Social Issues

Gender Identity and Parental Obstruction

Gender identity and parental obstructionism

Recently, I read a story in the local news that made me angry (not that that’s unusual lately). A mother had gone to court to try to block her 17-year-old from getting a gender-affirming double mastectomy. A BC Supreme Court judge issued an injunction to stop the surgery that was scheduled to happen the next day.

In British Columbia, the Canadian province where I live, there isn’t a set age of consent for medical procedures. The Infants Act covers anyone under the age of 19, and describes mature minor consent, which allows a minor to give consent independent of their parent’s wishes if a health care provider determines they are able to understand the elements of informed consent in the same way a competent adult would.

The mother has sued the doctor and surgeon involved to stop the surgery from going ahead without her consent until the Courts can make a determination around whether the minor has the capacity to consent. The mother is also seeking to block any sort of hormone therapy, and put a stop to the testosterone that the minor has been receiving for the last several months.

According to a CBC article, the mother stated through her lawyer that the minor was “caught up in a fad,” and she blamed a specific LGBTQ+ resource in the public education system for “pushing depressed and anxiety-ridden girls to gender-change clinics when what they need is psychiatric care.” Seriously?

In a similar case in 2019 involving a 15-year-old and gender-affirming hormone therapy, the Supreme Court rejected the parent’s case, and that ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal earlier this year.

I find it really disgusting that parents are willing to choose ignorance over supporting their child, and choose invalidation over acceptance. They don’t have to understand, they don’t have to like it, but to ignore a mature minor’s decision-making capacity and go to court to force their child’s body to be a certain way that fundamentally contradicts their identity seems abusive. Talk to them, try to understand what their experience is. Don’t blame fads and the school system. Remove head from ass.

When people choose ignorance for themselves, that’s one thing, but when they try to bash their child over the head with it, that’s not okay. And I really hope that once this injunction runs out near the end of this month, the Court will kick this mother’s butt to the curb and affirm this mature minor’s right to whatever gender-affirming care they (I’m unsure of their pronouns of choice) need. I also hope that this teen has other people in their life who are prepared to step up to the plate and accept and validate them.

So yeah, I’m angry about this news story. Trans youth, and trans people in general, have enough shit they have to deal with without having this kind of obstructionist crap. They deserve so much better.

44 thoughts on “Gender Identity and Parental Obstruction”

  1. This is a very, very complicated topic. I have a friend whose now adult kids; friends went through something like this (in Europe)…the child began her journey to change her gender via surgeries around age 14, her sibling followed suit int he other direction. Both changed their minds before they turned 17. They are in some sort of weird legal battle and the parents are caught in that as well. I think the laws are different in European countries than here in Canada or North America, and it’s an ongoing thing, but for me, it’s a tough call to say one way or the other that one should, or shouldn’t, allow for the gender surgery to go ahead in a minor.

    I don’t know enough about this story to say whether I agree or disagree, but it made me think of my friend’s friends who went through what is now a 4 year ordeal with plenty of confusion for all parties.

    Either way you look at it, it’s heartbreaking.

    I also remember, on a related note, a 20 year old boy (adult) coming out to me during a flight (we were both flight attendants, I was maybe 24 or 25 at the time, so mid 1990s). He cried he wanted his parents to know that he was gay but was afraid to be cast out and disowned. Now that he was a flight attendant with many other homosexual (out) men, he came closer to the conclusion that no matter how his parents will react, he has to be/stay true to himself. I didn’t know why he came to me, I just listened and watched him make his own decision. The times were different then, but the scenarios are still ongoing today.

    Coming out as gay isn’t the same as undergoing an extensive gender reassignment surgery but it’s related, and equally heartbreaking.

    I thought I’d put it out there.

    1. Yeah, it’s sad that some people have to grapple with the choice of being accepted by family or being true to themselves as a dichotomy.

      I think age and maturity are really important. A 14 vs a 17-year-old can be so different in terms of their decision-making capacity. With this case in BC, the 17-year-old is trying to get a mastectomy and not sex reassignment surgery, so it isn’t something irreversible.

  2. Do you think the parents are really being ignorant though? I think that glosses over the problem that the parents ultimately have an issue with non-cis people. The reality is, the kid can wait a year or two and then get the operation, or get themselves emancipated, or at least they can in America. We can come up with 101 reasons why the kid should be allowed to get the surgery now, but time will be the ultimate ruler and age-out the kid from being under their parents’ thumb. Much like a kid can leave a dry house and become a drinker, or a child can leave a liberally or conservative political home and become the opposite, time wins. The real question is…why was it a dry house? Why were mom and dad liberal or conservative? The motivation of this mother who is denying the mastectomy is what is at issue for me. The mother knows the kid can do it in less than 1000 days, no matter her opinion. Why is she risking a life of alienation from her child to win a short-term legal victory? That’s my real question.

