Society founded

On 7 May 1997 the Intersex Society of NZ was launched by the Minister of Health Hon. Annette King at a function in the Council Chamber Victoria University. The film Hermaphrodites Speak was shown.

Support came from many quarters:

  • Wellington Sexual Health Service, Helen Leahy, Pamela Neeson, Margaret Sparrow, Brenda Little, Linda Dayan
  • NZ AIDS Foundation, The Awhina Centre, Sister Paula Brett-Kelly
  • Family Planning, Dr Gill Greer, Nurse Drew Mackenzie, Te Puawai Tapu, Irihapeti Ramsden, Pania Ellison, Vernon Waretini
  • The NZ Venereological Society, which changed its name in 2006 to the NZ Sexual Health Society
  • The Prostitutes Collective, Catherine Healy
  • Wellington Regional Council, Colleague John Lukes

An early supporter who became a Trustee was actress/writer Lorae Parry whose play Eugenia was first performed at Taki Rua Theatre on 26 January 1996. The play is based on a NZ woman who was arrested in 1916 for living as a man.

Charitable Trust (ITANZ) incorporated

It was recommended that the Society become an Incorporated Charitable Trust and documents were signed on 26 March 1998.

The original trustees were:

  • Graham Brandreth-Wills
  • Nigel Christie
  • Gay Kahu
  • Mani Bruce Mitchell
  • Lorae Parry
  • Jenny Rowan
  • Dr Susan Sayer
  • Dr Margaret Sparrow

Sir Paul Reeves was appointed Patron (1998-2011).

Mani Bruce Mitchell

Baby Bruce born 10 March 1953 to parents in rural New Zealand.

Exploratory surgery before the first birthday identified a uterus so reassigned to female and name changed to Margaret. Cause of intersex unknown.
At 8 years genital surgery followed by other feminising surgery to ears.

Trained as primary school teacher.  Travelled overseas. Successful career in civil defence, regional manager Wellington. Personal crisis at 40 years. In 1994 attended life-changing workshop with therapist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

Changed name by deed poll to Sanskrit Mani and restored the original Bruce.

In 1996 first NZer to come out publicly as intersex person. In October 1996 attended Wellington Sexual Health Service for support. Completed training as a counsellor in 1999.

  • 2001: Production of TVNZ ground-breaking documentary, Mani’s Story – Yellow is for Hermaphrodites.
  • 2003: Mani’s Story winner of Best Documentary in NZ Qantas Media Awards. Used as resource for schools.
  • 2004: Participation in photographic exhibition Assume Nothing, by photographer Rebecca Swan. This became a book, a Dowse Art Gallery sponsored travelling exhibition, and a short film. It was also the inspiration for an award- winning film Black and White by Kirsty McDonald.
  • 2008: Participant in the NZ Human Rights Commission’s Inquiry into Discrimination Experienced by Transgender People published as To Be Who I Am.
  • 2009: Film crew member and narrator of award-winning film Intersexion produced by John Keir and directed by Grant Lahood. Released 2012 to international acclaim.

Links with Australia

In November 1997 Mani visited Associate Professor Garry Warne, paediatric endocrinologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and has collaborated with him and other health professionals in Australia.

In 1998 Mani was invited by Nurse Pamela Neeson (ex Wellington) to commence what was to become an extensive community education programme throughout Tasmania.

In June 2010 Mani met with Gabi Rosenstreich, CEO of the Australian National LGBTI Health Alliance and brought back an invitation for ITANZ to become a member of that organisation.

Mani has spoken at numerous conferences and workshops throughout Australia and Sharon Jones from Tasmania has visited NZ on several occasions.

Links with USA

  • 1996: Mani made contact with Cheryl Chase of ISNA (Intersex Society of North America) formed in 1993. In March 2008 ISNA wound up as an activist organisation and was replaced by the Accord Alliance a not-for-profit national organisation to improve health care for those with DSDs, that term now preferred by the organisation instead of intersex. In August 1996 Mani was invited by Cheryl Chase to participate in the world’s first intersex retreat in USA where Hermaphrodites Speak was filmed.
  • 2004: Mani was a Task Force Member, City and County of San Francisco Enquiry Into Intersex Issues. She was commended for her trailblazing efforts to promote equality for the intersex community.
  • Mani has returned to the USA on numerous occasions to speak at conferences, attend film events, make submissions and liaise with intersex persons and professionals. Prominent among the latter is Professor Milton Diamond of Hawaii.
  • 2009: Mani was appointed to the Trust Board of AIC (Advocates for Informed Choice) a USA based intersex advocacy organisation. She
    has worked closely with the Executive Director Anne Tamar-Mattis.

Other international links

As well as extensive and ongoing links with Australia and the USA Mani participated in the 1st International Intersex Forum held in Brussels, Belgium in September 2011 and the 2nd International Intersex Forum held in Stockholm, Sweden in December 2012. At that meeting the delegates proposed the creation of an Intersex Secretariat within the ilga structure.

In July 2013 Mani and Trust Board member Associate Professor Elisabeth McDonald, Law faculty, Victoria University, participated in a Law on the Edge Conference, British Columbia University, Vancouver.

Historically NZ psychologist Dr John Money was responsible for the theory that gender assignment in infancy was a matter of nurture over nature.

This theory was challenged by Prof Milton Diamond. The case of David Reimer (1965-2004) proved critical. Money assigned the little boy as female, after a circumcision destroyed his penis but David never felt female and eventually committed suicide.