It is impossible to be any more supportive of a transgender child than Sydney couple Laura and her husband Mark have been of their son Miles.
Miles, who was originally called Ella, came out to his parents as being transgender at the age of 15.
“His dad took him out to buy a suit the weekend that he came out,” Laura tells Mamamia.
Laura immediately organised the right sort of counselling for Miles, with a psychologist and a psychiatrist, and followed the advice that he should live as a boy for a year before beginning treatment. She told his school, who were “amazingly supportive”.
“The teachers were amazing, the kids were amazing,” she remembers. “He started a rainbow alliance at his school and 50 kids joined within a couple of weeks, as either kids who were coming out or kids who wanted to support them.”
And yet, like half of all trans kids, Miles tried to take his own life.
One thing that put enormous stress on Miles was having to go to court to get approval for the next stage in his transition. Up until today, any Australian under the age of 18 wanting to start oestrogen or testosterone treatment as part of the transition process has had to go to court, even if both parents were in support.
Today, thanks to a decision handed down by the Full Court of the Family Court, that has changed. Court approval is no longer necessary for transgender young people wanting medical treatment, if both parents are in support. That decision applies in all states. It sees Australia fall in line with numerous other countries around the world.
Laura is thrilled about today’s court decision.
“It’s about time and I’m very, very pleased,” she says. “I’m very relieved and thankful that it’s happened.”
For Laura, it wasn’t a shock when Miles came out as transgender.
“From the time he was three, he stopped wearing dresses and started playing with boys,” she explains.
“Everybody knew to buy him boy toys. We used to just say, ‘You’re a tomboy and that’s okay.’
“We have a lot of gay friends and because I thought he might be gay from the time he was little, I’d be like, ‘Yay, our lesbian friends are coming over! We love lesbians!’”
Laura admits she was praying Miles would be “a regular old gay” and not transgender. At the age of 14, when Miles told her that he was a lesbian, she was “the happiest mother ever”.
“I hugged him. I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s fantastic!’ I was so relieved.”
But a year later, Miles announced he was transgender.
“I felt like my world had fallen apart,” Laura remembers. “You don’t want this hard route for your child.”
Despite that, she and Mark were fully supportive.
“I want him to live his authentic life. I am so proud of him. I am in awe of him I never didn’t support him for a minute.”
The family had to go to court to get approval for Miles to get approval to start testosterone treatment.
“To have to go to court was tremendously stressful for my son,” Laura says. “It was like there was something so hideous and freakish about being transgender.
“I had to say to him, ‘Honey, this court case means nothing. If by any chance we get a negative ruling, I will take you to another country, I will 1000 per cent make sure that this happens. You don’t have to worry.’
“Still, we were in the hospital, in the emergency room, with him with an overdose.”
LISTEN: When Emma Ayres Became Eddie. (Post continues below...)
Yet Laura still feels like their family was lucky because they could meet the cost of going to court, which included hiring a barrister and getting specialists’ reports. She knows not all families would have been able to afford that.
Laura says the minute Miles got onto testosterone, he was “a different child”.
“He was, all of a sudden, the person he was supposed to be.”
Miles is now at university and doing well.
“He’s got a lovely girlfriend,” says Laura. “He’s happy. He’s a great kid.
“Chances are he wouldn’t be here if he didn’t transition, and if he was still here, he would have a miserable life.”
Laura is just pleased that families like hers can now avoid the “barbaric” court process and the costs.
“I am so happy that other families now won’t have to go through what we had to go through. No child needs to be subjected to that kind of invalidation.”
*Names have been changed.