Australian transgender teenager Georgie Stone wants to take on the court system to try and help save the lives of other trans teens.
In order for transgender children 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 be assessed by a court as to their competency to consent to 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.
16-year-old Georgie went through the harrowing court ordeal to get the permission that enabled her to transition before she began to go through puberty, and now she’s asking politicians to scrap the court requirement to stop other teenagers from having to go through the same difficult process.
“I’m hoping after seeing my story they can see a happy, free 16-year-old who came out the other side,” she told the ABC’s Australian Story, in an episode set to air on Monday night.
“We all know that transgender children are more at risk of suicide and self harm between the time of coming out and then accessing treatment.
“The Family Court is expensive and often delays mean that teenagers cannot get into court before it’s too late and they hit puberty.
“I would have killed myself if my voice had broken. It would have meant people could no longer take me on face value.”
The director of the Gender Service at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Dr Michelle Telfer, told the ABC many of her clients feel the same way.
“The court process causes delays, it’s very stressful, it’s pathologising for them,” she said.
“Going to court usually means that there’s something wrong, you’ve done something wrong or there’s something wrong with your family, and in these situations it’s just not the case.”
Dr Telfer said the Gender Service at the RCH has had 200 new referrals of transgender youth this year, and in February, she accompanied several of the children and their parents to Canberra to lobby politicians to reform the court process.
Melbourne lawyer Paul Boers said he’s represented eight such families in pro bono court cases this year because the families can’t afford treatment and the children’s lives are at stake.
The court “just rubber stamps” the recommendations of the teens’ treating specialists, he said.
“My hope is that sooner rather than later there’s going to be an end to this madness having to go the Family Court,” he said.
“I know the Family Court wants an end to these cases. I’ve appeared before many judges who have said to me from the bench, ‘I don’t believe this should be in the Family Court, I don’t believe that these children’s parents and these children should have to come to court.’”
Family Court Chief Justice Dianna Bryant told the ABC “perhaps the matter needs to be reconsidered.”
“The law’s the law at the moment and there’s only the two circumstances in which it can be altered,” she said.
“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.”
Meanwhile, two other transgender girls, Emma and Izzie, and their parents have spoken to Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes about their own families’ struggles with the Family Court process, in a story set to air on Sunday night.
60 Minutes will air on Sunday August 14 at 7pm. Georgie Stone’s episode of Australian Story will air on ABC on Monday, August 15 at 8pm. If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
(Photos by Jackie Cohen, courtesy of ABC)