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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Groom's Intersex Quandary

CHRIS SOMERS would like to start married life with the truth.

But the law recognises only marriage between a man and a woman - and Chris is neither.

At least one in 1000 Australians are like Chris - "intersexed".

Women have a 46XX chromosome count and men 46XY. Chris is 47XXY.

Chris, 55, a gifted and published photographer, has ovaries, testes, a penis and once had female breasts. Although raised as a man, Chris identifies as neither male nor female and has physiological and psychological characteristics associated with both genders. Two doctors have certified that Chris is intersexed.

Not all 47XXY people identify as androgynous; some perceive themselves as male or female.

Last year, Chris fell in love with Lee Yen Jung, 29, who was studying English in Perth. Ms Lee is home in Taipei but awaiting partner migration approval to return to WA to marry.

"It was very, very moving," Chris said. "She accepted me totally." As did Ms Lee's family when Chris met them in Taiwan this year.

The hitch is that Chris would like to marry as an intersexed person and have the marriage recognised legally.

"I would like the law and my marriage certificate to acknowledge my reality as an intersexed person who has chosen to marry another who is in the accepted genre of being classed as female," Chris said.

But a spokeswoman for Federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams said yesterday change was not on the radar. "The law presently recognises only marriage between a man and a woman," she said. "We don't contemplate that there will be any change to that with respect to intersexed people."

Tony Briffa, president of the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group, said Victoria recently allowed people of indeterminate sex to be recorded as such on birth certificates.

But he said that until the marriage issue was addressed, intersexed people ran a risk that their marriage might not be recognised later in key areas such as property, insurance and medical powers of attorney.

Mr Briffa said intersexed people were more common than those with Down syndrome, but attracted little research interest.

The latter is what Chris wants to emphasise.

"If the law does not recognise us as being people then we are a lost statistic and appropriate research and facilities are not (allocated) to help us," Chris said.

"These issues must be addressed at the highest levels because we are not going to go away. It's not just about me. What will happen if you have a child like me?"

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