Historic Family Court win for young transgender people

Historic Family Court win for young transgender people

In a landmark decision, the Full Court of the Family Court ruled that young people who experience gender dysphoria and wish to undergo hormone treatment may now be able to do so without the approval of the Family Court.

The case of Re Kelvin concerned a 16 year old transgender young man who made an application to the Family Court to approve his testosterone treatment. The case was referred up to the Full Court to reconsider its role in such cases and today the Court ruled that access to hormone treatment would no longer require Court authorisation.

The Human Rights Law Centre represented community organisation A Gender Agenda, to intervene in the case and represent the broader interests of trans and gender diverse people and their families.

Anna Brown, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre said this was a stunning victory for young transgender people.

“This will make a profound difference to the lives of many young trans people who will now be relieved of the burden of a costly and unnecessary court process in order to access hormone treatment that supports them to be who they are. Doctors and parents are able make decisions about every other kind of medical treatment for young people - including ethically complex decisions that weigh up risks and the consequences of not undergoing treatment - and gender dysphoria should be no different,” said Anna Brown.

The decision departs from the last judgment of the Full Court in Re Jamie, in which trans teenager and now Young Victorian Australian of the Year, Georgie Stone, unsuccessfully challenged the Court’s role, and follows extensive criticism by medical and legal experts. The majority judgment by judges Thackary, Strickland & Murphy decided that it was appropriate to depart from Re Jamie in order for the law to reflect the current state of medical knowledge. A minority of two judges decided that the Full Court erred in its application of existing legal principles in Re Jamie and thus the decision should not be followed.

“This bizarre legal anomaly was born of outdated attitudes to trans young people and a lack of understanding of just how far medical science and treatment of gender dysphoria has come in recent years. Trans young people are already struggling and to inflict a costly, stressful and time consuming court process was contributing to already alarmingly high levels of depression, self harm and attempted suicide,” said Anna Brown.

Sel Cooper, Executive Director of A Gender Agenda, welcomed the decision which removes legal discrimination against young transgender people seeking access to gender affirming hormone therapy.

“We see increasing numbers of young people and parents of transgender youth seeking support. Requiring families of transgender youth who are seeking gender-affirming hormones to go to court is intrusive and discriminatory, at a particularly challenging time for a group of young people already at high risk of suicide. The Court’s decision means transgender young people, like any young person seeking medical treatment, will be able to make decisions about gender-affirming hormone therapy guided by medical professionals and their parents, rather than judges,” said Sel Cooper.

Brenda Appleton, Chair of Transgender Victoria, said the decision would go a long way towards easing the burden on young transgender people.

“The trans and gender diverse community is delighted that access to essential treatment for trans and gender diverse young people will no longer require Family Court involvement. This is important because it avoids the cost and trauma associated with preparing for a court case at a difficult time for the young person and their family. It also means that appropriate medical treatment can commence based on medical needs and not legal or financial considerations,” said Brenda Appleton.

“The community is overjoyed at this significant development and would like to thank all those who have helped prosecute the case for human rights and for decisions to be made based on assessed and informed medical decisions,” added Brenda Appleton.

Reactions from parents of transgender young people

“We are over the moon and beyond happy with today’s Family Court judgement that will allow our son to commence gender affirming hormones under the guidance and support of his doctors. Despite his social transition he has put so much of his life on hold ‘until after I start T’ – that causes him and us immense emotional pain and anguish. With this great common sense decision by the Court today, the worry of having to go through a time consuming, expensive and emotionally draining court process has been removed and soon he will be able to start living his best life. Christmas has come early in our house (and we are sure many others) with this fantastic news!"

"It’s such a sense of relief to know that our child will be able to access treatment in a less stressful manner to become the person they know they are inside. Given the mental health issues that a lot of transgender youth suffer, this is one less hoop to jump through. We are very excited for what this is enabling our child to access and are keen to see how this will actuate for us and others."

"Heart felt thanks for your work in the Family Court today!!! My partner called me in tears from his work place to tell me of your team’s historic achievement. It is such a relief for us as a family — we have a transgender child and having to go to court in future was looming as a giant emotional and financial burden we needed to battle. Please pass on our gratitude to Kelvin and his family also. Much love and gratitude to you all for your hard work and generosity."

The Human Rights Law Centre thanks Lander & Rogers, Elizabeth Bennett and Kris Walker QC for their generous pro bono assistance in this matter.

You can read the Full Court judgment here.

Read: A Gender Agenda's statement here.

For interviews or further information please call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519