Australia's transgender teenagers will no longer have to apply to the Family Court in order to access hormone treatment, following a landmark decision handed down on Thursday.
Previously, Australia was the only nation in the world that required transgender teenagers to get Family Court authorisation before they could start taking oestrogen or testosterone as part of transitioning, usually around the age of 15.
The process had come under heavy criticism from transgender advocates, doctors, and legal experts – including judges – who argued it was costly, time-consuming, and added a burden to an already vulnerable group of transgender youth.
Now, it has been overturned in a special case brought by the father of a transgender 16-year-old known as Kelvin, which asked the court to consider whether previous case law requiring the court process to take place should be overturned.
The judgement from the full Family Court means that in cases where there is no dispute between a child, their parents, and their treating doctors, that hormone treatment can now simply be prescribed.
Kelvin's father was represented by the Inner City Legal Centre. Principal solicitor Hilary Kincaid told BuzzFeed News she was delighted at the decision.
"Based on the way the hearing went I thought it would go this way, but because I'm a cautious lawyer by nature I didn’t want to count my chickens," she said.
"[When it was handed down] I smiled and lost the ability to speak. I’m just really really happy. It’s been so much work by us and by other organisations to get here. I’m just delighted these kids will no longer have to go through this process."
The case had several interveners (interested parties not directly involved), including advocacy group A Gender Agenda, the Australian Human Rights Commission, the secretary of the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), attorney-general George Brandis and the Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne.
All the interveners argued that the process should not be in the courts except for FACS.
Chair of Transgender Victoria Brenda Appleton said transgender and gender diverse people were "overjoyed" at the ruling.
"This is important because it avoids the cost and trauma associated with preparing for a court case at a difficult time for the young person and their family," she said. "It also means that appropriate medical treatment can commence based on medical needs and not legal or financial considerations."
Georgie Stone, a 17-year-old transgender advocate and the 2018 Victorian Young Australian of the Year was at the centre of the last precedent set by the court in a case known as Re: Jamie. She tweeted her elation at the decision:
Director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre Anna Brown said the "bizarre legal anomaly" was born from outdated attitudes about trans youth, and a lack of understanding of the developments in medical science.
"Doctors and parents are able make decisions about every other kind of medical treatment for young people — including ethically complex decisions that weigh up risks and the consequences of not undergoing treatment — and gender dysphoria should be no different," she said.
"Trans young people are already struggling and to inflict a costly, stressful and time consuming court process was contributing to already alarmingly high levels of depression, self harm and suicide."
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Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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