Courts see no need to rule on kids switching gender

Children will be able to access irreversible hormone treatment to change their gender without seeking court approval following a landmark Family Court judgment.

Transgender advocates yesterday welcomed the ruling, which will save young people and their families the expense and trauma of litigation, but the Australian Christian Lobby said an inquiry was needed into the possible side-effects of cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers.

Five Family Court judges unanimously departed from a previous ruling that required young people seeking hormone treatment for gender dysphoria to obtain court approval.

They said this was because the state of medical knowledge had moved on since the court had ruled its approval was required.

There were now international standards for the treatment of gender dysphoria, and “increased knowledge of the risks associated with not treating a young person”.

“(The) risks involved and the consequences which arise out of the treatment being at least in some respects irreversible, can no longer be said to outweigh the therapeutic benefits of the treatment, and court authorisation is not required,” the majority said.

It said its decision applied to cases in which there was no dispute between the parents or the medical experts who proposed the treatment.

La Trobe Law School’s Fiona Kelly said young people would still need court approval if both parents did not consent to the treatment, or if there was a disagreement with their medical experts.

Australia was until now the only country in the world that required court involvement for stage 2 treatment, which involves the administering of hormones orally or via injections. It can cause long-term infertility and irreversible physical changes, such as breast growth in those transitioning to female, and hair growth, clitoral enlargement and deepening of the voice in those transitioning to male.

Stage 1 treatment, which involves the use of “puberty blockers”, is considered reversible. It is administered from early puberty, which can be age nine to 12. Court approval for stage 1 treatment has not been required since 2013.

Stage 3 treatment involves surgical intervention but the court is rarely involved because it usually occurs after a person turns 18.

The head of adolescent medicine and gender services at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Michelle Telfer, said the decision was “the greatest advancement in transgender rights for children and adolescents in Australia”.

“Transgender adolescents will now be able to access the treatment that is best for them, making decisions in collaboration with their parents and their doctors without the delay and the distress that the court system imposes on them and their families,” she said.

The Family Court dealt with 63 cases involving applications for stage 2 or 3 treatment for gender dysphoria between mid-2013 and mid-2017. In 62 of those cases, the court allowed treatment. The cost of seeking court approval ranged from $8000 to $30,000.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s Lyle Shelton said he could “understand the Family Court wanting to get out of these decisions” but an investigation was warranted of “the current epidemic of children uncomfortable with their biological gender and seeking interventions”

Originally posted in The Australian by NICOLA BERKOVIC

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