Sunday, 25 May 2008

Case: Sex Change Therapy Approved: “They just suffer out there, I think.”

The Family Court in Re Brodie (Special Medical Procedure) has approved drugs to delay puberty to be given to a 12 year old girl, who considered that she was a boy.

If therapy remains in place, and her doctors are of the view in about a year that it will be appropriate to have testosterone, then a further application will need to be made to the court to allow the testosterone to be administered.

The application for the drug treatment and psychotherapy was with the approval of three experts and with the agreement of the mother, the independent children's lawyer and the Public Advocate, who acted as a friend of the court.

The treatment was opposed by Brodie's dad, who did not appear at the trial, but recognised that Brodie considered herself a boy. The father thought that, aged 12, Brodie was too young to be able to make the decision about her gender and should have more time.

One of the doctors said: "In transsexual teenagers, it is known that menstruation is a time of greatly increased stress that can lead to self-harm. Suppression of menses is therefore highly desirable to prevent acute and recurring psychological distress."

Brodie had been dressing as a boy for some years, presented as a boy and was recognised by both parents and her sister as a boy.

The court also ordered for Brodie to be able to change her name, have her birth certificate altered, have a learner's permit issued in the new name and a new Medicare card in the new name.

His Honour said:

Brodie is fortunate in the sense that the medical team has approached this matter with sensitivity and with reflection.

She is also fortunate in the sense that the treatment can commence at an early time, something which is not always open to young persons who have the same condition.
I asked Professor W myself about the frequency of this condition. As it happens there had been a meeting shortly before the hearing with a psychiatrist who runs the Gender Identity Clinic at Monash Medical Centre which only caters for adults. Professor W told me that this Clinic had had 80 new patients in the 2007 calendar year alone. Professor W had asked the psychiatrist for her views about the age at which those people would have sought attention had there been a clinic for younger people and was told that all of them would have done so. He went on to say that it was possible therefore that 80 teenagers a year might be seeking help if they knew that there was help available. He said that this was a great surprise because in his experience only a small number “trickle through” and it therefore appeared to be quite rare. Perhaps this was not the case.

I therefore asked Professor W what happened to those people and his telling response was: “They just suffer out there, I think.”

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