Transitioning gender is a difficult and complex procedure regardless of age. Rachael Thornton talk to a teenager who is just beginning the process.
Airdate: 
Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 19:30
Channel: 
SBS Two

Marlee-Alice is eighteen years old. She has identified as male as long as she can remember. "I don't think I knew what being a girl or a boy meant when I was qiuite a young child. I think I honestly thought I was a boy. It wasn't really something I thought about until I went to school."

"I identify as a binary male. People seem to have this idea that people choose to be transgender. I didn't choose to be transgender any more than I choose to be right handed."

 

Far from being an outlier, Marlee's story is quite common. Dr Michelle Telfer is a paediatrician and the Clinical Lead of Adolescent Medicine with the RCH Centre. She specialises in gender dysphoria, which is the formal diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe people who experience significant discontent with the sex they were assigned at birth and the gender roles associated with that sex.

She has seen a significant increase in referrals in the past few years, and their capacity is stretched, The waiting list for adolescents to receive treatment at the clinic is seven to eight months. Fifty per cent of teenagers experiencing gender dysphoria will self harm, and 30% will attempt suicide at some point before the age of eighteen. 

Marlee agrees. He found the onset of puberty, including the development of breasts and hips, as particularly distressing. "Puberty is not a fun time for anyone, but when you don't identify with the gender's puberty that you're going through it's really traumatic, because a lot of things are changing that you don't want to happen."

Marlee has just began cross hormone therapy, and is eagerly awaiting the changes to his body the therapy will begin. "Testosterone is finally putting me through the right puberty! Being recognised as male and having a body that matches my identity is really important... I'm not changing from female to a male. I'm stil exactly who I am. I'm just reflecting it better to the world."

 

 

As someone who has identified as male as long as he can remember, Marlee would have been eager to begin treatment earlier. However, in Australia approval from a Judge in court is the only way for persons under the age of 18 to access CHT.

"Puberty is the critical time to intervene," states Dr Telfer. "Australia is the only jurisdiction in the world that has this requirement to go to court for cross hormone threatment. Throughout the rest of the western world it remains to the doctors."

Marlee's mother has always been supportive of her child. " Parents and children and doctors know best. How does a judge know?"

"I'm asking that we accept Marlee for who he is, and what Marlee offers, and for the kindness in Marlee's heart."

 

Marlee has previously appeared in a story for The Feed about the push to allow students to wear either gender of uniform.

 

The Feed has also previously interviewed a female transgendered teenager.