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Transgender teen's lawyer to Canadian court: Dad guilty of 'family violence' for opposing his child's testosterone therapy

The dad 'doesn't think that transgender is a thing, that it's essentially not human,' the teen's lawyer said

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The lawyer for a transgender teenager argued that a Canadian court correctly ruled that the father's opposition to testosterone therapy for his 14-year-old child amounted to "family violence," the Chronicle Herald reported.

The teen's attorney, barbara findlay, also told the appellate court Thursday that a lower court rightly barred the father from talking publicly about the case, the paper said.

"For a transgender person, having the world refuse to accept the gender identity that you say you are is the most profound harm because it's a denial of your human identity," findlay added, according to the Chronicle Herald. "(The) dad's expression rights end at the point where they harm (the child)."

What's the background?

The British Columbia Appeal Court is hearing arguments concerning a transgender boy who's identified as male since age 11, the paper said. A psychologist last year referred the child to B.C. Children's Hospital for gender dysphoria treatment, but the hospital's gender clinic said it was in the child's best interests to get hormone therapy to help the transition from a female body to a male body — and got consent from the child and child's mother, the Chronicle Herald said.

After the father went to court to block the treatment, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Bowden ruled in February the child was "exclusively entitled" to consent to treatment, the paper said. Bowden added that the child also must be called by male pronouns and that any attempt to persuade the child to end treatment or use of female pronouns when referring to the child will be considered "family violence," the Chronicle Herald reported.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Francesca Marzari issued a protection order in April barring the father from publicly discussing the case after determining that interviews he'd given to conservative media outlets potentially exposed his child to violence and harassment, the paper said.

With that, the dad filed an appeal saying it was a "rush to judgment" by the court, that all scientific opinion on such treatments weren't considered, that someone his child's age can't understand the potential consequences of a "still experimental treatment," and that an order preventing him from publicly discussing the case steps on his freedom of expression, the Chronicle Herald noted.

What else was said during the appellate hearing?

The teen's lawyer read excerpts to the court from the child's affidavit, the paper said: "It's really hard to explain to anybody who's not transgender how terrible it feels to have a body that doesn't match your gender. … Sometimes I feel like I want to rip my skin off."

After hormone therapy began earlier this year, the child still battles depression but — bodily speaking — feels better, the Chronicle Herald noted: "When I look in the mirror I see myself. … It is so amazing to feel normal."

More from the paper:

The father refuses to acknowledge his child by his chosen name or acknowledge his gender identity, findlay said. In fact, the father has suggested his child is delusional and the victim of sex activists' agendas and brainwashing, she said.

When the gender clinic held off proceeding with treatment in the hopes of getting the father onboard, the father — despite several attempts from the clinic — "systematically" refused to engage in a dialogue, court heard.

"His dad doesn't think that transgender is a thing, that it's essentially not human," findlay added, according the Chronicle Herald.

Justice Barbara Fisher questioned whether the father's actions were tantamount to family violence, but findlay said the dad's insistence that his child be female when the child wants to be a male equates to coercion and intimidation, the paper said.

Justice Harvey Groberman also wondered if the court has the right to make such medical treatment decisions, but the Chronicle Herald reported that findlay said her client is right to say to the court, "I need help here."

More from the paper:

Jessica Lithwick, the lawyer representing the mother, who supports the child's gender transition, said the mother has held her child's hand through this whole process, unlike the father, who has carried out the litigation "in partnership" with a conservative activist group, Culture Guard, which the child is deeply troubled with.

But Groberman wondered if the restrictions on the father's speech were overly broad, noting that there have been hate-speech decisions that don't necessarily prohibit a person from expressing their beliefs.

"Just because you say (the father) is acting in a particularly evil manner would not seem to justify restrictions that go beyond what's necessary," he said, according the Chronicle Herald.

But Lithwick said the restrictions were necessary, the paper noted, and that the father has repeatedly shown a "shocking lack of discretion and consideration toward (the child)."

Lithwick cited an excerpt from the child's affidavit, the Chronicle Herald said: "I don't really want to see my father right now because he only wants to harass me about being trans."

"(The child) is distressed because of the mismatch between his body and who he really is," Lithwick added, according to the paper. "And a part of that is how the world receives him, and his dad is a big part of that world."

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