"She started hitting herself to try and get the boy out, So then we just said enough's enough." – Beck
JENNY BROCKIE: Hi, I'm Jenny Brockie, welcome everybody, good to have you with us tonight and a special welcome to you tonight Maddi and to mum and dad, thanks very much for coming. Now Maddi, you're seven?
MADDI STEINFORT: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: And I'm told you love dancing?
MADDI STEINFORT: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: What sort of dancing?
MADDI STEINFORT: Jazz, ballet, tap.
JENNY BROCKIE: Let's have a look.
MADDI STEINFORT: I’m Maddi and I am seven years old and I just really love dancing. We have the school dance and we have to split up in boys and girls group, last year I had to go into the boys group, but this year I am going into the girls one – cause I’m a girl not a boy.
DANCE INSTRUCTOR: So I am going to have the girls in the front row do the combo from point flick, one two three again. So we start with our hands in knuckle sandwich, feet turned out – so girls in the front row – you are going to do it first, ready"¦and"¦.point, flick, one two three"¦
MADDI STEINFORT: When I was starting, I had to wear a boy uniform but through the year, I changed to a girl uniform.
GIRL: What grade are you in for ballet exams?
MADDI STEINFORT: I’m in grade 1"¦"¦(giggle, giggle)
I love maths and reading and playing with my friends.
MERRICK STEINFORT: My name is Merrick and I am Maddi’s big brother, she was watching more, like when she was little – more Dora than like Wiggles and that and so then I think that’s when we found out she wanted to be a girl, it’s really cool that I’ve got a sister.
MADDI STEINFORT: This is my first favourite dress, this is one of my unicorns and when you press this button that lights, that lights up. I have this charm bracelet. I don’t know how or why – I just changed.
JENNY BROCKIE: Do you remember when you first felt like that, that you wanted to be a girl?
MADDI STEINFORT: Three or four.
JENNY BROCKIE: Who did you tell?
MADDI STEINFORT: My mum.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah, how did you feel when you told mum?
MADDI STEINFORT: Good.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah? What was it like for you then when you felt like that, but people at school and other places were still treating you like a boy?
MADDI STEINFORT: I felt, I got a bit upset.
JENNY BROCKIE: And did you get teased at school by any of the kids? Did anyone give you a hard time?
MADDI STEINFORT: Sometimes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah, you decided, with mum and dad, that you wanted to come on the TV tonight, didn't you? Why did you want to come on the TV tonight?
MADDI STEINFORT: Because I'm telling everyone it's alright to be born as a boy or want to be a girl, or be born as a girl and want to be a boy.
JENNY BROCKIE: And why do you think that's important to do?
MADDI STEINFORT: Because it doesn't matter if you're a boy or a girl, it just matters about who you are.
JENNY BROCKIE: Now you've been enrolled at school as a girl now since the start of the year, this year?
MADDI STEINFORT: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you were called Maddock before, not Maddi, so when did your name change?
MADDI STEINFORT: When I wanted to be a girl.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. And did you ask to be called Maddi?
MADDI STEINFORT: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah, is that what happened mum and dad?
ROLAND STEINFORT: Yeah.
BECK STEINFORT: We had a few options to start with. So we just said well perhaps, you know, maybe Maddi because she was born Maddock and then she started writing her name at school on her work as Maddi so we just went with it.
JENNY BROCKIE: Tell me what this year's been like Maddi?
MADDI STEINFORT: Great.
JENNY BROCKIE: How's it been great?
MADDI STEINFORT: Because I'm not getting called Maddock, I'm getting called Maddi, I'm not getting called a boy, I'm getting called a girl.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how have the kids been?
MADDI STEINFORT: Nice.
JENNY BROCKIE: Nice to you? Have you been teased at all this year?
MADDI STEINFORT: No.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, so it's different to what it was like before, yeah? So do you think you're happier now?
MADDI STEINFORT: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah, okay. Thank you so much for coming in and talking to us tonight. It's been really good for you to do that and I think Sarah is going to come and get you now and you're going to go out and play with your brothers, okay? Yeah? Thanks so much everyone, thank Maddi. Roland, you got quite emotional while she was talking. Tell us about that?
ROLAND STEINFORT: I'm just very proud. I think that someone to be able to say what she says at her age, regardless of her gender, is just amazing. Usually she's little miss chatterbox.
JENNY BROCKIE: Well, you know, this is slightly different to real life and being at home, isn't it? But she did want to come in, didn't she?
ROLAND STEINFORT: Oh, definitely.
JENNY BROCKIE: Beck, she said she knew when she was very little, she made that quite clear. When did you know or when did you realise?
BECK STEINFORT: She always preferred girlie type stuff. Like she, from whenever she could start communicating with us she wanted the Dora tee-shirts and pretty things in her hair and necklaces and wore the girlie dress ups and stuff like that so we just let her go.
JENNY BROCKIE: What about you Roland, when did you start twigging that she wanted to be a girl?
