How Old Do You Have To Be, To Be Transgender?

Words by: Natasha Bloomfield

Transgender individuals have been in the news a lot lately; cue Caitlyn Jenner. However, I draw your attention to a much younger individual, where the world of living transgender is less glossy magazine, more real life.

This individual is a Year 3 student from Perth who was born a male and now wishes to be recognised as a female. Her primary school’s cross country run last week was her first public appearance as a female.

Others who attended the cross country event are contesting whether eight years old is too young to make a decision about one’s gender. Considering sexualisation of children is at an all-time high with overtly sexualised media and advertising targeted at children as young as ten, it does not seem an entirely shocking revelation that a child’s awareness of their sexuality has followed suit.

Mr Abetz, a pastor and Politician who was contacted in regards to the issue, stated, “I think what the school could have done is gone to the parents and say, ‘We appreciate that you have the view that your son identifies as a girl, but from a practical perspective this is going to create a lot of difficulties at the school and if he doesn’t want to run the cross country as a boy he can stay on the sidelines.’”

He also commented, “…is it fair that a child who is clearly biologically a boy and is by nature more muscular than girls runs in the race?”

A parent who wished to remain anonymous stated, “If the child wants to identify fully as a girl you are looking at them using girls’ change rooms and toilets – and there are issues with that.”

By law a child is any person under 18 years of age. Although this article doesn’t clearly distinguish each family members’ impact on the decision, or how much of the gender reassignment procedure the child has undergone, the paperwork itself could be considered a daunting process for anyone, let alone an eight year old.

In conjunction with the Gender Reassignment Act 2000 (WA), the Gender Reassignment Board was established to deal with the legal aspects involved in this lengthy process. The first step involves applying for a gender reassignment recognition certificate. For an adult, this requires the Board to be satisfied that the person

  1. believes that his or her true gender is the gender to which the person has been reassigned; and
  2. has adopted the lifestyle and has the gender characteristics of a person of the gender to which the person has been reassigned; and:
  3. has received proper counselling in relation to his or her gender identity.

This is bypassed for a child. In their case, the Board must only be “satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child that the certificate be issued” based on information provided by a parent or guardian in the application form. Whatever this is due to, the method seems to highlight the vast difference between confronting this as an adult compared to as a child.

Along with this there are statutory declarations, board meetings, new birth certificates, and ongoing treatments. And I haven’t even mentioned the monetary costs.

But if there are procedures in place that allow individuals who deem it necessary to do this, perhaps what is being contested here is not if Eight is too young to make decisions about one’s gender, but rather what age one should be allowed access to processes made legally available to all Australian citizens.