Are parents who want to stop their child from becoming drug dependent to treat gender confusion abusive? This is the question a court will have to wrestle with in Western Australia this week.
The state cannot remove a child and brand her parents as abusive and neglectful simply because they resist medicalised gender change with risks including sterilisation, Western Australia’s chief justice will be told on Tuesday.
Justice Peter Quinlan is to rule on a legal challenge in Australia’s first known case of a minor taken into care after the parents expressed doubts about the safety of cross-sex hormone treatment for their daughter who identifies as a transgender male.
The 16-year-old was removed from her family after she reported a plan to commit suicide.
On Tuesday the lawyer for the parents is expected to argue before Justice Quinlan that a children’s court magistrate last year was wrong to find emotional abuse and neglect in their natural caution about “affirmative” medical interventions and their wish to explore less invasive psychological treatments and other possible reasons for their daughter’s distress.
In the Supreme Court appeal, the lawyer will point out that even the psychiatric gender expert relied upon by the magistrate had conceded the area of gender dysphoria was highly controversial and different experts might come to different conclusions about diagnosis and treatment.
The girl will turn 18 later this year and can begin medical treatment as an adult. The parents strongly believe the ruling will be important “to undo the abuse and neglect findings against them, and to protect other parents from a similar misuse of state power”.
“We were found unjustly guilty of future potential mental health abuse, should the government let our daughter come back to us, because (the gender clinicians) think she would be emotionally damaged if we do not allow her to use hormones to destroy her health and fertility,” the father said.
The case will focus on the risks of testosterone, some which are documented and some which are yet to be studied. Known side effects include: “mood swings and aggressive behaviour,” blood clots, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease and “manic/psychotic symptoms”. “It is not known whether testosterone increases the risk of breast/uterine cancer.”
Kirralie Smith, Binary spokeswoman, said it was an important case.
“To accuse parents of neglect or abuse for wanting to protect their child from becoming drug dependent for life is absurd,” she said.
“To begin testosterone treatment in an attempt to appropriate the male sex would require daily medication for the rest of her life. There is little-to-no long term data of the effects of such treatments because the studies have not been conducted.
“It is a parent’s duty to protect their child from such extremist intervention.”