ROLAND STEINFORT: Merrick, our oldest, used to wear a very pink tee-shirt with grey writing that said "tough guys wear pink" and he wore it once to kinder and got teased badly for a little boy and he never wore it again. Maddi wore the same tee-shirt when she started kinder and wanted earrings and bracelets to go with it, you know, so she put up with it and wanted more. So I guess I knew it was a little bit more to it.
JENNY BROCKIE: How did you both react though first up when, when, you know, Maddock, your, what you thought was your son, decided that he wanted to be a girl?
BECK STEINFORT: Um, we were, we just want her to be happy. Want all of our kids to be happy and just be who they feel they are. The only thing that worried us was the big bad world but we were fine, we didn't worry about it at all really.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you realised Beck that she was really unhappy at one point, didn't you? How old was she?
BECK STEINFORT: She was probably five and a half and she started writing things around the house, like F-U and "I hate you" and she went"¦.
JENNY BROCKIE: So a lot of anger, she was angry?
BECK STEINFORT: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Was that directed at you as parents?
BECK STEINFORT: It was directed at me for some reason.
JENNY BROCKIE: So what did you do?
BECK STEINFORT: We spoke to her, she just said: "Yeah, sometimes I just get really, feel really angry and frustrated." So we were like we get that, of course you do, but maybe we should talk about it and not do this. Then not long after that she started hitting herself to try and get the boy out. This happened a couple of times and we just sort of went alright, that's easy, we can get the boy out, you know, we can fix this.
ROLAND STEINFORT: We got great support from people, and our only real concern was other people and we realised that's ridiculous. We can sort out the problems when we go to school; we can sort out the problems when we go to dancing. It's ridiculous for her to want to hurt herself.
JENNY BROCKIE: And she has three brothers?
ROLAND STEINFORT: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: How did they react?
ROLAND STEINFORT: No reaction, they just accepted it.
JENNY BROCKIE: Did you go to the school at a certain point and say that you wanted her treated as a girl?
BECK STEINFORT: The school were good. They sort of hadn't had to deal with this before either, so they sort of are going with the flow too and we're pretty easy going. Like we don't, you know, we don't expect people to know what to do either but we just want to be happy and our children to be happy and feel like they fit in.
JENNY BROCKIE: There was a brief time where there was a problem about which toilet she should go to at the school. Tell us about that Roland?
ROLAND STEINFORT: Well basically, a long story short, they wanted her to go to the disabled toilet was Maddi was sneaking into the girls’ toilet and they thought that was a problem, and then it became an issue when she came home a couple of times and she'd pull up in the car from dancing or whatever and she was almost exploding because she's hadn't gone to the toilet all day. And it's these little issues that we come up with. We don't expect the school to know what to do with it but we've sorted that out now. And she's so happy, you know, it's ridiculous.
JENNY BROCKIE: So what does she do now at school?
ROLAND STEINFORT: Goes to the girls’ toilet.
JENNY BROCKIE: She goes to the girls’ toilet so they've accepted that?
ROLAND STEINFORT: Yeah, they didn't have a choice unfortunately.
JENNY BROCKIE: What was it like the first time you saw her dancing in a girl's dancing costume?
ROLAND STEINFORT: The first Saturday that she was in complete girl costume I was lucky enough to be there and her face and looking at herself in the mirror, the joy was unbelievable.
JENNY BROCKIE: And a big deal for you too by the look of it?
ROLAND STEINFORT: Yeah.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah. Campbell Paul, you're a child psychiatrist and you specialise in gender issues. What did you think when Maddi first came to see you?
DR CAMPBELL PAUL, CHILD PSYCHIATRIST: What I did, what I would usually do is I met with her with her parents and some of the time with her brothers as well, and also offered her a time to speak privately on her own and what are her inner experience was and were able to look at that in other ways as well. She did some drawings and was able to talk about that and talk about some of her dreams and how she saw herself in her dreams. So she was able to build up, or she already has a picture of who she is but she was able to present that to her parents in more detail and to a stranger, and I think she found that very helpful.
JENNY BROCKIE: How often are you seeing kids like Maddi?
DR CAMPBELL PAUL: Well, we've seen a lot more over the last few years. I think overall I've seen about fifty, 55 young people and about half of those would be kids before puberty.
JENNY BROCKIE: And that's an increase in what you've seen in the past?
DR CAMPBELL PAUL: Certainly a dramatic increase, yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: And why do you think that is?
DR CAMPBELL PAUL: I think it’s just because people are becoming aware and society is, I think, remarkably more tolerant, although I know there are real areas where that's not true, but I think broadly, schools and families are very tolerant. One family whose child transitioned in grade 5 just recently, her parents told the school community and that night they had something like 30 or 40 email messages of support. Parents are feeling that they're not on their own and they can step forward and get help.
JENNY BROCKIE: Riley, you're 16?
RILEY PEDERSON: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you say you knew you didn't want to be a boy when you were two?
RILEY PEDERSON: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Tell us about that, how did you know?
RILEY PEDERSON: Well since I was two I kind of just always told mum and dad that when I'm older I want to be a mum, I want to be a mummy or something like that and my parents were oh, alright. That's pretty much it, not much to tell.
JENNY BROCKIE: So your parents were accepting?
RILEY PEDERSON: Yes, most definitely.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how did you deal with that as a kid, feeling that way?
