By the National Reporting Team’s Josie Taylor
Annabelle was born a boy but as soon as she could start dressing herself, she gravitated towards girl’s clothes.
It wasn’t until she was about three that she started noticing the stares. People, both adults and other children, felt uncomfortable with her dressing as a girl.
Annabelle became so aware of outsider’s comments and looks, that she started to dress as a boy in public.
But her mum Sue Swinburne said even at home she didn’t feel comfortable.
If Annabelle heard someone arriving at the front gate of her home in the Gold Coast hinterland, she’d run to her room.
Her personality changed. She became extremely shy.
It wasn’t long before her parents realised just how deeply being a girl meant to Annabelle.
“She would ask me how she could make people stop looking at her and laughing at her because it hurt her feelings,” Sue said.
“Then I understood it wasn’t just play for her.”
When the subject of transitioning from a boy to a girl was raised, Annabelle’s parents had their doubts.
“We were thinking ‘crikey are we making the right decision, is this a thing’?”
But Annabelle was so confident and clear in her thoughts, her parents knew they were making the right decision.
This year Annabelle started going to school as a girl which has made her very happy.
“It was great. I got to feel like I was a person,” she said. “Being a girl is amazing. I really, really, really like being a girl.”
At some point she will begin getting injections to delay the onset of puberty. Her mum says that process is reversible if anything changes.
“At the age of 16 she and the doctors will reassess her pathway at that point and whether she receives cross sex hormones,” Sue said.
Estrogen treatment is one of the irreversible hormone treatments for people transitioning. This is known as “stage two”.
To go ahead with that, Annabelle will have to get approval from a family court judge.
Australia is the only country in the world with that requirement, which can cost families tens of thousands of dollars and take up to 10 months for a hearing.
The court approval is in addition to expert medical approval.
Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant said the system was not working as intended.
“I accept it is difficult and stressful and we need to try and find some more simple solution,” Chief Justice Bryant said.
“I’ve asked the [Attorney General’s] Department if we could organise a round table involving the major hospitals … and just see if we can sort out a simpler and consistent method of dealing with these matters.”
While going through Family Court is still a way off for Annabelle and her family, her parents are hopeful she never has to go through it.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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