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VANCOUVER — A 14-year-old transgender boy at the centre of a complex B.C. appeal court case says he finally feels comfortable in his own skin after starting testosterone treatment earlier this year and can’t imagine what it’ll be like if he is forced to stop the therapy.
“I will be stranded between looking and sounding feminine and looking and sounding masculine. I would feel like a freak,” says the boy’s affidavit, which was read aloud in court by one of his lawyers on Tuesday at the start of a three-day hearing triggered by the child’s father.
The father takes the position in court filings that a lower court erred by delivering a “rush to judgment” in siding with his child’s wishes to begin hormone treatment and argues that his child is incapable of appreciating the potential consequences of a “still experimental treatment.”
Further, the father argues that previous court orders compelling the father to refer to his child using only male pronouns infringes on his freedom of expression.
The child, who has the support of his mother, has identified as male since age 11. After he was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, he was referred by a psychologist to specialists at the B.C. Children’s Hospital. The hospital’s gender clinic concluded in the summer of 2018 it was in the child’s best interests to proceed with hormone therapy to help his transition from a female body to a male one.
The father went to court to try to block the treatment from proceeding, but in February B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Bowden ruled that the child was “exclusively entitled” to consent to treatment.
Bowden went on to declare that the child must also be referred to as male or using male pronouns. To do otherwise would constitute “family violence.”
A publication ban prevents media from identifying any of the family members or health care professionals who examined the child.
The three-member appeal court did not hear arguments on the substance of the appeal Tuesday; instead it dealt with some preliminary motions.
Claire Hunter, one of the child’s lawyers, argued the appeal should not proceed in part because the child has already taken treatments that are partially irreversible, thus making the father’s core arguments moot.
The boy’s voice has lowered and he has developed facial hair, the court heard.
“When I look in the mirror, I see myself,” the boy’s affidavit states.
Hunter also argued that the appeal doesn’t deserve to be heard because the father and his lawyers have repeatedly breached lower court orders by referring to his child as his “daughter” or using female pronouns in interviews and in court filings.
The father’s lawyers have argued their appeal is not moot because the father wants to “protect his child from … any further damage.”
On the issue of misgendering the child, Carey Linde, one of the father’s lawyers, told the court the child’s birth certificate identified the child as female, the child was given a female name at birth and the child has XX chromosomes. “These are facts,” he said.
Herb Dunton, the father’s other lawyer, meanwhile argued that the father should be allowed to introduce evidence from additional outside experts because he was unable during lower court proceedings to shine a light on the “full range of science” on the topic of gender transitioning among adolescents.
“This is such an emerging field,” Dunton said.
But Jessica Lithwick, the lawyer representing the child’s mother, argued that the new information amounted to general commentary or advocacy and was not specific to the circumstances of the child in question.
“The focus of this proceeding is whether the health care recommended … is in (the child’s) best interest” and not intended to be a general inquiry into gender-affirming care for minors — nor is it meant to give voice to the whole scientific debate surrounding gender dysphoria, she said.
The appeal court reserved judgment on the various motions but did instruct lawyers to adhere to the lower court ruling that the child be referred to using male pronouns.
The hearing resumes on Wednesday.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019