RILEY PEDERSON: Um, it was hard. Obviously because of school and stuff but you just kind of have to kind of like make way through everyone else's opinions and judgments and stuff and just be yourself and that's pretty much all I did.
JENNY BROCKIE: You also dressed up quite a bit and what, you wanted long hair and you used tea towels very creatively in this respect. Can you talk a bit about that?
RILEY PEDERSON: When I was younger I always used to dress, make little characters and they were always girls and I was always Natasha or something, something really, a big girlie name or something. Yeah, just really"¦.
JENNY BROCKIE: I love this one, I love this one with, you know, the full length dress and everything. You look about 105 in that shot. Very cute. Carol, you're Riley's mum, what was it like at home while all this was going on?
CAROL BYRNE: Oh, it was fine, we weren't worried, Riley was always very determined to be a girl and we had a huge dress up box from Halloween and fancy dress parties. We threw everything in there and had a lot of wigs and she just used those clothes more and more. And yeah, had tea towels, wherever we went she would find a piece of fabric and put them in the pigtails and when I would go to fabric stores she would just go up to anything that glittered and sequined"¦.
JENNY BROCKIE: Kids dress up all the time though, at what point did you start to realise it was more than just play - it was more than just mucking around?
CHRIS PEDERSON: I think we were real slow to actually recognise this because Riley's always been a girl, there's no transition, it's always been exactly, she's been exactly the same. It's been us that's been slow to go oh, we actually have a girl, it's actually not a boy - shouldn't be in a boy's uniform.
CAROL BYRNE: As she got older she would even have her birthday parties and invite boys and girls and all the boys would come in boys clothes and she didn't care, she just wore girls dresses.
JENNY BROCKIE: You didn't get teased or bullied by other kids?
RILEY PEDERSON: Not so much when I was younger. When it came to outside of being in school, in primary school, but inside school that's when guys kind of just went no, you're too feminine for us, and before when I come out as trans I came out as gay and everyone's like are you really gay or are you just trying to get in with the girls and stuff. And girls like oh, well we've kind of already made our groups so"¦.
JENNY BROCKIE: Girls groups, high school, nightmare.
RILEY PEDERSON: Girls are the worst.
JENNY BROCKIE: I think that's fairly widely acknowledged as a problem, yeah. And you dropped out of school in year 10?
RILEY PEDERSON: I did.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why did you do that?
RILEY PEDERSON: Because I went to TAFE for a while and TAFE's more adult kind of, if you wish to say. So I thought they would be more understanding of the trans thing.
JENNY BROCKIE: When did you start wearing a girl's uniform to school instead of a boy's uniform?
RILEY PEDERSON: Around year 10.
JENNY BROCKIE: So it was quite a while - dressing as a boy at school but at home you were more dressing like a girl and behaving like a girl? Was that what was happening?
CAROL BYRNE: Yes, by the time I think Riley was in year 5 she, she always wore, so she stayed with the dresses at home, so she always pretty much was a girl at home. I mean sometimes we'd go to relatives for Christmas and she'd be so sad to have to wear boys clothes, she just, but we felt like we didn't know where we were going with it or if she was going to change. I used to think she was gay so I just didn't know about transgender people. But we spoke to some of our gay friends and we described Riley and they said no, this child isn't gay.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you were having to dress differently to go and visit relatives because you didn't think they could handle it?
CAROL BYRNE: Riley, at first, yeah, because we didn't know where we were going with it. But we would leave our house, by about year 5, and she'd be the last one in the car and I'd turn around and she'd be in a dress and we'd be going off to visit relatives or something.
JENNY BROCKIE: Subversive?
CAROL BYRNE: Well I couldn't say anything, yeah, and I didn't want her to be ashamed or embarrassed so she sort of - she's brought us along all the way.
CHRIS PEDERSON: Absolutely.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how's it been for you being brought along like that?
CHRIS PEDERSON: Fantastic.
CAROL BYRNE: Yeah.
CHRIS PEDERSON: There's nothing to be ashamed of. It's absolutely, it's one of the ends of the spectrum of the way people are, the diversity, and you know, this is the way it is and we're the ones that are slow to, to come to grips with it and accept.
CAROL BYRNE: Yeah, we feel bad that we didn't get on board earlier and just didn't understand it but there wasn't a lot of information and so we didn't know. But I do know one thing, when I'd go, when she was really little to go to a toy shop or Target or something, and she'd disappear straight to the pink section and I could never get her out of there and a few times I'd say go to the blue section, let's see if there's anything over there you'd like, and she'd just get distraught. She just, she just felt like I didn't understand what she was trying to tell me, that she wanted to be a girl.
JENNY BROCKIE: Is that what it felt like, that they didn't understand?
RILEY PEDERSON: Definitely. When I was younger most definitely because I tried a lot just to say no, I just want to play with the dolls, I just want to play with dolls and that's it. And they're tried to get me into trucks, like monster trucks and everything and I'm like no, I don't want that, no. It's not like you're not hearing what I'm saying. I want to play with the doll for a reason, you know, but they caught on.
