A Family Court judge has called for an end to an “inhumane” hurdle faced by transgender youth seeking to transition.
In order for transgender children under 18 to access “stage two” hormone treatment, they need approval from a Family Court judge in addition to expert medical approval.
Australia is the only country in the world where the children must get approval from a court for the treatment, with the process having a waiting period of as long as 10 months and a price tag for families in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Last month Judge Peter Tree allowed a 17-year-old transgender boy from Townsville, known in court documents as Lucas, to start taking testosterone, but in his December 22 judgment he slammed the court process the teen and his family had gone through.
“As if the general turmoil and challenges which being a teenager in our modern world generates are not enough, the additional burden of requiring an already vulnerable and highly marginalised group to individually litigate to vindicate their identity seems inhumane,” Judge Tree wrote.
“No other group of adolescents is required to do so. Having already traversed a far more difficult path than many of their peers, it can only serve to further increase their burden.”
Judge Tree said the process was of no benefit to the children and was “anything but in their best interests.”
“Not so long ago, these sorts of applications were a rarity; now they are commonplace and the number of them being made rapidly increasing,” he wrote.
“The sooner that children such as Lucas and their families do not have to endure the ordeal of litigation in order to get on with their lives, the better.”
In August last year, Victorian transgender teen Georgie Stone (pictured) appeared on ABC’s Australian Story program to share her struggle with the court system, describing it as a race against time to get the hormone treatments she needed.
At the time, Melbourne lawyer Paul Boers told the ABC he’d represented eight transgender children in pro bono court cases and he said the court “just rubber stamps” the recommendations of the children’s treating specialists.
Family Court Chief Justice Dianna Bryant told the ABC: “The law’s the law at the moment and there’s only the two circumstances in which it can be altered. I can’t do anything about it unless someone’s prepared to challenge the existing case law, or unless the government is prepared to legislate.”
A spokesperson for Attorney-General George Brandis said last year the government was “actively considering options” for the reform.