British Columbia

B.C. Court of Appeal decision a mixed outcome for trans teen and disapproving father

A new ruling from the B.C. Court of Appeal reaffirms a teen's right to undergo hormone treatment to transition to male, despite his father's objections, but throws out part of a lower court order that said the father's misgendering of his son constituted "family violence."

Teen's right to hormone treatment reaffirmed, but father misgendering son not considered 'family violence'

B.C.'s highest court has ruled a teen has the right to undergo gender affirming hormone treatment, despite his father's objections. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

A new ruling from the B.C. Court of Appeal reaffirms a 15-year-old's right to undergo hormone treatment to transition to male, despite his father's objections.  

But the ruling also throws out part of a lower court order that said the father's misgendering of his son constituted "family violence" under the Family Law Act.

The teen, who was 14 when the conflict began, had decided to undergo medical treatment for gender dysphoria recommended by the Gender Clinic at B.C. Children's Hospital. The teen's mother approved of the treatment, but his father objected.

The teen, his father, mother, and the many health professionals named in the case cannot be identified, due to a publication ban.

The reasons for the appeal court's decision, which was written by two justices and concurred by the third, detail mixed outcomes for the teen and his father — one of the lower court orders was upheld, while some were dismissed in part.

The appeal judges found there was no reason to strike down the B.C. Supreme Court ruling that the teen's consent to undergo the hormone treatment was valid.

In their written reasons, the justices did slightly limit the order, saying the teen was exclusively entitled to consent to a specific treatment if it is one he understands, not treatment for gender dysphoria, generally.

Father entitled to express his opinions — privately

The father won a partial victory in the case on Friday when the decision was handed down. A lower court order forbid him from attempting to convince his son to stop medical treatment, use female gender pronouns, use the female name the teen was given at birth, or refer to him as a girl.

The father had given interviews and made public comments about his son referring to him as a girl. 

A B.C. Supreme Court judge had ruled that identifying the teen as a girl would be considered family violence under the Family Law Act, given the harm it had caused him. That has been struck down by the new ruling.

In the decision, the judges write that misgendering the teen does not constitute a act of family violence, which was part of a protection order enforceable by police. Instead, the appeal court made what's called a conduct order that the father refer to his son as a boy, use male pronouns and his male name. A conduct order is not enforcable by police.

The appeal judges ruled that the father is entitled to his views and to communicate those views to his son, and that, though there was evidence the father's refusal to accept the teen's gender was clearly harmful, there was not sufficient evidence that the father intended to hurt his son.

In the justices' reasons, they call the father's conduct "seriously misguided." They urge the father to engage with his son's medical team "in an effort to consider other points of view," and to "exercise restraint" with his son and listen to his point of view.

Under the appeal court decision, the father is allowed to express his opinion and share his son's private information in private communications with family, close friends and advisors, but the appeal judges upheld the part of the B.C. Supreme Court order that he not express those opinions publicly.


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Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said the recent decision by the B.C. Court of Appeal allowed the father to refer to his trans teen by the female name given to him at birth. In fact, the appeal judges issued an order that the father must use male pronouns, the son's chosen name, and refer to him as a boy.
    Jan 11, 2020 1:53 PM PT

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