Quickhit: SMH FAIL, Chief Justice Diana Bryant WIN

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Family Court has granted permission for a 17-year old ftm trans boy to have his breasts removed. Well, sort of:

THE Family Court has allowed a 17-year-old girl to have her breasts removed so she can be more like a boy.

The teenager, code-named “Alex”, was on court-ordered hormone medication from the age of 13 to prevent menstruation and breast development. She returned to the court in December 2007 asking for a double mastectomy to make it easier for her to pass as a boy.

Emphasis Mine

Fortunately, Chief Justice Diana Bryant was able to show Alex the respect he deserves:

Justice Bryant said: “In the end, it wasn’t a particularly difficult issue because the only real issue was, ‘Would he (Alex) have it at 17 or once he’s 18?’ Then, he doesn’t need permission.

“So the issue was, ‘Was there any likelihood he would change his mind in the meantime, and was it in his best interests to have it at that time?’

“Overwhelmingly, the evidence was that it was in his interests. And I made that order. I wanted to make it quickly so that he could have the operation straightaway.”

Again, emphasis mine

Using the correct pronouns: it isn’t hard, people. Also, characterising trans people as girls vainly struggling to be like boys, or vice versa: not cool.

For further reading on this subject, take a look at Autumn Sandeen’s Are Trans People Like Angie and Me Deceptive?, which examines the way that the incorrect use of pronouns in relation to trans people can be used to reinforce the insidious “trans panic defense” (the idea that it’s okay to kill someone because you’re afraid of their status as a trans person).

It should go without saying, but transphobic comments will not be tolerated in response to this post.

Categories: Culture, ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, language, media, social justice, Sociology

Tags: ,

14 replies

  1. We need more people like Chief Justice Diana Bryant on the bench.

  2. What makes me doubly mad is that Karen Kissane is a senior journalist, with over 25 years experience, who has written a book about the Ramage case.
    “I sometimes wonder if that’s why I’m in journalism today,’’ she says, “because I was told that, as a girl, I couldn’t have a voice. Maybe I’ve been pushing against that ever since.’’
    I would have expected more sensitivity and understanding from her, not this transphobic crap.

  3. Just FYI the West Australian copied and pasted this article WORD FOR WORD this morning.
    I really just wish these people would have maybe a smidgen of compassion – we’re not all pressed prints.
    As for Alex, I wish zir/zie (I think these are the right ones to use but I’m not 100% please correct me ! ) the best of luck with the surgery, the recovery and life in general. I hope it goes well 🙂

  4. Hurrah! I knew you Aussies would’ve been on to this one before it hit NZ shores. A friend emailed me the article at work and I had to refraining from screaming obscenities aloud.

  5. 1. Isn’t it brilliant that trans*kids can take medication to suppress puberty? I think it’s great. Makes the physical aspects of transitioning easier.
    2. That article was on the front page of The Age, and absolutely terrible. Pronouns randomly scattered like stale biscuits all over the place. Insistence that the boy merely has a mental disease. Constant assertions that because there’s nothing physically wrong, the boy has no good reason to transition. And every single sentence was a hammer pounding the message that the Alex does not know his own mind. Mention of a case where a man sued his doctor after transition. Some “ethicist” saying that trans* people don’t exist at all.
    3. It gets worse! There’s a big editorial too: here.
    Wish I was more articulate to send them a big long letter of how incredibly insulting that article was.

  6. I’m delighted that the judge got it right – down to the pronouns. I hope the young man involved has a smooth transition into adulthood, and I’m so glad to hear he’s being helped to be who he really is.

  7. @ AileenWuornos:

    I wish zir/zie (I think these are the right ones to use but I’m not 100% please correct me ! )

    Those pronouns are not generally regarded as trans-friendly, because they imply a third gender. They’re really meant to be used for those who are more genderqueer and deliberately ambiguous, or for general statements instead of the clumsy “he or she”.
    Trans individuals usually make it very clear which pronoun they personally prefer, and Alex obviously prefers “he”.

  8. TigTog,
    Thanks for the correction. I’m not really all too familiar with the terms to be used and whatnot, but thank you for correcting me. I’ll remember this in future! I thought I read somewhere once that they were meant to be totally non-gender specific although my etymology is a bit dodge these days so I’m not 100% on that either 🙂
    Well, in that case – I wish Alex all the best with his surgery, his recovery and his life.
    Apologies for any offense caused with my previous statement 🙂

  9. @ AileenWuornos:
    Aileen, you are absolutely correct that zir/zie are meant to be entirely non-gender-specific. That’s exactly the problem! Trans folk are not non-gender-specific.
    I don’t think you’ve caused any offence, although any trans folk reading would have to attest to that themselves – I can’t speak for their experience. We all have to start to rethink some of the assumptions built into the language we use somewhere.

  10. While we’re talking about online acts that others may find offensive, this does seem a good moment to ask you about your username. I find using the name of a serial killer disturbing, creepy and certainly not conducive to the concept of a safe cyberspace.
    Why have you chosen to use this name?

  11. There is so much wrong everywhere in this story. The sub heading (by the writer, or a subeditor?), “Young people who demand control over their bodies create special difficulties for the law.” These young people with their demands Way to get everybody’s backs up instantly.
    Secondly, why, why is Nicholas Tonti – bloody – Fillipini wheeled on for each and every medical ethics story on the damn planet? Who died and made him king of Australia? On the ABC, I heard him introduced as “a bioethicist”. Well, partly, but he’s not just a bioethicist – he’s first and foremost a religious campaigner. Why does his opinion have to constantly (at least in Melbourne) dominate the airwaves?
    Thirdly, I was really saddened by the deep, deep misogyny on the part of the subject of the piece, and the fact that neither the journalist nor the “concerned” Tonti-Fillipini thought it necessary to even comment on the deep hatred of women portrayed in the first part of the article. They fuck you up, your mum and Dad, that’s for sure. I’m happy “Alex” is finding his identity, but not so happy that we have another man who hates women so much.
    But of course hating women isn’t a problem, only changing one’s gender…

  12. Helen, there’s his quote too: “People who have sex changes have just on 20 times the suicide rate of the rest of the population. They are a major risk. They also have very high rates of unemployment.”
    He’s erroneously saying that medical intervention is the cause of suicide and high rates of unemployment, and doesn’t stop to consider that transphobia and social stigma is the bigger cause, as well as mental trauma when trans people have to go without the medical interventions they need.
    Aileen as a cis woman it’s not my place to say whether your apology is acceptable, but I did want to say I wish more people would apologize the way that you did when they make a mistake. Too many will make excuses and deflect instead of simply saying they are sorry and will make changes to do better in the future.


  14. I was utterly disgusted when I read this story! I’m so glad to find this post and these comments, which put things much better than my infuriated spluttering could!!

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