and provided training for organisations about GLBTI awareness (including intersex awareness and issues).