JENNY BROCKIE: Fintan, you run the gender clinic in Melbourne, a gender clinic in Melbourne, and I just wonder if we know, if scientists know why some people are transgender?
DR FINTAN HARTE, PSYCHIATRIST: I think those of us who work in the area increasingly believe that there's a strong biological contribution to a trans identity, there's a marked increase concordance in identical twins as opposed to non identical, which suggests a strong biological contribution. My unit"¦
JENNY BROCKIE: So identical twins tend to both be transgender?
DR FINTAN HARTE: Yes, a much higher concordance rate. So that would suggest a biological contribution. There has been one study done which has examined the brains of post mortem transsexuals and there are specific brain structures that we know have a role in gender identity and sexual behaviour, and those structures are different in men and women and in the transsexual brains they've been found to be the same size in transsexual women as genetic women. There is a body of evidence that increasingly suggests that this has a biological basis and we see it in, and when we see children so young from, from, you know, two, three, expressing this gender dysphoria and transgender identity that supports a biological basis rather than an environment.
JENNY BROCKIE: Jess, you're 20 and you told people you wanted to be a recognised as male five years ago. How did you know at 15?
JESS CHATER: I think I first knew I wore the boy's uniform in year 6 but when I was 15 I actually told my school that I was actually a boy.
JENNY BROCKIE: So you hadn't told your parents?
JESS CHATER: No.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why didn't you told your parents?
JESS CHATER: Because I didn't think they would be very accepting. Like they were accepting about the gay, I came out at gay before I came out as transgender, but I think it would have been a lot harder for them to grasp, I guess.
JENNY BROCKIE: And so how did they react when the school told them?
JESS CHATER: Um, well, my dad didn't know then because my mum thought it would be better if he didn't find out because he probably, he would probably disown me probably in a way. And my mother, she just brushed it off and I've been waiting for like what seems like a lifetime for them to kind of accept it. But she's more accepting now so that's good.
I don't think my, like transgender tale is sort of like classic. Before that I kind of thought I was just a tomboy and I didn't know what transgender was and then I met a transgender person probably when I was 14 and I saw the movie "Trans America" I think it is, and I was like oh, that's what I am. And so I just told the school straight away basically.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how did the school react?
JESS CHATER: Um, they were really accepting, all the staff there because I came from a rural town and everyone's really close knit and everyone knows everyone basically. Um, but they were really good. They started calling me by my chosen name straight away, started calling me he straight away. I did a speech on assembly and just asked all the kids who wanted to get some help just come to me and you can talk about it. It was really good until my parents found out so it just stopped there.
JENNY BROCKIE: Kate, tell me a little bit about your boy who is six. What's he been saying to you lately?
KATE: Um, well it's just little things, every now and again he'll say something like: "Ooh, you've got boobies, I want boobies." Or things like: "Oh, when I get a big boy I'm going to chop my willy off and get one of those things." And I go: "What?" And he goes: "A vagina". Other times I think it's a phase and then I say something like: "Oh, you want with boobies, don't you?" Like jokingly and he'll go: "No." And I go, okay.
JENNY BROCKIE: So while you've been listening to these conversations, what have you been thinking?
KATE: Um, I can see similarities in my child. Like the glitter, the pink, go straight to the girls section. Um, in order to get out of a nappy I had to buy girl's underpants. I'm like well don't you want this, you're into these sort of things? No, no, no, I want these ones and he'd point to the pink ones. The ones with flowers on them, stuff like that, and I didn't mind because it got him out of nappies. And then as he got older it was: "I want those underpants, I want underpants like you."
JENNY BROCKIE: It's pretty much the stuff that kids can do though. I mean how long has it been going on for? How consistent is he in the sorts of things he says to you?
KATE: Um, some days it's really consistent. Other days it, he won't mention anything, and the only reason I think it's a difference is because I do have two other boys and they do not say anything like that. They're not interested in girls' toys, they don't make comments like that.
JENNY BROCKIE: How often is he saying things to you like that he wants to cut off his penis?
KATE: At least three or four times a week, definitely. He's even said that he's saving up for it when he turns older and I go: "Oh okay, I thought you were saving for a bike." "No, no, no, I'm saving to get a vagina and boobies."
JENNY BROCKIE: Have you taken your son to see anyone?
KATE: No, I haven't. Um, don't really know why, I'm not scared as such if he wants to be a girl because I'd be accepting of that and I wouldn't really worry if I lost a son, as some say. Um, I don't know, I really haven't thought that much about taking him to see anybody because some days I think it's a phase, like the glitter and the pink and the toys and Dora, one of you mentioned Dora, was into Dora.
If he wanted the fairy Lego, I bought the fairy Lego. He wanted a fairy doll and the fairy doll was a bit expensive, but he wanted action man and I thought okay, we can compromise so we bought the action man but we bought the fairy wings on the action man. And he was happy with that, he loved the fact that he had fairy wings on his action man because he could still play with the boys without getting teased at school, but he had the fairy that he wanted.
That to me, didn't bother me but now that it's starting to say body parts and stuff like that, and saving up for things and then just listening today I'm kind of thinking like now I'm thinking mm, maybe I should.
