Question from ashleyruderman
Hello PFLAG Mom! I have a question about the legal aspect of transitioning. How old does a child have to be in order for physicians to help s/he begin the transitioning process, especially if s/he desires to transition from a young age? In the case of minors, does consent from a legal guardian help expedite/initiate the process? I’m currently working alongside a graduate professor who is intrigued by Jazz Jennings’ case; 12 y/o MTF who can’t undergo reassignment until 18. Is this true for all?
When you have a case like Jazz, young people who are transgender, the medical path parents can take is to give their kids puberty-blockers. This will delay puberty, and the development of secondary sexual characteristics. These are safe and totally reversible. The goal is to put off making a final decision until the child is 18. If they change their mind, they go off the blockers, and within about a week, puberty starts as usual. If they are still sure of their gender identity, they can then go on the appropriate hormones to continue with a physical transition. The great benefit of proceeding this way is to prevent secondary sexual characteristics that will have to be undone after puberty. It is much easier not to grow facial hair for a MTF person than remove it after it is there.
Surgery is also held off until a child is 18. This is not a law but it is the common practice in the US and many other countries as well.
The key factors with the age requirements/guidelines, is that a person is not considered able to give informed consent to the surgery or cross-gender hormones until they are an adult. Jazz is on the puberty blockers now and her physical transition will be easier than her MTF peers who are not allowed this medical path.
As far as parents giving consent for their kids- it is not considered ethical for anyone, even a parent, to give consent for their minor child for something that will change their lives in such a great extent. It is really up to the individuals themselves to decide, and they have to be 18 to give consent like this.
There are some exceptions. I know of some kids under 18 who have undergone SRS. One could find a doctor to do almost anything if they look hard enough - as I said, it is frowned upon but is not illegal.