Images by Wikimedia Commons, Tero Vesalainen and QuinceMedia

It’s being reported as “a big win for transgender teens today in Australia,” but we should be concerned that those who identify as transgender and are under eighteen no longer need a Family Court order to be able to undergo Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

According to activists, Australia is the only country in the world which requires this law, and that makes it sound like Australia is a horrible anti-trans rights country. Of course, things aren’t perfect, but have these same people purposely ignored the seventy-six countries in which LGBT+ individuals expressing themselves is considered illegal? How many of these countries that put gay and lesbian people to death also barely treat their transgendered citizens as human?

Prior to this “landmark” decision, trans teenagers required authorization from the Family Court before they could start taking estrogen or testosterone, under Stage 2 hormone treatment. It does sound a bit ridiculous that underage youth who identify as transgender previously had to go to court. However, it’s not like the decision to undertake HRT is one that should be taken lightly, especially for those who are considered too young by the law to be able to vote, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and in some cases even get their Learner’s Permit and drive a car. It’s not like hormone replacement is a simple, easy thing, that one can decide on a whim, despite what those on Tumblr might tell you. Once you start HRT, and eventually have bottom-down surgery, there is no going back. When it is illegal for these same teenagers to drink, drive and vote, why is it seemingly so simple for them to make non-reversible changes to their bodies?

While this change in law seems to be removing “red tape” and layers of bureaucracy, it does seem to leave us with a bunch of new questions. It really should be a simple process. As long as the youth has parental/guardianship permission and their doctor can show proof of dysphoria over a lengthy period of time, then why should they not be allowed to begin taking HRT? And, yes, one does need to have gender dysphoria to be transgender. If the teenager later regrets it, then that is their issue, and mental health services should be equipped to deal with this. The problem lies with this: What if trans activists are attempting to make it as easy to begin taking HRT as it is to purchase Panadol? Because that helps nobody.

Many activists are saying it should be easier for trans teenagers to begin transitioning because it will help with their crippling dysphoria and increased mental illness. This is incorrect. The best way to deal with teenagers who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria is to improve mental health services around the country. If a teenager is already suffering from mental illness—whether that be depression, anxiety, OCD—then allowing that teenager to transition will only half-solve the issue. What happens to a trans youth who discovers that transitioning didn’t magically cure their severe depression? If curing severe depression was as easy as taking a bout of Hormone Replacement Therapy, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists would’ve already been out of business. This is the same for anyone with depression or another mental illness, transgender or not.

Attempting to make the laws easier for transgendered teenagers to transition is a Band-Aid solution.  Considering gender reassignment is a huge commitment and irreversible, we have to make sure teenagers are mature enough to understand this. If we expect the same of our teenagers to vote in parliamentary elections, consume alcohol, drive a car and other similarly important happenings, then why is it considered a-ok for our youth to change who they are…for life? We’ve got to consider the ramifications of changing the whole biological make-up of a teenager who is generally already vulnerable in the first place. It’s not as simple as “I identify as [insert gender] and that’s that”. Regardless of your gender identity, your body will still betray you and still sees you as your “assigned gender”, and changes to this may prove difficult for a vulnerable teenager.

Instead of making it easier and easier for transgender teenagers to irreversibly change their body, we’ve got to make sure we’re actually helping them. Gender dysphoria is not a simple problem that can be fixed with a cocktail of drugs: We’ve got to make sure of both mental and physical health to ensure a smooth, healthy transition. Otherwise, trans youth could be worse off than ever.