Gender Dysphoria in Children – Landmark decision of the Full Court of the Family Court
December 2, 2017
What is gender dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is when a person’s physical gender conflicts with the gender with which they identify.
Stages of treatment
Hormone treatment for gender dysphoria in children occurs in two stages.
Stage 1 treatment is seen to be largely reversible. It involves the child taking puberty blockers to prevent the development of secondary sexual characteristics such as the development of breasts, body hair and vouch breaking. They can be used safely for three to four years. Prior to the Full Court’s decision of Re Jamie (2013), parents of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria required the Family Court’s approval to authorise Stage 1 treatment.
Stage 2 treatment is seen as being more irreversible. It involves administering cross-sex hormones that cause a child to develop pubertal characteristics of the sex with which they identify. For example, voice depending is irreversible while breast development requires surgery to reverse. Stage 2 usually commences when the child turns 16 years. Parents of a child previously needed to apply to the Family Court for approval for their child to undergo Stage 2 treatment.
The Family Court has recently held in the decision of Re Kelvin (2017), that it is no longer mandatory to apply to the Family Court for orders approving Stage 2 treatment of a child with gender dysphoria where:
- The child consents to the treatment;
- The treating medical practitioner agrees that the child has sufficient maturity and competence to give that consent; and
- The parents of the child consent to that treatment.
Reason for new approach
The Full Court has held that the risks involved in irreversible treatment no longer outweigh the therapeutic benefits to the child such that Court intervention is required.
Facts of Re Kelvin (2017)
In the Kelvin case, the subject child was born a female and had fulfilled the criteria for gender dysphoria from 9 years old. He had transitioned socially and was living as a male.
He had not undergone Stage 1 treatment and going through female puberty had caused him significant distress.
At 17 years old, Kelvin wished to commenced Stage 2 treatment. Both of his parents supported him in his application.
Parents of children diagnosed with gender dysphoria who satisfy the above requirements will no longer be faced with the expenses (in some cases), delay, uncertainty and stress of court proceedings.
A huge breakthrough for families with gender disordered children.