JENNY BROCKIE: See, this is where I think some of this gets interesting because the dangers of not identifying things and therefore not recognising what a child's going through is one thing, but overreacting is another. I just wonder what the professionals think.
DR FINTAN HARTE: My view would certainly be, and I'm sure Campbell would agree with me, that interventions and treatment and certainly there's no medical or surgical interventions in this young age group, but it's guided by the child's distress and I think what we need to remember here is these children have rights and they have a right to treatment that is appropriate and they have a right to happiness.
JENNY BROCKIE: If a child is saying they want to cut off their penis about four times a week though, I mean does that put it in a different category in terms of what you might do?
DR CAMPBELL PAUL: It may do for those who have a very intense and persistent experience like that it is more likely to continue.
JENNY BROCKIE: Kate, your reaction? I mean we're not trying to diagnose your son here, I hasten to add, but I know you wanted to come on to talk about it?
KATE: Well, to be honest, I used to think his father was gay. Not saying my son is gay because please don't get me wrong there, I think that these are two different issues, but sometimes I think to myself oh, is he just trying, is he tending towards that way or is he actually wanting be to a girl? It plays on my mind some days and other days it doesn't.
JENNY BROCKIE: Up the back, you wanted to say something?
FEMALE: Yeah, I guess something that I just find sort of really interesting around transition issues in general is this sort of real fear that someone might change their mind, I just don't think it's the end of the world if someone changes their mind so I don't really see any harm in, like I don't necessarily see the need for all of this sort of gatekeeper type rhetoric where someone has to be trans enough to receive treatment. Mostly we're not looking at treatment until puberty, when we're talking about children who are five or six, we're not talking about medical treatment yet for a really long time. There's a lot of breathing space there.
JENNY BROCKIE: Um, Campbell, I wanted to ask you about just what we know about the kids, how many of the kids who display this desire around their gender go on to be transgender adults? Do we know - have there been studies done on that?
DR CAMPBELL PAUL: There have been and the group in Canada with 560 kids I think and their view is that maybe 20 percent of young kids who present with a cross gender identification will retain that. Other groups have different figures and the Dutch group have more kids who continue to feel that way.
JENNY BROCKIE: You're effectively saying only one in five, based on that one study are going to go on to the transgender adults?
DR CAMPBELL PAUL: Yeah, and they say that most of the kids will be gay in their sexual identity, but will be comfortable being in the biological gender that they have.
JENNY BROCKIE: So what are the implications for you professionally of knowing that kind of data?
DR FINTAN HARTE: I think when you look at children that have intense gender dysphoria, the children that, you know, boys say I am a girl, I want to be a girl, I want to cut my penis off, I think when you see that intensity of gender dysphoria, that is much more likely to continue into adolescence.
JENNY BROCKIE: Beck, do you ever wonder if Maddi might change her mind?
BECK STEINFORT: I guess I wonder because a lot of people ask me what happens if. If she does she does. Okay, that's great, are you happy? Good.
JENNY BROCKIE: Roland?
ROLAND STEINFORT: Well there's two things that I'd like to just quickly say. We came on with our original names because we've got nothing to hide and I think that teaches Maddi that she's got nothing to hide. But again, if she changes, big deal, we've gone through all this, changing, it won't mean anything. You know, we'll change for a while and if she changes again years later, we'll change again.
JENNY BROCKIE: Fintan, I mentioned before that you run a gender clinic in Melbourne. What is the process for transitioning? I mean people take different options here so let's not say everybody does the same thing because they don't, but what are the processes for transitioning from male to female or female to male?
DR FINTAN HARTE: Well my clinic deals with adults and at intake each person would undergo a mental health evaluation to discuss their gender dysphoria and it's not that the mental health professionals there to diagnose gender dysphoria, I think people do that very adequately themselves, but it's to have a discussion about that and to ensure that it's not related to something else. Because as a psychiatrist, I do occasionally see people with severe psychiatric illness that masquerades as gender dysphoria and it's important to exclude that. And once that's, that assessment is complete, if the person is, wants to proceed, they may or may not want to proceed with hormone treatment.
JENNY BROCKIE: And before that, there is the option of puberty blockers for younger people?
DR FINTAN HARTE: Yes, and I think that's where Campbell's unit would assess those people.
JENNY BROCKIE: And who decides that and how, Campbell?
DR CAMPBELL PAUL: Well in the first instance it's the young person themselves and working with their parents, and then we have a further discussion about it. The mechanical process is that they'll meet with another psychiatrist or mental health professional to get a second opinion and then that may then lead to an assessment with one of the paediatric endocrinologists or an adolescent physician who is part of our clinic for instance.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how important is that puberty blocking process to some young people?
DR CAMPBELL PAUL: Critical. Because it can prevent irreversible changes that might otherwise happen and as a result of puberty would be very distressing for them.
JENNY BROCKIE: And this requires a Court order at the moment?
DR CAMPBELL PAUL: At the moment it requires the Family Court to give the parents the opportunity or the right to provide consent for the child to commence that treatment.
JENNY BROCKIE: Maurice, you're a family lawyer, why is Court approval part of this process?
