Australia: stop hormones for children without the approval of a court?
Even if the law allows the transition of minors on the basis of a simple medical evaluation - as in Italy, after all - a clinic holds back and requires the judge's consent to "treat" a girl, despite the parents' approval. Sign of a change of course due to fear of litigation after detransitioner Keira Bell won her case against the British healthcare system

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Increase the fear of legal disputes on treatments for gender transition in minors: the specialized "gender clinics", which have seen their profits grow dramatically in recent years, are starting to take precautions and to take measures to avoid possible future financial distress.

The alarm sounded in the distance Australia last January but it has only come to light now, thanks to an anomalous litigation that revealed a important concern on the part of professionals, despite the silent serenity publicly displayed.

“G2” is the acronym with which the Family Court of Western Australia indicates the minor at the center of the story; the Australian court recognized last June your informed consent is valid to continue the gender transition, which the court describes in three stages, following a diagnosis of dysphoria: in the first, i puberty blockers, in the second one hormones cross-sex (testosterone, estrogen) and in the third you can access the surgery.

G2 must begin the second stage, and after this ruling can start with testosterone.

G2 was born female in 2005 and at the age of 13 he declared himself transgender: he cut his hair short, he wanted to flatten his "chest" (chest, in the original text, instead breast, i.e. breast). THE parents, separated when G2 was 8 years old, speak of a "tomboy" and support his request to transition, as do the experts (two clinical psychologists and an endocrinologist) interviewed to assess their ability to express valid informed consent.

But there were no conflicts between the parties even before the judicial process and it is here that the anomaly of the procedure emerges, started on the autonomous initiative of the clinic that follows the transition of G2: at the end of January 2021 the parents saw a letter from the clinic itself explaining that the service dedicated to gender transitions in minors is reviewing its procedures, and illustrating the changes in reference to the "gender affirming" medical path.

Specifically for G2, on the waiting list, “as a result of possible changes to the law, can be considered appropriate and necessary obtain the Court's approval before commencing any such treatment."

That is, the clinic essentially asks - and this is the novelty - that a court authorizes the transition even when all parties agree and even if G2 is over 16 years of age; in these conditions the clinic, in its new procedures "it neither allows nor opposes the transition”. A position of "defensive medicine" manifestly aimed at avoiding any responsibility in the face of judicial appeals, an eventuality that the clinic has evidently taken into serious consideration: It is the first time in Australia that a "gender clinic" has voluntarily transferred the responsibility for establishing the validity of the minor's consent to a court to the proposed treatments.

Keira Bell, symbol of right-transitioners

The request for the court's intervention is in fact motivated by UK High Court ruling from the previous month, December 2020, referring to Keira Bell, the English girl who regretted it after completing the three stages of gender transition, wanted to return to the gender of birth and sued the Tavistock clinic, specialized for "gender-non-conforming" minors, contesting the validity of his informed consent to the treatments he had requested, but, in hindsight, without being aware of the scope and consequences of the path undertaken. Keira Bell won, and now in the UK a minor can transition from the age of 16 and only after the authorization of a court.

A important ruling also for the Australian legal framework on the consent of minors to health treatments, centered on “Gillick competence”, that is, on the possibility that a minor under 16 years of age can access health treatments without parental authorization as long as their "competence" to do so is recognized, in other words the ability both to understand the information received on the proposed treatments and to make choices based on one's own interest.

Australian jurisprudence in this regard is drawn on one series of sentences, also on gender transitions, which in short were going in the direction of exclude the intervention of the courts in case of recognized competence of the minor and agreement between the parties.

The Australian newspapers in commenting on the case underlined how this latest pronouncement contrasts, in fact, the campaign conducted by Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, all aimed at convincing the courts that clinical assessment alone was sufficient for minors' gender transitions.

Assuntina Morresi


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