A B.C. father has been told by the province’s highest court not to stand in the way of his teenage son’s gender transition treatment and to try and better understand gender dysphoria.
The father, whose name is under a publication ban along with his son’s, went to court after learning his child, who was assigned female at birth, was undergoing hormone therapy to transition to a boy.
The boy, now 15, has said he has identified as a boy since he was 11 and began exploring transition treatment since he was 13. The boy’s father first went to court in 2018 after learning of his son’s intentions, arguing no treatment should be provided if he didn’t approve or give permission.
The B.C. Supreme Court sided with the boy in an earlier decision, saying he didn’t need his father’s consent. The father was also served with an injunction that warned any attempt to pressure his son to abandon treatment was a form of family violence.
In a decision posted Friday, the B.C. Court of Appeal said the father, while entitled to his beliefs, cannot interfere with his son’s decision and said the boy is mature enough to pursue transition treatment on his own.
The justices added the father’s rejection of his son’s identity has caused the boy “significant pain” that has “resulted in a rupture of what both parties refer to as an otherwise loving parent-child relationship.”
The father was partially appealing the lower court’s ruling that limited what he could say publicly about his son’s transition, saying his repeated insistence on referring to his child as his daughter and by his original name was also a form of family violence.
The father had gone to the media to tell his story, continually refusing to accept his child’s new gender identity in a series of interviews published online.
While Bauman and Fisher acknowledged the son’s mental anguish over the interviews, they said the father did not intend that outcome and his actions did not meet the threshold of family violence, overturning the lower court order putting limits on who he could talk to.
However, the judges still said he must acknowledge and refer to his child as a boy and by the name the teen has chosen. The father can also express his feelings to family, close friends and close advisors, as long as they’re not members of the media and promise not to share the information with others.
The judges say the father’s attempts to be involved in the process have been by fuelled by personal stances without any direct involvement with the boy’s medical team, which has tried to contact him to be a part of meetings with his son and the boy’s mother.
The mother — who has been supportive of her son’s wishes and first got him in contact with a psychologist when the boy first expressed his desire to transition — has been separated from the father for a number of years.
They urged the father to engage with the boy’s medical team and to listen to his son.
“If he fails to do these two things, the rupture in his relationship with (his son) will likely not heal, which would not be in (the boy’s) best interests,” they wrote.