Wednesday, 16 June 2010

A Girl Speaks Out - And is Listened To

The Australian Family Court has one of the more enlightened and humane attitudes towards the issues of Intersex and Transsexuality in the world. It's not perfect - but it's vastly better than most places.

This is exemplified by the AFC actually listening to a child with 5ARD syndrome, and asking them what they want.
It hurts sometimes, knowing I have this condition. Sometimes I blame myself, because I feel like I am not normal. Sometimes I get angry, even though I know why and how it happened. I get a bit frustrated, because my mum always blames herself, but I keep telling her it’s not her fault. It’s just something that happened. The doctors have told me that if the gonads would remove, it would completely stop any further male development.
This is what I want.
...
When I was told what the lumps were, and that they were gonads, the first thing I thought of was that they could get rid of them. I want the gonads removed now, rather than wait until I am 18, as I want to start living my life now. I feel that once the gonads are removed, then I can get on with my life and accept my condition. I want to put the issue of the removal of the gonads behind me, and I can only do this if the gonads are removed.

I know that after the gonads are removed, I might have to have more surgery for my vagina. Dr [X] has told me that he does not want to go to more surgery, because it might wreck sensation. He said that I would only have surgery if all else fails. If I needed surgery to look more like a normal female, I would want to have it. I know I can never have babies, but I want to be as much like a normal woman as possible. I don’t know how I would feel if I could not have the gonads removed now. I do not want to think about them not being removed. I suppose I would just wait until I was 18, and then I would have them removed as soon as I could.
Sally's testimony, in RE: SALLY (SPECIAL MEDICAL PROCEDURE) [2010] FamCA 237

5ARD and 17BHDD syndromes often result in an apparent natural sex change. Well, the body changes, the brain does not. Gender Identity is unaffected. So the condition may cure Transsexuality when the patient has a male gender identity, or induce it when they have a female gender identity, as here.

And for some, they go with the flow, as I wrote about in my post, BiGender and The Brain. The degree of masculinisation also varies, from extreme to miniscule. Intervention without consent can be a disaster, as may lack of intervention when it's desired.

This is what it means though, in human, personal terms in one common case. A girl who, because of a relatively minor genetic whoopsie, was condemned to have her body masculinise. That is not a good situation to be in, to put it mildly. I know, from personal experience, but as I was a Tomboy with probably a less feminised brain than she has, it likely wasn't as bad for me. There are degrees, biology is fuzzy and messy.

1. Sally was born into a loving family in 1995. She had no health difficulties at birth and, to all intents and purposes, appeared to be a happy and healthy baby girl.

2. That remained the case until she was about 11. At that time, her mother deposes
… she told me that she’d found two lumps; one in the right side of her abdomen, and the other in her left labia. She asked me if they were “nuts” meaning testes. I immediately said no, but due to [Sally’s] concerns, I arranged for her to see our local GP. The GP examined [Sally], and said that the lumps were a normal part of the puberty process. I thought nothing of it after that.
3. Sally’s mother goes on to depose,
When she was in grade 7, she asked me why she had not started her periods, as most of her friends at school had started to get periods. I told her that girls start to have periods [at] different times, and not to be too concerned about it. [Sally’s] breast development appeared to be normal.
[Sally] had also raised the concerns regarding a deepening of her voice.
The deepening of [Sally’s] voice had happened gradually. I had never really given it any thought; as far as I was concerned, it was [Sally].
4. In early 2009, behavioural issues manifested themselves at school. Ultimately, Sally consulted a paediatrician. Initial tests revealed that Sally had XY genotype, did not have a uterus, and had gonads present in her pelvis. That initial investigation led to further specialist medical consultations, to which further reference will shortly be made.

5. Ultimately, specialist medical and psychiatric opinion aligns in recommending a surgical procedure which 141/2 year old Sally also seeks, and in which she is supported by each of her parents. That procedure is the performance of invasive and irreversible surgery; a gonadectomy, which would see removal of her gonads, and, thus, all vestiges of her, as it were, “maleness.”

6. Orders are applied for by the Hospital who would have responsibility for those doctors who would perform the mooted operation. That hospital applies for orders, relevantly, that the proposed surgery, involving the bilateral removal of her gonads, be authorised by her parents and that this authorisation operate as all such authority as is needed at law, by which to perform that operation.
The Order was approved. So what does it take to avoid putting a teenage girl through such a nightmare?
  • Loving Parents.
  • A Humane Legal System.
  • An Absence of Superstition, and a Knowledge of Biology.
Just little things really. I can't do anything about the first - but the rest, maybe I can. And who knows, maybe a parent with a child with 5ARD or 17BHDD will read this, and see what a loving parent should do under these circumstances. Ask their child what they want. That's all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This describes almost exactly what I went through, except for the legal stuff....30 years ago in NZ it was handled by the parents and doctors. I was told "more or less" what was happening, but not really given "a choice" as such. I doubt my decision would have been any different.
I always think I would be an interesting case-study for someone, but of course I crave anonomity and don't want to be seen or thought of as "that different"
This blog has been a revelation.Thank-you.

XY