16 November 2014

An Australian Judge Gets It

In Australia, a child who wishes to undergo the second stage of gender transition--which involves, among other things, taking hormones--has to apply to the Family Court for permission.  There, cases are decided according to the standards of Gillick Competence, which are used to deem whether or not a child 16 years of age or younger is able to consent to his or her own medical treatment, without parental interference or involvement.

Now Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant wants to see her court's jurisdiction tested in cases involving medical treatment for transgender issues.  From my understanding (I know nothing about the Australian legal system), it would mean that a test case would have to go before the full bench of the Family Court, then the High Court.

Judge Bryant was responding, in part, to a recent episode of a television program which tells the stories of transgender children as they struggle, legally and socially, to live their lives as the people they are.  That program, as well as her own research, has convinced her that transgenderism is "completely innate".  She also notes that "society is changing about these issues" and, as a result, "the system needs to respond".  

According to her, and published reports, many doctors and parents aren't happy that transgender kids in their care have to go to court to prove their competence to judges, some of whom are not as knowledgable and perceptive as Judge Bryant.  As Jamie, a 14-year-old transgender said, " I don't think it's necessary that we have to back to the court so they can decide if I'm Gillick competent, 'cause that's just up to the doctors and parents, I think".

I hope that more judges--and others who have the power to make decisions for kids like Jamie--listen to her, to Judge Bryant and everyone else (including ourselves) who know what we, in our minds and spirits, are. Then, perhaps, not so many of us would be consigned to lives clouded by depression, stalled by substance abuse and other self-destructive behavior and punctuated--or, worse, ended--by suicide attempts.

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