The Family Court Just Delivered An Enormous Win For Transgender Teens

Trans teens will no longer need to go to court to access hormone therapy.

political correctness This Transgender Day of Remembrance, let's consider how Australia can do better.

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In more huge news for the LGBTQI+ community, transgender teens will no longer need to go through a lengthy court process to access hormone treatment, after a landmark ruling by the Family Court today.

Until now, Australia was the only country in the world which required transgender kids and teens to get the approval of the Family Court before starting stage two hormones like oestrogen and testosterone. The legal process can take months, cost tens of thousands of dollars, and has been described as “inhumane” by judges due to the heavy psychological toll it takes.

Stage two hormones are necessary for trans kids to begin going through the puberty that aligns with their gender identity — for example, a teenager who identifies as a boy but was assigned female at birth would receive testosterone to bring about male puberty. These hormones are essential medical treatment for many transgender youth, and the psychological toll of being denied them can be extraordinary.

While the changes caused by stage two treatment are irreversible (unlike stage one treatment, or puberty blockers, which can be prescribed by a child’s GP without going through the courts), the courts have never refused an application for hormone therapy. More than 60 applications have been approved since the court process began in 2004.

Today’s decision was in response to Re Kelvin, a legal case brought by the father of a 16-year-old transgender boy (known by the pseudonym Kelvin for the purposes of the case). The purpose of the case was to determine once and for all whether a court process is necessary for trans kids to receive medical treatment.

Hilary Kincaid, the Principal Solicitor at the Inner City Legal Centre, which acted in this case, told Junkee the decision left her “pretty shellshocked, but pretty happy”.

“Words fail me,” she said. “What the old law meant was that young people had delays of months in accessing treatment because of the need to go to court, and now they don’t have that any more. They can make this decision, which is a serious decision, with their doctors and their family.”

“It means they can do something else with their time. It means these young people have the autonomy they deserve.”

Kincaid has been working at the ICLC for over a decade, and has been working on cases for trans youth since 2013.

“This is really the culmination of four years of work,” she said. “It’s my fortieth birthday on Saturday, and this is the best present I could have asked for.”

She also thanked the two barristers who worked pro bono on the case, pointing out that it wouldn’t have been possible without them.

While the decision is a landmark moment, there are still remaining legal questions that will need to be settled. The Inner City Legal Centre say they will continue to work to protect transgender youth and their families from any adverse changes, as well as turning their attention to other challenges that face transgender youth, like streamlining laws to change sex markers on birth certificates.

For now, though, this decision will impact the lives of trans youth in Australia immediately, and profoundly. With the marriage equality bill passing the Senate just yesterday, what an incredible week it’s been for LGBTQI+ Australians.