“The way that young people are often misgendered and deadnamed is a human rights violation.”
A father has appealed a recent court decision that blocked him from preventing his young child from transitioning to a male gender presentation.
Last month, the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Canada, ruled that the 14-year-old, who identifies as transgender, can start hormone therapy. The father appealed the decision on March 4.
“He just believes that his child needs some protection at this point, just too young to make such a decision,” Herb Dunton, the father’s lawyer told the Star.
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The court, which withheld the family members’ names, explained that the teenager, though biologically female, has lived as a boy since age 11. The child wanted to start testosterone hormone therapy last summer, and the mother and doctors agreed. However, the father opposed the treatment and took the matter to court.
The man then found himself up against not just the mother and child, but also medical professionals, teachers, the school district, and the province’s Education Ministry.
According to legal experts, the ruling sets a precedent in family law that transitioning is a health decision to which children have a right. Parents must respect their kid’s chosen gender, pronouns, and name.
Doing otherwise – including misgendering a child or even trying to talk him or her out of transitioning – could get parents reported to authorities for emotional abuse, trans rights lawyer Adrienne Smith told The Star.
“Young trans people can take comfort that the way that they are often misgendered and deadnamed is a human rights violation and could rise to the level of being family violence,” said Smith, who is transgender and nonbinary and uses gender-neutral pronouns.
The law already allowed minors to make their own informed health care decisions, but the court’s ruling clarified that gender transitions fall into this category, said Kasari Govender, a lawyer and executive director of West Coast LEAF, a non-profit dedicated to gender equality.
To parents, the court is saying “it’s not your values that matters here, it’s your child’s values around their own body and (their) decisions and how they show up in the world,” Govender explained.
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Canada has been a world leader in advancing transgender rights. In 2017, the federal government passed Bill C-16 into law, protecting gender expression and gender identity. Psychology professor Jordan Peterson famously opposed the legislation, arguing that it is a threat to free speech.
A similar conflict has played out in the United States and elsewhere. Twitter in November banned “deadnaming” and “misgendering” of transgender people, and newly empowered Democrats in Congress have promised to advance legislation on behalf of trans people.
When it comes to children, a number of experts have warned — including in an Atlantic cover story last June — that many parents, educators, and doctors have become too accommodating. While there is not yet longterm research on transition outcomes, the concern is that children may regret the often-irreversible process when they get older.
LGBT activists, for their part, have largely rejected such pushback, claiming that mistaken transitions are exceedingly rare. In many cases, they have sought to paint skeptics with the broad brush of transphobia.
In the B.C. supreme court trial, one doctor testified that delaying the teen’s hormone treatment will cause “ongoing and unnecessary suffering and continued gender dysphoria.” Another warned that the child could attempt suicide if denied hormones, as happened in the spring of 2018.
“There is significant risk of further attempts, and possibly even completion, if treatment is delayed,” the doctor said.
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