Antoinette went to a Catholic all-girls school. She was subjected to a gonadectomy at age 7 – the parents were told that the organs were cancerous. She was on female hormones from age 11. The frequent visits to hospital made her feel like a freak. From age 12 Antoinette was telling the doctors that she was not a girl, and did not want breasts.
By age 18 she had seen her medical records. She did an engineering degree, one of only two women in the year:
"Well, there was one woman, 49 men and then there was me".She married an understanding man, but they quickly divorced, although on good terms. Briffa worked as an aviation maintenance engineer, and at 26 she was having relationships with women, identifying as a lesbian:
"That wasn't comfortable either, because to be a lesbian, you actually need to be a woman".At 29 Briffa found a website for intersex women. From this and what she gained from doctors she realized that she had Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (PAIS), not complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, and her body would have masculinised to some extent if medical intervention had not been imposed.
"Doctors made me 5 feet 2 inches (1.58m) on purpose. My estimated height (if I'd been left alone) was between 5 feet 8 and 5 feet 10, and that was considered far too tall for a girl. So now, I'm a very short man. It's something I always feel inadequate about".Briffa had to come out as intersex and appear on Nine Network's 60 Minutes before being able to get a prescription for testosterone, which was needed to compensate for what would have naturally happened. Briffa was given an advance copy of the program to show to the family before the broadcast.
Doctors tried to impose a psychiatric assessment as they would for a transsexual.
“They tried to get me to go through the trans process which I completely refused. For a start, I’m not trans and they didn’t have my approval for what they did to me previously and so I wasn’t going to jump through hoops for them to give me what my body naturally had.”At 30 Briffa decided to live as a man, had the Victorian register of births, deaths and marriages recognize him as male, and changed his name to Anthony. However his birth certificate does not specify a sex.
"It was an interesting experiment but I realised I'm not male - I'm part male and I certainly can't have a relationship as a man. I wasn't socialised as a male, I didn't grow up male and I don't relate to a partner that way, so as Anthony I didn't have any relationships."
“I never had an issue with being raised as a girl, it was all the secrecy, the lies and all the surgeries that were done without my consent that I have an issue with. Atypical genitalia isn’t going to kill a kid, but doing surgery on kids just to make them look male or female and furthermore to make them heterosexual males or females is just unethical and it’s a breach of their human rights.”Briffa became the public face of intersex in Australia, and also the full-time foster parent to two siblings, a girl and a boy. He ran in Altona for the Greens in the 2002 Victoria State Election and came third with 9%. He did local activism, to save a local park, and then became co-convener of a residents' association.
Briffa also served as President of the Genetic Support Network of Victoria, Vice-president of Organization Intersex International Australia and as President of the Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome Support Group Australia.
While Mayor, Tony had met a woman, Manja, a teacher, and they wished to marry. Because of how Briffa is registered in Victoria, they could have married pretending to be a heterosexual couple, but Manja is lesbian, and Tony wished to be open as not being male or female. This was not possible in Australia, but is allowed in New Zealand since 2013, where they did marry that year. Tony is annoyed with Australian Marriage Equality in that what they are campaigning for excludes some intersex people.
Briffa has returned to working in aviation engineering.
- "A Crime Against Nature: Sexual Reassignment.". 60 Minutes,. With Antoinette Briffa. Australia Nine Network 60 mins 25 June 2000.
- "Choosing the right gender". The Age, February 1, 2005. www.theage.com.au/articles/2005/01/31/1107020318710.html.
- Andie Noonan. "Briffa to march in mayoral robes". Star Observer, December 8, 2011. www.starobserver.com.au/news/briffa-to-march-in-mayoral-robes/6749.
- Travis de Jonk. "Melbourne elects Australia's first intersex Mayor". Same Same, 9th Dec 2011. http://www.samesame.com.au/news/local/7737/Melbourne-elects-Australias-first-intersex-Mayor.htm.
- Daniel Villarreal. "The Amazing, Heartbreaking Story Of Tony Briffa, The World’s First Openly Intersex Mayor". Queerty, Dec 10, 2011. www.queerty.com/the-amazing-heartbreaking-story-of-tony-briffa-the-worlds-first-openly-intersex-mayor-20111210.
- John Masanaukas. "World's first intersex mayor, Cr Tony Briffa does not want to be called he or she". Herald Sun, April 15, 2013. www.heraldsun.com.au/news/worlds-first-intersex-mayor-cr-tony-briffa-does-not-want-to-be-called-he-or-she/story-e6frf7jo-1226621092313.
- Rachel Cook. "World's first intersex mayor Tony Briffa on a new quest for human rights". Gay News Network, 09 April 2014. http://gaynewsnetwork.com.au/feature/the-world-s-first-intersex-mayor-tony-briffa-13519.html.
- Anna Whitelaw. "Same-sex couples head over the ditch for vows". The Sydney Morning Herald, August 25, 2014. www.smh.com.au/national/samesex-couples-head-over-the-ditch-for-vows-20140824-3e8co.html.
- Tony Briffa. "Proud intersex person Tony Briffa tells story of self discovery". Herald Sun, September 08, 2014. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/lifestyle/proud-intersex-person-tony-briffa-tells-story-of-self-discovery/story-fnixw28f-1227051164954?nk=8358ad15d62f748dd517ef1e6b23c1af-1439861422.
- Claudia Calleja. " 'Healthy hermaphrodite’ is both man and woman: Castrated at seven – but now welcoming Malta’s stance on ‘intersex’" Times of Malta, February 16, 2015. www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20150216/local/-Healthy-hermaphrodite-is-both-man-and-woman.556257.
- Benjamin Riley. "Closet Case: Tony Briffa" Star Observer, May 25, 2015. www.starobserver.com.au/features/community/closet-case-tony-briffa/137061.