What would you do if a man who you care about told you that he wanted to become a woman. That he was living a painfully difficult life, a tortured life, in the body he was born with. Would you support his decision to change his gender?
And what if that man was not a man but a boy. What if you had a son, a boy of only 12-years-old – a child but someone mature enough to know what he wants – and he told you he wished he was a girl. What would you do then?
In a recent Australian case, a 12-year-old child who was born physically male was granted approval by the Family Court of Australia to start puberty-blocking drugs.
The child – known as Jodie – had been living as a girl for some time, after telling her parents that she didn’t feel comfortable living as a boy.
The Family Court heard arguments from Jodie’s lawyers that Jodie would suffer serious psychological and emotional harm if she were to experience the effects of male puberty, after having – quite deliberately – chosen to be raised as a girl. The court granted Jodie approval to start Stage 1 quarterly injections; these injections will stop her voice from deepening and prevent any facial hair growth.
Whether or not Jodie will be allowed to progress to receiving Stage 2 drugs – oestrogen treatments, which would stimulate breast growth and start the physical transition to becoming female – is currently unknown.
Why? Because the legality of that is currently the subject of another case that is before the Full Court appeal.
The second case involves Jamie – who was only 11-years-old when her parents first went to the courts with the request that their Jamie be allowed to undergo treatment to facilitate a physical transition from male to female.
Like Jodie, Jamie has also been living as a girl for most of her childhood. And Jamie’s parents are now arguing that their daughter should not just be allowed to prevent the onset of male puberty on her young body but that she should be able to access oestrogen treatments once she turns sixteen.
The ruling is likely to spark further debate over changing the gender of children in Australia as the legal system grapples over whether oestrogen treatment should be given to a child when they turn 16.
… In the current case, Justice Christine Dawe declared the “evidence is compelling and clearly indicates that the child is likely to suffer significant, detrimental, psychological and emotional effects” if stage 1 treatment is not commenced …
According to the judgment, she has undergone psychiatric treatment for a decade and was diagnosed by an infant child psychiatrist in 2008 as having Gender Identity Disorder.
Three other doctors backed up the psychiatric disorder diagnosis, declaring treatment with puberty-blocking drugs was the only option because she had lived as a “girl for a significant period”.
A specialist confirmed for the court that the drugs involved in oestrogen treatment could actually be stopped at any point. Furthermore, the effects of the drugs are completely reversible.
Unsurprisingly, some commentators have questioned the appropriateness of children so young being allowed to physically alter their hormone levels. Some have gone so far as to compare the practice of transgendering children to eugenics (the ‘science’ of improving race).
Jodie’s case was successful in the Family Court because doctors warned that she was at risk of “significant depression” and might turn to self-harm, if she were to experience the beginnings of male puberty.
According to the Australian Transgender Support Association of Australia, up to 6000 Queensland adults and children have sought help in transgendering over the past two decades.
These children can be as young as five-years-old.
Of course, parents of these children are likely to be concerned. Transgendered adults often face ostracisation and discrimination. Children – we know – are particularly harsh on anyone who appears ‘different’.
If your child identified as a different gender to the one they were born as, you would understandably worry about the reaction of their peers. You would be scared.
Interestingly though, the parents of children like Jodie and Jamie have been supportive of their children’s strong desire to identify as female rather than male. Ultimately they have recognised that for their child, being able to lead a healthy and happy life simply won’t be possible unless they are able to physically change their gender.
Over to you – what do you think about children being allowed to take hormone suppressants? Or young adults taking more serious hormone treatments?