British Columbia

Case of teen's gender-affirming treatment before B.C. Court of Appeal

The B.C. Court of Appeal is now hearing a case that could determine what power — if any — a parent has to block their transgender child from undergoing hormone treatment.

B.C.'s top court now hearing issue of whether a parent can block a child's choice to undergo hormone treatment

A case regarding a parent's ability to intervene in their child's treatment for gender dysphoria is before the B.C. Court of Appeal. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The B.C. Court of Appeal is now hearing a case that could determine what power — if any — a parent has to block their transgender child from undergoing hormone treatment.

The 14-year-old transgender boy's father appealed a February decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Bowden that the teen receive medical treatment for gender dysphoria recommended by the Gender Clinic at B.C. Children's Hospital.

Bowden also ordered the father to acknowledge and refer to his son using only male pronouns throughout the course of the court proceedings.

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

Father ordered not to use female pronouns

Bowden's decision went one step further, saying that if the father used his son's birth name, referred to him as a girl or used female pronouns when referring to him, it would be considered family violence under the Family Law Act.

Now, more than 15 lawyers are battling the issue in a Vancouver courtroom. A small team of lawyers including Claire Hunter and barbara findlay are representing the teen, while Herb Dunton and Carey Linde represent the father. Other lawyers represent a number of parties and intervenors, including the Provincial Health Services Authority and the teen's school district.

Hunter began on Tuesday by arguing that the same order banning the use of female pronouns when referring to the boy be made for the appeal hearing. Dunton said he intended to use the boy's preferred pronouns regardless, but was caught slipping up at one point, referring to his client's "daughter."

"We're all learning new language in this area," he said.

Hormone treatment already underway

Hunter argued that the issue of whether her client ought to be stopped from undergoing testosterone treatment is moot, since he has been receiving the treatment since March, and many of the effects are irreversible.

She quoted her client as saying, "It is so amazing to feel normal," and that although the gender dysphoria has not completely gone away, he's less stressed out and has not felt suicidal since taking hormones.

According to Hunter, the teen said if he were made to stop taking the hormone treatment now, his appearance and voice would be stuck between feminine and masculine.

"I would feel like a freak," he said.

Dunton argued that "treatments can be seen as a continuum," and that some effects of hormone therapy may be reversible while others are not.

Justice Harvey Groberman, one of three judges presiding over the case, pushed Dunton to explain under what law the court had the authority to order medical treatment for a child, and suggested the case may come down to the narrow issue of whether the teen was of sufficient age and maturity to make the choice himself.

The hearing is scheduled to run through Thursday.


Do you have more to add to this story? Email rafferty.baker@cbc.ca

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

About the Author

Rafferty Baker is a video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver, filing stories for cbc.ca, CBC Radio, and television.