Tasmanian farmer Rob Wilson shares struggle with intersex stigma

tasmanian farmer rob wilson intersex chicken breeder abc back roads forced surgery
Image: Back Roads/ABC

Tasmanian chicken breeder Rob Wilson has spoken out about his lifelong journey as an intersex Australian.

The 66-year-old is ranked the seventh-best chicken breeder in the world. Rob’s chickens command a price in the thousands from all over Australia, and he’s sold eggs worldwide.

He has told ABC program Back Roads that he is intersex. He was born with both male and female genitalia.

But after his devout Catholic mother gave birth to him, she struggled to accept him. She didn’t want to bring her second born home from the hospital.

He recalled her saying, “I don’t know how you’re my child, how God would give me a child like that.”

When he was three days old, Rob underwent surgery.

“The doctors decided, because I peed out of a penis, that I’d be made a boy,” he said.

“They just sewed up my vagina, leaving me with six stitches.”

Rob would also undergo more surgical interventions, as well as daily testosterone medication from age eight.

But those interventions left him with ongoing medical problems.

Rob Wilson shares story to help other intersex people

It wasn’t until he was in his mid-50s that Rob Wilson got some answers about his genetic makeup and medical history, from a family member.

Rob was born with a chromosomal condition known as 48,XXXY syndrome. It affects between 1 in 17,000 and 1 in 50,000 boys and men, according to the ABC.

He recalled a regular pain he felt while at work – that he dismissed as a stitch – was actually a period.

From puberty, Rob’s body had been reabsorbing his menstrual blood, leaving him with very high iron levels.

For over a decade, Rob has travelled to Ukraine for a treatment not legal in Australia to balance his conflicting hormones.

Rob’s Ukrainian doctors told him that he is more female than male.

He said he has shared his medical story with universities around the world to help others.

“Because I hope the next poor bugger like me gets a better run than I did,” he told the ABC program.

“Unless the likes of me get it out there, it’s going to keep happening.”

Rob Wilson shares his story from Longford, Tasmania on ABC’s Back Roads, screening on Monday night (February 21).

‘Ban unnecessary surgery on intersex children’

Simone-lisa Anderson, Tasmania representative for Intersex Peer Support Australia, praised Rob Wilson for sharing his story “so honestly” with the ABC program.

“Unfortunately, these unnecessary surgical procedures continue to be inflicted on young Tasmanians today,” Anderson said.

In 2019, the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute conducted an inquiry into legal protections for intersex Tasmanians and found they were lacking.

The TLRI recommended law reform to ban medically unnecessary procedures, however the Tasmanian Government hasn’t acted, Anderson said.

“We call on the Tasmanian Government to implement the recommendations of the TLRI and ban medically unnecessary procedures on children with intersex variations,” Anderson said.

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