A Supreme Court justice in British Columbia has slammed the door on lawsuits from parents seeking to stop their transgender children from accessing medical care related to transition.
Earlier this week, Justice Diane Cheryl MacDonald penned a judgment throwing out the case brought by A.M., a mother who sought to prevent her child’s mastectomy because she refused to accept his transgender identity.
The child, called Y.Z. in updated court documents (though previous reporting referred to him by the initials used in his mother’s petition), was mere days away from his scheduled surgery last November when A.M. and her lawyers successfully petitioned the court for an injunction to halt the procedure, making time for a ruling on the issue of patient consent.
At the time, A.M.’s lawyer, Carey Linde, touted the case’s potential relevance to a parental-rights debate she characterized as “the core of western civilization.”
But A.M.’s team neglected to mention that a previous ruling had already settled the question in favor of trans teenagers, rendering the ruling — and, consequently, the injunction — unnecessary.
What’s more, A.M. led the court to believe that she held sole guardianship over Y.Z., when in fact she shares joint custody with his father, who supports his son and described him as “mature enough to make his own health care decisions.” A court order issued in 2006 directed the parents to follow the advice of the doctor in cases where they disagreed on his medical care.
MacDonald called those omissions “egregious misstatements” that served as grounds for dismissal of A.M.’s case, even in the absence of precedent supporting trans children.
But the fact that case law exists affirming trans teens’ right to access medical treatment renders this case more broadly relevant for any transgender teen whose parents don’t approve. In her decision, MacDonald wrote:
It was not properly explained to this court that a similar case has recently been decided. There is clearly a broader public debate regarding whether gender-affirming surgery is in the best interest of youth. In B.C., that debate has been resolved in favour of surgery.
Accordingly, A.M.’s motion was dismissed as an abuse of process, clearing the way for Y.Z.’s surgery to go forward so he can “get back to being a teenager,” as lawyers Claire Hunter and Adrienne Smith described it in a statement they released on his behalf.
Smith went on to point out that this specific case shouldn’t have any impact on youth access to trans-affirming health care, since the issue was already “settled law” before the ruling took place. However, they added, the case was an important reminder for any parents who want to use the law as a mechanism of control over wayward trans children:
We are hopeful this case will send a message that the court ought not be used to improperly interfere in youth accessing trans health care… My client really wanted other trans youth not to worry, and to know that in many circumstances, they may be able to consent to their own health care without their parents’ involvement.
It’s still devastating to have one’s own parents reject one’s identity, but at least they won’t have legal standing to force their will upon their children.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Richard for the link)