MAURICE EDWARDS, FAMILY LAWYER: There's been a history that they, they wanted to be involved and they're authorised to be involved in these decisions but there was a recent decision that received some attention whereby if the treatment that was being sought is reversible, then the Court feels that they don't need to have that role and that can be a decision that can be made by the parents or someone with parental responsibility.
JENNY BROCKIE: And Carol, you managed to find a loophole for Riley to get around the Court system to take hormones?
CAROL BYRNE: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: Because Riley, you skipped puberty blockers, is that right?
RILEY PEDERSON: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: You skipped that phase and went to the hormones?
CAROL BYRNE: It took us so long to make a decision. And then we were trying to come up with the money and the money was a huge issue because we were told to go through the Court system would cost us approximately 5 to 18,000. So as we struggled to make a decision she started going through puberty anyway.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you're taking female hormones now?
RILEY PEDERSON: I am, yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: What's that like, how long have you been taking them?
RILEY PEDERSON: Around four months now.
JENNY BROCKIE: And how long will you take them for?
RILEY PEDERSON: Probably my whole life, I guess.
JENNY BROCKIE: And what about your body, how do you feel about your body since you've been taking them?
RILEY PEDERSON: Great.
JENNY BROCKIE: Yeah?
RILEY PEDERSON: I feel really, I feel more comfortable and more relaxed and I just - it's fun.
JENNY BROCKIE: Roland and Beck, what are you planning, have you thought through any of this for Maddi in terms of puberty and so on?
BECK STEINFORT: Well we'll just see how she goes. Obviously if she still feels the way she does, we would get the puberty blockers.
ROLAND STEINFORT: If the first part's reversible, I just can't fathom why the Court has to be involved. You know, you know, it's ridiculous.
CHRIS PEDERSON: What's the cautious, I mean if the kid’s feeling suicidal, like some of these kids are, the caution is on the side of the go ahead and do whatever you can to prevent them from committing suicide. Not wait for the Courts to catch up with their expert advice.
BECK STEINFORT: It's cruel to make someone go through the wrong puberty. It's the cruellest thing,
JENNY BROCKIE: Mase, you began hormones almost three years ago to transition to become"¦.
MASE: Two years.
JENNY BROCKIE: Two years?
JENNY BROCKIE: To transition to becoming male but now you're detransitioning, why?
MASE: Because of the effects it has had on my physical health as well as my mental health.
JENNY BROCKIE: Can you describe that a little bit more?
MASE: Well here's a thing, I was misdiagnosed as gender identity disorder, so the guy that actually diagnosed me like two and a half, nearly three years ago, he actually didn't find out the context of which my symptoms were existing. Like only a year ago I received the correct diagnosis for like what's wrong with me or like what my issues are, so.
JENNY BROCKIE: And do you want to share that or not?
MASE: Oh, I have borderline personality disorder and one of the main symptoms of that issue is that you have an unstable identity.
JENNY BROCKIE: So how do you feel about all that now because you're the one who actually pushed to get the hormones against the doctors, but you eventually got somebody who was prepared to give them to you?
MASE: Yeah, no, I found someone that would do informed consent and like I had written a letter saying this is what I've done, this is what I've gone through, this is what I've been diagnosed with, like I would like to start hormone.
JENNY BROCKIE: But how did you get them without a Court, if the Court"¦
MASE: Because I was 18 so it's like I'm an adult so I get to make these decisions. It's kind of fun being an adult like that.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you've had a significant change of mind now about it?
MASE: Yeah. Here's the thing though, like I'm not going to be like oh, transition's horrible, you shouldn't do it. It was actually - it's helped me create the basis of my identity and find out what I value. When people talk about the regret, it's like I'm not like them, I didn't, like I wasn't gender dysphoric when I was before puberty. Like it only happened after puberty.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why did you want to tell your story tonight?
MASE: Like I'm like a minority of the people that transition, like there's not going to be that many people like me. But like the people that are out there that are like me, they can go there's someone else like me.
JENNY BROCKIE: There's someone else like me. Someone else who's having other issues?
MASE: Yeah, I have gender dysphoria but I didn't need to medically transition. Like I didn't need to do that, that wasn't necessary, I guess I wish someone told me, like you can feel this way but you don't have to go all the way.
JENNY BROCKIE: Fintan, you've been sitting here really nodding your head listening to this story. Do you want to tell us why?
DR FINTAN HARTE: I think Mase highlights the importance of an accurate assessment, an accurate discussion with somebody who wants to undertake this potentially irreversible, and some of them are irreversible.
MASE: Yeah, no, I completely support like the six months therapy talking to the psychologist or psychiatrist.
JENNY BROCKIE: Fintan, how often does this sort of thing happen? I mean do these issues sometimes get mixed up?
DR FINTAN HARTE: They do and that's the importance of an assessment by an appropriately qualified mental health professional that you pick up on borderline states and you pick up on dissociative identity disorders. You pick up on psychotic conditions. I mean that is the reason for this assessment. And the other thing that Mase has highlighted is the informed consent model of treatment and this is something that's in North America and Canada, and the informed consent model of treatment is the initiation of hormones without a mental health assessment.
