The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Intersex Australians Classified Under ‘Sexual Deviant’

Posted by caitlinate on October 16, 2009

Anti-androgens are drugs that restrict the release of hormones – primarily testosterone – in the body. They can be used as a treatment for prostate cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), acne and male pattern baldness. They also work to suppress the male libido/sexual drive and as such is used to ‘treat’ sex offenders. Additionally, intersex people that identify as female might take anti-androgen medication to help with hormone imbalances and some trans women (that are transitioning medically, sometimes in the lead up to surgery) will take it to suppress testosterone so that introduced estrogen can work more effectively on their body.

In Australia the main/only anti androgens I could find available are Cyprone, Cyprostat, Cyproterone Acetate (the generic name), Procur, Cyprohexal and Androcur. If you follow any of those drug links you’ll see they can only be prescribed for:

1014    Advanced carcinoma of the prostate;
1404    To reduce drive in sexual deviations in males.

You have to fit in to one of these two categories to get the drug. So, unless you have pretty much incurable prostate cancer, if you need an anti-androgen in Australia – and can’t afford a non-subsidised prescription – your doctor has probably had to get a little inventive with the prescription and classify you as a ‘sexual deviant’. What’s in a label, right? Well, if you are classified as a ‘sexual deviant’ and prescribed this medication then the Therapeutic Goods Administration will put you on their list of possible sex offenders. That’s right. In Australia we like to classify intersex and trans women as possible sex offenders. It can’t just be argued away as a bureaucratic list. It’s dehumanising for people who already have enough trouble being treated as human beings.

And, seriously, who knows how the TGA information is being shared or with who. Does Centrelink? The DOCS? Next time we have another sex-offenders-not-in-our-neighbourhood panic are we going to start pulling TGA files and combining them with the various state sex offender lists?

Credit where credit it due, first heard about this here.

UPDATE. It seems you can access the medication under:

1230 Moderate to severe androgenisation in non-pregnant women (acne alone is not a sufficient indication of androgenisation).

As seen here. (Click on the ‘conditions for prescribing’ link.) I apologise for having not seen or mentioned this before. There are still worries though. If the previously reported isn’t the case why are intersex and trans women being lead to believe it is true? Why are their doctors not aware they don’t need to be classified as sexual deviants? As Wildly Parenthetical says:

I have, however, heard of at least two trans or intersex people who were advised that they would be placed on a sex offender registry if they were prescribed the drug under the PBS, which raises the question of what role physicians play in a potentially scaremongering style of gatekeeping.


16 Responses to “Intersex Australians Classified Under ‘Sexual Deviant’”

  1. lauredhel said

    That’s the PBS listing. Cyproterone can be prescribed legally and privately for other indications, but it doesn’t then attract a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidy. Other common indications for cyproterone, aside from those you’ve named, include acne, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and hirsutism. Some women also use it in the management of menopausal symptoms. And it’s an ingredient in some combined oral contraceptive pills.

    I’m looking around to try and see when they removed the other PBS authority indication for cyproterone “Moderate to severe androgenisation in non­pregnant women”. (or whether I’m just not finding it!) I know it was there as recently as 2005, that Zoe Brain’s post in mid 2006 suggests it was still there then, and that it wasn’t deleted the most recent round of changes. And – hang on- I just found that it was still there in December 2008.

    The cheapest drug in the class, spironolactone, requires no TGA authority before a subsidised PBS prescription can be written; or it costs 11-26 dollars completely privately for 100 pills, depending on dose (it’s usually taken twice a day). Cyproterone costs 62 dollars for 20 pills and is usually taken once a day. Doses vary pretty dramatically between people, so it can be hard to compare directly.

    Your point stands that this is absolutely not ok that the indication has been deleted recently, as it seems to have been – who made that decision, when, and why? Is there an organised letter-writing campaign in process yet that we can join?

    In addition, the package insert is completely cissexist.

    • caitlinate said

      Thanks for all this!

      While researching I saw that it was present in Diane and the such but was getting a bit confused by this and thought I should just report on what I knew? I should have mentioned the PBS/private thing but what I read as the price differences made me think that didn’t really count as choice? That might be my health care card ‘privilege’ coming into play.

      I’ll try and find some info on a letter writing campaign… I know the OII made a submission to Roxon in June for the new National Women’s Health Policy and that it mentioned this amongst a bunch of other intersex issues. Perhaps writing to Roxon or making a submission to the NWH would be something we could do?

  2. Lauredhel said

    Oh, it definitely doesn’t count as real choice, I totally agree with you there! It was just that the “can’t be prescribed” reads like a legal banning to me, and people need to address their activism where it’s going to count on this. I’ve searched and searched and can’t find where/when/by whom the decision was made to change the Authority criteria, so that would be a first stop in my opinion – whether this is a deficit in my searching or in the information available remains to be seen. The Health Department should be able to give that information.

    • caitlinate said

      Good point, I’ve edited the original entry to reflect that. I can’t find it either and reading TGA newsletters and publications is making my brain hurt. I’ll send them an email and cross my fingers someone will get back to me.

  3. […] More information here from Caitlin Ate who is a prominent Australian blogger and therefore hopefully won’t get […]

  4. […] The Dawn Chorus – Intersex Australians Classified Under ‘Sexual Deviant’ […]

  5. […] […]

  6. Lauredhel said

    Aha, my searchfail hypothesis seems to be panning out – here, linked from page two of the search results. The “moderate to severe androgenisation in non-pregnant women” indication is still there.

  7. eilish said

    Why does the TGA have a list of sex offenders? Isn’t there a national Sex Offenders registry? What the hell else goes on in the bowels of the public service?

    I hope all the people who have been insulted in this way have been able to have the injustice righted.

  8. Cyproterone acetate is available in generic form under the name Siterone. It can be bought from various Asian/Pacific online pharmacies such as United Pharmacies (in Hong Kong) and Inhouse Pharmacy (in either Tuvalu or Vanuatu, can’t remember which).

  9. […] as CN reports, taking their cue from feminist blog, the Dawn Chorus, these drugs may only be prescribed for licensed purposes which, at present, include: – Advanced […]

  10. janefae said

    Hiya…this blog and follow-up have just started to hit headlines in the UK. How accurate is this story: is it still the case? Was there any misunderstanding? Where are we at:

  11. […] Dawn Chorus – Intersex Australians Classified Under ‘Sexual Deviant’ Share this […]

  12. Inertia said

    Is there a petition for this on I think that might be another good way to get the word out. I’d start one myself, but I don’t feel informed enough to write the “about” info.

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