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Adolescent Gender Identity and the Courts

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Chapter Summary

Adolescence is a time of dramatic change, where children are growing rapidly and are searching for their identities. This chapter focuses on two recent Australian decisions where a court was called upon to authorize invasive medical procedures. Both cases concern young people who were distressed about their gender identity, and had applied for permission to undergo sexual re-assignment. These cases provide contrasting pictures in terms of the decision-making process and therefore with the extent to which the outcomes are well-grounded. Both cases raise issues regarding the rights of the child, the child's right to consent and the role of the courts in medical treatment applications. As there are no binding rules or guidelines for the courts to apply in special medical treatment decisions, there is a great difference in the way the respective courts make their judgments. The cases demonstrate that a firmer basis in values and process is required.

Keywords: adolescence; children's rights; gender identity; medical treatment decisions; sexual re-assignment



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