MASE: No, I got assessed, I saw a psychiatrist for an hour and then he diagnosed me with it.
DR FINTAN HARTE: I think that that would not be regarded as an appropriate standard in Australia.
JENNY BROCKIE: Do you ever get it wrong, the diagnosis?
DR FINTAN HARTE: I try my best not to get it wrong but we can all get things wrong. I mean the regret rate among adults is 1 percent and if you consider the success rate in treating other medical conditions, that's a pretty good success rate.
JENNY BROCKIE: Are you okay? You're doing okay there?
MASE: Yeah, no, I'm fine. Like 1 percent? You guys are all the 99 percent, I'm in the 1.
JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. I want to talk a little bit about surgery and Ruth, you're about to have surgery as part of your transition to being female. Now how did you reach the decision about whether or not go ahead with the surgery?
RUTH SCOULLER: Well basically I feel like I've almost finished my transition but this is like the icing on the cake, the last part to go so I can move on from being transgender in a way.
JENNY BROCKIE: You describe it as the icing on the cake and I'm interested in that because I think for a lot of people who don't know trans people, haven't talked to people about this stuff, they think it's really, you know, important and essential? One of the things that struck me is quite a lot of people don't see it as being, you know, quite as central.
RUTH SCOULLER: It's very much a case by case basis. In my opinion, fully transitioning is when you get to the stage where you're not worrying about passing any more. You're not worrying about being transgender any more. To me that's the stage when you're fully transitioned and there's lots of people that are transgender who will never have the surgery and they're still fully transitioned in my opinion.
JENNY BROCKIE: Post surgery, how do you think life will change for you?
RUTH SCOIULLER: I'll be whole, in my opinion. I'll be happy with who I am.
JENNY BROCKIE: Now you're in the Navy, yeah?
RUTH SCOULLER: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: How have your colleagues reacted to this?
RUTH SCOULLER: It's actually been fantastic. I came out twelve months ago full time and I've had not one instance in that entire time of rudeness to my face. And I think that's quite commendable and I think Defence are actually really good in regards to these matters.
JENNY BROCKIE: Jenni, you had this surgery nineteen years ago?
JENNI ATKINSON: Nineteen years ago, yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: What's it been like for you since?
JENNI ATKINSON: Well, I don't think I would be here if I hadn't had it. If I hadn't followed the medical model and bought mind and body into line. I was three years pre-operative so age 29 I transitioned. Life has been, it's like the lady in front of me said, it was the icing on the cake. My surgery to have, you know, a vagina and a clitoris and everything that works beautifully, thank you very much, was not to have penetrative sex with a man anyway, that's not what I'm into. It was to basically make my body as it should have been from the start.
JENNY BROCKIE: Crystal, you're considering surgery but you're thinking about going overseas, why?
CRYSTAL LOVE: It's much cheaper and being, going to the transition, well I feel like it's good to transition and also to have the surgery and to be one in whole.
JENNY BROCKIE: Now you transitioned twenty years ago, didn't you?
CRYSTAL LOVE: Yes.
JENNY BROCKIE: You started this whole process twenty years ago and what's that been like for you? How did your family react?
CRYSTAL LOVE: Well, my family didn't accept it because you know, living in an Aboriginal community, we have customs, we have rules, transitioning from being Cyril to Crystal, it was really hard for me because I had to deal with my own culture and my own people and my ways of living.
JENNY BROCKIE: Well, let's have a look at your community, the Tiwi Islands which has a particularly large transgender community.
CRYSTAL LOVE: I was thinking, to go to the waterfall today, Andrea – I’m a transgender man who wants to be a woman.
'Good morning Jimmy, how are you, what’s happening my darling?"
There’s heaps of us girls on Tiwi Island and we live a normal life – 5% of the population – why is the population so large, I don’t know, it just happened.
Our sisters hang out with all the women, because we have roles as women not as men.
'Good morning, finished shopping, so are you having a nice day today, that’s good?"
'Hi ladies, how are you?"
WOMAN: Hi Crystal.
CRYSTAL LOVE: Definitely date straight men, the girls who have sex with other men, they use only, you know – not their girlie bits at the front, it’s always the back bits, yeah.
The youngest one has just turned four, the youngest of the girls, they are very girlie - some do grow out of it and some don’t and some even deny it. This is the only community that you can see transgender people dress and be themselves and just be who they are.
JENNY BROCKIE: Why do you think there are so many sister girls on the Tiwi Islands?
CRYSTAL LOVE: I don't know if it's something in the water but you know, there's always something – because"¦.
JENNY BROCKIE: Because it is a big population compared to the broader population?
CRYSTAL LOVE: Yeah, because we have a network that being a transgender in my community, like a sister girl, it's really hard but you know, living in the culture it's - we had to adapt because you know, being colonised and being modernised and being trans and being different, we have to mix and match with everything that we, that's the surrounding in our communities because"¦
JENNY BROCKIE: How does your community, the broader community treat you on the Tiwi Islands?
CRYSTAL LOVE: Oh the Tiwi Islands is actually one of the best communities that I have lived in for a long time. You know, I have acceptance and you know, it took me a long time for my family to accept me but they accept me now.
