The Western Australian Supreme Court recently ruled against the parents of a trans boy who were accused of verbally and “emotionally abusing” their child. The parents lost their appeal to regain custody.

Warning: This story discusses suicide ideation and might be distressing to some readers. For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

The teenager, who the courts referred to as TM, first came to the Western Australian Department of Communities’ attention in 2019. He applied for protection from his parents in October 2020 which was granted by a Magistrate who found the child was at risk of suicidal ideation under his parents’ care. TM was over 16 when he was taken away from his parents.

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TM’s parents appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the order. The Supreme Court ruled against them last month.

Parents Claim They Were Not Abusive

The parents insisted they were not abusive towards their trans son and denied that TM was suicidal. The court found evidence that countered these claims.

“[The earlier magistrate] did not find that the appellants’ own beliefs or views constituted abuse,” Justice Peter Quinlan said. “It was, rather, the words that they used and their conduct which formed the basis of her Honour’s findings.”

Peter Quinlan, Chief Justice, the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

A psychiatrist’s report at that time also found TM was “at a high risk of completed suicide” within his parent’s care.

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TM had told social workers at Perth Children’s Hospital about his parents’ abuse for the first time. The judge did not think the parents were intentionally causing harm to TM, but this was not enough to justify allowing them to regain custody. 

“The best interests of TM were, as a matter of law, the paramount consideration. All other considerations were secondary,” he said.

Well Being Of The Child Is Paramount

Trans activist and radio host of Out of the Pan Sally Goldner said the court’s decision and the judge’s reasoning was “pretty much a bullseye”. 

“I totally affirm what the judge said about this not being a trial over gender dysphoria. This is about the well-being of the child,” Goldner told Star Observer.

“Sometimes when people have their own ideas about gender that can be challenging…But the reality is, the well-being of a child is more important than someone’s restricted view that puts people in gender boxes. I wish that trans child every love and happiness for the best possible future,” added Goldner.

Court Recognised Harm To Trans Child

Criminology research associate Benjamin Scott told Star Observer that the court’s decision shows they recognise the legitimate harms to which trans and gender-diverse people (children) can be exposed.

“Recognising these harms, and seeking to prevent trans children from such harms, is a good step in the right direction for the courts and criminal justice system. In a similar vein, this sets quite a strong precedent of protectionist values, which demonstrate that trans people should not, and cannot be excluded from legal protections in the future,” Scott said.

However, Scott also said the battle to ensure trans children are protected from abusive parents still wages.

“Although this decision is a step in the right direction, it does not actively prevent harms to trans and gender diverse children. It is only once these cases reach courts that this new precedent can have any impact.”

“Further, whether this decision is followed in other jurisdictions in Australia, is another question.”

 

For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14

For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

 

 

 

 

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