    1. The ship has probably already sailed on the alienation, and she’s unlikely to to convince the court that the teen isn’t capable of giving consent. It may be a strict Asian immigrant parent scenario; who knows. Details haven’t been released to the media to protect the teen.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a reminder that ignorance is plentiful in North America et al. I deal with half way expressing my views on Facebook, and I get 0 support on most all of them. Thanks again.

  4. This was very interesting to read and would like to have a follow up of this when the time come if possible?? Also why can’t a child decide who or what they are going to be?? If that was my children and they were 100% I would be by there side holding their hand and supporting them anyway I can as a mother should. It is so sad what this mother has done to her child, if the child is depressed, then I see why with having a mother like that. Hope all is well Ashley?? Xx

  5. Heartbreaking. As a mother, my role is to support my children in their growth. I live who they are not what I think or purpose them to be. Acceptance. We are to give our children roots and wings with unconditional love. This parent as done the complete opposite. Truly tragic. Thank you for highlighting it here my dear🙏

      1. Exactly!! Anything else is abusive. Period. Home and one’s parents are the base for love and care, when that’s not established that is so tragic. The odds are stacked against thriving. Excellent point Ashleyleia🙏

  6. Powerful post! Very touchy subject. I’ve personally known two individuals (not in real life, but through internet friendships) who were transgender. I’ve seen a couple of movies made about folks who are walking that hard road and trying to find acceptance, and each time I’m struck by how sure their convictions are that their body is “wrong”.

    I can’t imagine it, but I try to think of what it would be like if I’d been born a biologic MALE. I’m and always have strongly identified with being FEMALE. So the trauma involved in knowing one doesn’t belong in one’s own body, psychologically and emotionally is rather horrifying.

    To play a little devil’s advocate though, I think that anyone under the age of reason (whether it’s 18 or 21) needs to accept that psychological counseling (extensive) and some tough questions are in order, because in my opinion (for all it’s worth) someone who is a child (under 13) or a teenager (most teenagers, there are a few who meet the criteria of mature minor, but darned few) under 18 or even 21, ought not be allowed to make the kind of permanent life changing decisions such as gender re-assignment. I don’t think someone young is mature enough nor sees enough of a ‘big picture’ to decide.

    Also media has made transgender individuals seem very attractive and to some young people, that might indeed be a fad worship scenario rather than an actual gender misalignment.

    I don’t know squat about transgender feelings on a personal level and as said I can’t imagine the angst that’s involved. That’s where I believe the counseling and the age restrictions are a good idea, because the changes will be permanent and will alter the person’s life irrevocably. I don’t know that really young people understand just how great that struggle will be.

    1. I haven’t looked into the law in other areas, so I don’t know if BC is an outlier in allowing people under the age of majority to consent to medical procedures. I think respecting mature minor consent is pretty well established, though, in various contexts ranging from counselling to getting vaccines. There may well be age restrictions specifically around sex reassignment surgery that changes the actual plumbing, but breast surgery and hormone therapy are treated like any other medical procedure in terms of consent.

  7. Thank yoou for this, as a person who has struggled with their ge der identity, and still bttling to be myself as a grown up, to have to go through that as a teen is awful. People seem to feel like they know best for youngsters when, actually they are learning who they are and being told otherwise is nothi g but oppressive and damaging. Thank you for sharing this. It’s important to keep these conversations going.

  8. My 13 year old is FTM trans. We discussed how at this time
    he’s a little young for hormone therapy or anything as the body is still changing rapidly (he agrees).

    My argument for people that think this is just a fad is this: so what if it was just a fad? In supporting my child he learns that I love him no matter what. If I had not supported him he’d learn that my love is conditional, and it most certainly is not. There is not a thing my children can do, say, think, or feel that will make me stop loving them.

      1. I wish such people would genuinely prioritise their children’s well-being, but as my parents are this sort (why I didn’t dare to social transition), they probably genuinely believe they’re doing the right thing.

          1. Yep. Plus they tend to already be in an echo chamber (with their trusted information sources pushing that), anddd have hefty doses of confirmation bias. I remember my parents distrusted not just secular information and news sources, but also “not the right type of Conservative Christian” sources.

  9. I completely agree with you in regards to acceptance and love. A parent should never let their own negative thought process’s feed into the mental health struggles their child faces. It’s so damaging that gender and sexual identity are still such big issues that can tare families apart.

  10. Parents can be so insensitive at times, to the extent that they intentionally overlook the kid’s mental wellbeing. All they care about is the society and what others are going to say. It saddens my heart to even think about what that poor child had to go through.

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