TV & Radio
Teens fight for sex change
By Sandra Lee and Tony Vermeer
July 24, 2005
From: Sunday Telegraph
AT least six NSW teenagers are planning legal action to change their sex following a Family Court decision to allow a 13-year-old boy to become a girl.
In an application supported by his parents, the Sydney boy recently won the court's permission to take puberty-blocking chemicals to stop developing an adult male's body.
His lawyer, Rachael Wallbank, says the next step is to take oestrogen at 16 to feminise the body with the option of having sex-change surgery after turning 18.
The case follows the Family Court's precedent-setting decision last year to allow a 13-year-old girl, "Alex", to become a boy.
The issue will be covered by the ABC's Four Corners program tomorrow night.
Ms Wallbank, herself a transsexual, said six teenagers in NSW were "lining up" to undergo similar treatment. She said they felt trapped in the wrong gender and were sure of what they wanted.
"There is no confusion - it's certainty in the face of every other obstacle, and it's unchanging," said Ms Wallbank, who will also appear in the Four Corners program.
But the decisions have created controversy with some doctors and ethicists claiming the teenagers are too young to make such decisions and the court should not be approving them.
Bio-ethicist Dr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini said allowing teenagers to change sex was horrendous and defied psychiatric opinion that indicated they often regretted the decision later.
"It's bad enough for young people in their 20s but to see that happening to children is quite horrific," Dr Tonti-Filippini told The Sunday Telegraph last week.
He said the Family Court was ill-equipped to determine such matters.
But Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant told The Sunday Telegraph the court had no predisposition towards granting sex changes to teenagers.
"Each case is judged on its merits," she said.
Justice Bryant acknowledged that the issue was controversial but said the court had a welfare jurisdiction that gave it the right to make such decisions.
The children are among as many as 40,000 Australians who suffer what medical experts have labelled "intersex" conditions.
Twenty-six-year-old Melbourne woman Christie North, who was born with male chromosomes and internal testes, said she did not feel out of place.
"It just affects me in that I cannot have kids and I don't get a period," she said.