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Tony Briffa
BirthplaceAltona, Victoria, Australia
Known For:First known intersex mayor, intersex activist and educator

Tony Briffa born Antoinette Briffa in Altona, Victoria is an Australian, born to Maltese immigrants, who has Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.[1] Tony Briffa was an independent councillor, mayor and deputy mayor in the City of Hobsons Bay, Victoria[2] Briffa is considered the world's first openly intersex mayor and public office-bearer[3][4][5][6][7][8]

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.[9][1][10] Briffa is one of the first people to be public about a chosen blank, indeterminate, birth certificate.[9][10][11]

Early life

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'... 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"[12]


Tony Briffa is the world's first openly intersex public mayor,[3] and "the first known intersex public office-bearer in the Western world",[4] serving as Deputy Mayor of the City of Hobsons Bay, Victoria, between 2009 and 2011, and Mayor between 2011–2012.[3][4][5][6][7][8] Briffa resigned as a local councillor on 14 February 2014, effective on the appointment of a successor.[13][14]

Tony Briffa has previously served as the President of the Genetic Support Network of Victoria. Briffa has also served as Vice-President of the Organisation Intersex International Australia and as President of the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group Australia;[15] described as "the two leading groups advocating for the rights of intersex people in Australia".[16]

Published works

Selected published works include:

  • "Intersex Surgery Disregards Children’s Human Rights", a letter published in |Nature, in 2004.[17]
  • "Tony Briffa writes on 'Disorders of Sex Development'" published by Organisation Intersex International Australia, 2014.[18]
  • "Tony Briffa speaks at the Darwin Outgames Human Rights Forum" on the silencing of intersex people and barriers to hearing intersex voices, 2014.[19]
  • "Proud intersex person Tony Briffa tells story of self discovery", published by News Corp Australia in 2014.[20]
  • Parts of Briffa's life story are depicted in a short online animation.[10]

Personal life

Birth certificate with blank sex classification

Norrie May-Welby is popularly regarded as the first person with an indeterminate birth certificate, and "non-specific" sex was awarded by the High Court of Australia in April 2014 on the basis of May-Welby's failed sex affirmation surgery.[21] However, Tony Briffa had previously obtained a birth certificate with a blank sex classification.[1][11][22][23] Alex MacFarlane is believed to be the first.[24][25][26][27][28] Speaking to the Senate hearing on intersex sterilisation in March 2013, Briffa said:[11]

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. 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."[6]


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.[29][30] Organisation Intersex International Australia notes:[23][31]

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.[23]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "About Tony ... | cr Tony Briffa",, 2012
  2. Councillor Tony Briffa JP, Cherry Lake Ward, retrieved 14 February 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Intersex Mayor Elected in Australia",, 9 December 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Briffa to march in mayoral robes, Star Observer, 8 December 2011
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Tony Briffa Of Australia's City Of Hobsons Bay Becomes World's First Intersex Mayor",, 10 December 2011
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "World's first intersex mayor, Cr Tony Briffa does not want to be called he or she", Herald Sun, 15 April 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Melbourne elects Australia's first intersex Mayor",, 9 December 2011
  8. 8.0 8.1 Australia elects world’s first intersex mayor, The Raw Story, 10 December 2011
  9. 9.0 9.1 Living outside 'male or female', Australian Broadcasting Corporation 7.30 Report, 8 July 2013
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Animation: NICHE IDAHO Campaign: "I", Tony (YourStory), Video animation
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 [citation needed]
  12. Involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people in Australia, Australian Senate Community Affairs Committee, October 2013.
  13. Intersex ex-mayor of Hobsons Bay Tony Briffa calls it quits, Herald Sun, 14 February 2014.
  14. Resignation Announcement, Cr Tony Briffa, 14 February 2014.
  15. The OII Australia Board, Organisation Intersex International Australia, 12 October 2013.
  16. 3rd Asia Pacific Outgames Human Rights Forum – Keynote Speakers
  17. Briffa, Tony (15 April 2004). "Intersex surgery disregards children’s human rights". Nature 428: 695. doi:10.1038/428695a. 
  18. [citation needed]
  19. Briffa, Tony (15 May 2014). "Tony Briffa speaks at the Darwin Outgames Human Rights Forum".
  20. Briffa, Tony. "Proud intersex person Tony Briffa tells story of self discovery",, 8 September 2014. 
  21. Template:Cite court
  22. "OII VP Tony Briffa to wed partner in NZ ceremony – Gay News Network", Gay News Network, 27 September 2013
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 "Congratulations, Tony and Manja!", Organisation Intersex International Australia, 27 September 2013
  24. "X marks the spot for intersex Alex", West Australian, via 11 January 2003
  25. "Ingrid Holme, "Hearing People's Own Stories", in Science as Culture, Volume 17, Issue 3, 2008"
  26. "Neither man nor woman", Sydney Morning Herald. 27 June 2010
  27. Newsletter of the Sociology of Sexualities Section of the American Sociological Association, American Sociological Association Sexualities News, Volume 6, Issue 1, Summer 2003
  28. Ten years of ‘X’ passports, and no protection from discrimination, Organisation Intersex International Australia, 19 January 2013
  29., 8 October 2013, "Tony and Manja's little Kiwi wedding"
  30. "OII VP Tony Briffa to Wed Partner in NZ Ceremony", Gay News Network, 27 September 2013
  31. Briffa, Tony (16 August 2014). "Tony and Manja Briffa speak at marriage equality rally in Melbourne, 16 August 2014".

External links

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