Three-judge panel upholds decision by lower court, clearing way for 14-year-old, who identifies as a boy, to continue treatment
A Canadian court has ruled in favour of a transgender teenager who this week argued he would be left stranded between genders if the judges backed his fathers legal efforts to halt his hormone treatment.
The panel of three judges upheld on Thursday a previous decision by a lower court in British Columbia, clearing the way for the teen to continue his hormone treatment.
The case centres on a 14-year-old from Vancouver, who started publicly identifying as a male at 11.
After a suicide attempt and meetings with medical professionals, the teen requested hormone therapy to transition from female to male, but his father took legal action to stop the process.
I will be stranded between looking and sounding feminine and looking and sounding masculine. I would feel like a freak, the teenager wrote in an affidavit which was read out in court on Tuesday.
The bitter fight over hormone treatment for a child has also became a debate over parental rights, freedom of expression and informed consent.
Underscoring the broader implications of the courts decision, six groups including LGBTQ advocacy organizations and conservative free speech activists have been granted the right to provide submissions on behalf of the litigants.
Eighteen lawyers have taken part in the three-day hearing, including those representing public health officials, the local school board, as well as the teenager, his mother and his father.
A publication ban prevents the identification of any family members or experts testifying.
In February a lower court ruled that the Infants Act, which gives wide latitude to a minors ability to consent to medical procedures, permits the teen to receive hormone therapy at a Vancouver hospital.
The boy, who has the support of his mother, began taking hormones in March and now feels amazing as a result of the treatment, his lawyers told the British Columbia court of appeals, the provinces highest court. In addition to an improved self-image, he no longer has suicidal thoughts, they said.
But his father is determined to block the continuation of the hormone treatment, arguing that the lower court rushed prematurely to judgment.
The lower court also ordered the father use the childs chosen pronouns, meaning that if the father used his childs birth name, or referred to him as a girl, it would be viewed as family violence under the provinces Family Law Act.
The childs name and birth certificate have been changed to reflect the fact he identifies as male. The father is also barred from speaking to media about the case due to a separate court ruling.
The father and his legal team have cast the case in terms of personal liberties, arguing in court filings that the courts order that he use his childs chosen identity amounts to totalitarian interference.
Its a case about freedom of speech and the freedom to parent, Carey Linde, the fathers lawyer, told the Guardian. He said his client is not opposed to the childs transition from female to male but argues that too little is known about the effects of hormone treatment for the decision to be made by a minor.
Its about the right of a parent to participate in the discussion on that issue.
Groups advocating for the teen vehemently disagree, citing the Infants Act, which allows for a minors to consent to their own healthcare.
The law is clear that for the purposes of assessing informed consent a youth seeking gender affirming healthcare is to be treated and must be treated in the same way as any other youth seeking any other medical treatment, said the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health in a court filing.
Advocacy groups also accuse the father is using his son to promote conservative gender ideology, according to court filings.
Medical experts have advised the court that because the child is midway through the hormone treatment, many of the effects are not reversible.
The panel of three judges overseeing the case is expected to release written judgments in the coming months, including the question over whether or not the fathers misgendering of his child amounts to abusive behaviour.