JENNY BROCKIE: And other Aboriginal communities?
CRYSTAL LOVE: In other Aboriginal communities I think it's really, really hard because you know, it's a stepping stone of educating, it's a stepping stone of being who are you in different communities, but the only thing is we live in an Aboriginal community where there's two cultures that we live in. We live, we live in the European culture and we live in an Aboriginal culture and it's really hard when you have to be in the middle.
There's no awareness on these sorts of issues that we live in and you know, and why I say that, you know, that we need to educate our people about these issues and especially in remote areas, we don't have the facilities to have hormone treatment, we don't have counsellors, you know, we live a remote community when you live on Tiwi Islands or remote Arnhem Land or in Alice Springs, it's really hard.
JENNY BROCKIE: What happens when you're not accepted in those communities?
CRYSTAL LOVE: Well, there are consequences, you have beatings in your family, you have traditional punishment. You have - it doesn't extend to you, it extends to your mother, your grandfather, your great, great grandmother, your family members on streets. You know and plus we have a culture, it's, it's really, really, it's good and it's bad but it's just how do we deal with it?
JENNY BROCKIE: Just a little bit about relationships, Blake, I wanted to ask you about this because you transitioned to being male while you were in a relationship with Carly here beside you. What's that been like?
BLAKE COBURN: It was really hard at first because in the first year I was already out as a trans person so I knew I wanted to transition so I was going through the therapy at that point. So and that's when I met Carly. She accepted that at the time but we were both very apprehensive of what hormones would do. She was quite worried that she would wake up next to a hairy man and just not know who she was with any more. So the first year was quite difficult but we found after the first hormone injection everything was fine after that and it was very smooth sailing.
JENNY BROCKIE: Carly, what's it been like for you?
CARLY REIMANN: Part of it has been thinking about my identity as well because I've identified as a lesbian since before I met Blake and so when we were first together we were a lesbian couple. That's obviously changed in a lot of people's eyes, not so much in mine because I'm not one who's kind of changed anything, I'm still with the same person. So yeah, there was a lot of apprehension before Blake started hormone therapy because I guess in the media a lot it's been portrayed that once trans guys start on testosterone they get angry and moody and everything, but it's had the opposite effect. He's mellowed out completely.
JENNY BROCKIE: So it's been - I mean how have you dealt with that change though going from a lesbian relationship to actually being with someone who identifies as male?
CARLY REIMANN: Yeah, well I know that when we present to the community now we present as a straight couple. That took adjusting to because being gay has been a part of my identity for many years. I don't think that part's changed for me so within myself I still feel fine and it turns out we had nothing to worry about with whether we'd still be attracted to each other because I mean it's hard to label people with their sexuality as it is, let alone when you throw trans people into the mix. And in the end what matters is, someone's hopes and dreams and values and not their gender so much as all.
JENNY BROCKIE: And on the question of relationships, Beck, I wonder and Roland whether you've thought about this in terms of Maddi's future, do you think about that?
BECK STEINFORT: You do worry that you know, how will she, you know, will she find someone? But then I'm sure she will.
ROLAND STEINFORT: I don't worry at all. We've seen tonight there's a huge diverse group of people and I think she'll find somebody or she'll do something else amazing. I don't think a relationship defines you as much as people sometimes says it does. You know, you can define your own worth without a relationship.
JENNY BROCKIE: And Riley, what's the future looking like for you?
RILEY PEDERSON: Um, fun. I don't know, just something to look forward to.
CAROL BYRNE: Riley has a boyfriend.
JENNY BROCKIE: Oh thanks mum.
RILEY PEDERSON: Something to look forward to most definitely because I know I'm going to become so and so special and have a, have a great future.
JENNY BROCKIE: And you have a boyfriend?
RILEY PEDERSON: And I do.
JENNY BROCKIE: Mum says you do?
RILEY PEDERSON: Thanks mum.
JENNY BROCKIE: Kate, what do you think at the end of all this?
KATE: Um, I like everyone's theory of just be who you are. Like so what if you're a boy, so what if you're a girl? So what if you're a girl with boy parts or a boy with girl parts? It's who you are on the inside and what you want to be and what you're comfortable with is what matters. Like Maddi's parents, I commend you guys and I saw you up in the, when you first walked in and I thought to myself that it was actually, when I first saw your children, that your son, your eldest son might have been the one that was on the show because I really thought that Maddi was a girl. Yeah, and, yeah, you guys are just taking it on so well with Riley and you've accepted it, you know, as Riley's Riley.
I mean sure, the world might be hard but if you're comfortable in yourself and your family are accepting of yourself then so be it and I'm just going to take like you guys have. If he comes to me, my son comes to me and says mummy, I want to be a girl and I want to wear a dress, so be it. And then you know, if in two years time he says oh, I want to be a boy again, I want to wear shorts, go for it. Go with the flow.
JENNY BROCKIE: Good note to end on. Thanks so much everybody for sharing your stories tonight. Really appreciate you being with us, it's been terrific. And that is all here but you can keep talking on-line. You can go to our website, to Twitter or Insight's Facebook page.