Court approves girl-boy sex change
SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- An Australian Family Court judge has ruled that a 13-year-old girl can undergo sex-change therapy to become a boy based on psychiatric grounds.
The girl, known as "Alex," is a ward of the state and the action was initiated by a government welfare department.
The court heard that Alex had been brought up as a boy by her father and had contemplated suicide for feeling trapped inside a girl's body.
Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia Alastair Nicholson, ruled on Tuesday that it was in the teenager's "best interests" that he should authorize both reversible and irreversible hormonal therapies.
"Alex has a profound and longstanding wish to undergo a transition to become male in appearance," the application to the court stated.
"The evidence indicates that this is a clinical condition in which the person feels that his/her physical sex is wrong and does not match self-perception."
The teenager will begin hormone treatment at the age of 16 but cannot have sex-change surgery until she turns 18, the court ruled.
The hormone treatment will have irreversible effects, including body and facial hair growth, muscular development, and deepening of the voice.
The decision has prompted criticism from some quarters with ethicist Dr Nicholas Tonti-Fillipini labeling the decision "irresponsible."
"This medical treatment, that's completely unproven even in adults," Tonti-Fillipini told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
"To do it to a 13-year-old who is still in formation, whose body is still forming, whose sense of identity is still forming -- it's just irresponsible."
But Dr Louise Newman, from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, said the court had made a sensible decision.
"There are options for young people, such as this particular case, where the degree of stress is so great that going through the hormonal and bodily changes of puberty would actually be to distressing for the child to tolerate," she said.