- A Girl Betrayed
- By Andrew Bolt
- The Herald Sun
- 16/04/2004 Make a Comment (2)
- Contributed by: admin ( 100 articles in 2004 )
Has CJ Nicholson gone too far, again?
THIS week "Alex" learned she could become a boy. But is it right to alter a healthy body to tackle a sick mind?
Alex is the 13-year-old girl who the Family Court this week said could start treatment to turn her into a boy.
And Newman, a prominent refugee activist, has named herself as the psychiatrist who assessed Alex and wrote an influential report to the court, arguing for just this "help".
I haven't read all Newman's report, but I have read Chief Justice Alastair Nicholson's judgment, and it alone proves to me Alex was not born in the wrong body at all.
Instead, Alex is a profoundly betrayed girl, in a perfectly normal girl's body, who seems to have been so traumatised by the grotesque behaviour of her parents and stepfather that she feels only a sex change can now make her happy.
And for a court to agree with this poor, abandoned girl's fantasy -- after an odd court hearing that seems to have minimised the chance of anyone objecting -- is deeply troubling.
Unlike Nicholson, I didn't hear all the evidence, and unlike Newman, I'm no expert in psychiatry.
But Nicholson's judgment scares me, and if you are a psychiatrist who shares my alarm after reading the following excerpts from his ruling, then for heaven's sake speak out. For Alex.
"Alex was born overseas and was the only child of (her) married parents," says Nicholson, who already refers to her as a boy.
But she "felt rejected from an early age by (her) mother who (she) believes 'was affectionless and harsh' ".
Worse, her father, who she said "protected" her from her mother, died when she was just five or six.
"The death was clearly devastating to Alex. (She) had spent almost all of (her) waking and sleeping time with (her) father.
"Alex said that they slept in the same bed and (she) would bathe and shower with (her) father", although "none of the evidence suggests any sexual advances by the father". No, it was an uncle who tried to molest her, Alex said.
She said her father was gentle "like a girl", but taught her how to punch and kick "and be self-protective". She claimed that her father "tried to make me a boy", even teaching her "to pee like a boy", and that her mother had dressed her as one, too.
Alex said she and her father were "like best friends", and even now she felt at times he was alive, able to communicate and "smiling in her mind".
His sudden death was awful enough, but Alex's mother hurt her further by marrying a man with two children of his own, breaking with her relatives, and moving the family to Australia, where 10-year-old Alex did not speak the language.
Nine months later, Alex's parents were dobbed in for child abuse and social workers discovered a nightmare of rejection and pain.
THEY reported that Alex was angry with her mother for remarrying, and to a man she said had turned her mother against her.
Her mother, in turn, claimed Alex had tried to kill her stepbrother by running him down with her bike, and had poked something into the other child's ear until it bled.
As Nicholson noted: "The mother had said there is no love between her and Alex, and (her) stepfather had said that he had no relationship with Alex and did not see Alex as important."
Her mother said she'd tried in her old country to have her daughter taken away, and "did not want Alex in her life and did not want to see (her) again". She believed her girl was a "follower of the devil" who was "trying to kill her family".
And so Alex, just 10, was indeed taken away, never to see her mother again. She doesn't even know where her mother lives, and has instead been brought up by strangers and then an aunt, who apparently lives alone with her own daughter.
Can you imagine how damaged this girl now was? How badly she was in need of love and good parents?
"My heart is cold, like ice," Alex said.
"I love no one. I don't let anyone in. My mother had a key but chose not to use it. I want a new family."
Instead, the Family Court will help this girl by having her turned into the boy she says she long wanted to be.
This, even though a psychiatric report three years ago said: "(Alex's) identification with being a male should be reviewed in the context of her incomplete mourning of her father's loss in the long-standing conflictual relationship with (her) mother . . . (Her) level of depression should be monitored and treated as necessary both pharmacologically and psychotherapeutically."
Except Alex's "treatment" now will be to suppress her puberty with drugs, and at 16 to give her hormones that will change her irreversibly, giving her a beard, bigger muscles, an enlarged clitoris and a deeper voice. Surgery to complete her transformation will at least have to wait until after she turns 18.
IT'S astonishing that this could happen, when even Newman told the court that Alex's "cross-gender identification appears to have emerged in the context of an idealised physically close relationship with her father, rejection and emotional abandonment by her mother, and her father's desire for her to be a male . . .
"(Her) investment as male simultaneously expresses anger towards (her) mother and maintains closeness with (her) dead father."
As I said, here is a girl tortured into wanting to be a boy. She did not simply have "a body she should not have been born with". So why did the court agree that turning this terribly wounded girl into a boy was the answer to her pain?
Of course, Nicholson did not decide this without much evidence to back him up. Alex herself insists she has to be a boy, and could not bear having periods. She already dresses like a boy, and makes her teachers treat her as one. She'd even wear nappies rather than use the girls' toilet at school.
Identifying as a boy had calmed her. If she was not given this "treatment", Nicholson said, she'd "revert to unhappiness, behavioural difficulties at home and self-harming behaviour".
The chances of just changing her self-image instead were "poor", and "the evidence speaks with one voice as to the distress that Alex is genuinely suffering in a body which feels alien to (her) and disgusts (her)".
And yet, and yet . . .
Nicholson relied heavily on the judgment of Alex's diligent caseworker and of five medical experts, only one of whom seems to have seen Alex more than three times. Two of the experts hadn't seen her at all.
Strangely, in such a difficult case, none of these experts, some of them colleagues, fundamentally disagreed with each other. Never in the hearing were they challenged to defend their theories by someone with very different views.
THE witnesses Nicholson invited to join in tended instead to be from groups like the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, which enthused about the United Nations' "Convention of Rights of the Child", and the right of children to be identified as "transgender".
Nicholson even noted with apparent pride that instead of holding the usual adversarial hearing, in which witnesses would be challenged hard, he'd held an "inquisitorial" one, more like "an orderly discussion". He'd even chatted to Alex privately, and in confidence.
And all this cosy chat, I fear, meant no one was encouraged to stand and say: "I hate what you want to do to this girl, and demand you prove every one of your claims. It's her troubled mind we must work on, not her healthy body."
Indeed, so keen did some of the people around Alex seem to turn her into a boy that the evidence indicates she was already getting the sex-change "treatment" that the Family Court was meant to be deciding on.
As an official family report prepared for the hearing said: "(Alex) was also able to tell me that (she) is on stage 1 of the treatment and that the 'pill medication' (she) is on now, stops (her) periods, can cause (her) to feel like (she) is having a headache or that (she) wants to vomit . . . (She) reported that the medication stops (her) breasts growing and 'stops hip shape growing like female shape'."
Like I said, I'm not an expert, but much about this seems very wrong.
Is this really how we should respond to a cry for love from a dreadfully hurt young girl?