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This page has been created as "fair usage" entirely to allow assessment and appreciation, by those concerned with the subject, of the unique portrayal of transsexuality in young people in the article, especially by young people affected themselves, their relatives, friends, medical personnel, policy makers and academics. All copyrights are wholely acknowledged.

The Courier-Mail, the biggest-selling daily 
      newspaper and major news breaker in Queensland, Australia.

© 2003, Queensland Newspapers, Queensland, Australia

11th January 2003

Schoolboy pursues sex change

by Amanda Watt

Map showing Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. A BRISBANE boy is determined to become the first Australian school student to go through a sex change.
      The Year 11 teenager has finally admitted to himself and his family that he wants to become a woman.
      In what is believed to be an Australian first, the student last year began going to school partially dressed as a woman – wearing make-up and growing his hair long.
      This year he is taking the transformation further – he has begun a course of hormones that will stop facial hair growth and eventually develop breasts. With the support of his parents, he has adopted a female Christian name and now leaves the house every morning looking like a woman.
      In two to three years, provided he passes the required testing for mental or physical problems, he hopes to undergo surgery to make the transition complete – removing his male genitalia and replacing it with a female organ.
DETERMINED . . . the Year 11 boy who is seeking a sex-change operation, flanked by his relatives.
      While his parents, extended family and friends are standing steadfastly behind him, many of his school peers have not accepted the decision. He has suffered months of verbal taunts, abuse and assault.
      The campaign of vilification – condemned by the school's administration and some students – has made him leave the school.
      He is now investigating other education options for this year – such as completing Year 12 via a TAFE course.
      The 17-year-old, who does not want to be identified, said he was a victim of the widespread ignorance and fear.
      Too many people saw it as a choice rather than understanding he had been born in the wrong body, he said.
      A transgender is also frequently confused with a transvestite – who dresses as a woman for sexual gratification or emotional release.
      "It's not like I have chosen this for myself, I have lived my whole life feeling that something is not right and all I want is to live a normal life," he said.
      "The entire process has been painful and difficult . . . I wouldn't want to put anyone through what I'm going through.
      "Life would be so much easier if I didn't have to do this."
      Transgenders generally have to see psychiatrists for at least one year and they need to live as their new identity for two years before getting a sex change operation.
      His mother, who has attended several of her son's medical appointments in a bid to understand more about the changes, said while it took a while to process her son's announcement she had always known there was something "different" about her only child.
      "We love our child and we want to do what's right, we want her to have a happy life," she said.
      "The suicide rate amongst transgenders is so high (43 per cent of transgenders in Australia have committed suicide or have made an attempt) and I don't want a dead child."
      The family has found understanding and support from the group Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
      Convener Shelley Argent said about one in 20,000 Australians had gender identity issues.
      Mrs Argent said while the State Government's anti-discrimination legislation would make a huge difference for the transgender population, the process of sexual reassignment was a long, hard journey.
      "Many in society believe that transgenders are either mentally ill, odd, a reflection of bad parenting or from dysfunctional families but really that isn't so," Mrs Argent said.
      "We need to understand being a transgender, like homosexuality, is neither a choice nor a fad.
      "Who would want to put themselves through a medical system that can become horrendous and not always sympathetic, live in a society that allows them few rights plus the pain of surgery required to make them complete?"
      The support group is pushing for recurrent government funding of $10,000 a year.

Phone PFLAG on 3017 1739, The Australian Transgender Support Association of Queensland on 3843 5024 or Open Doors on 3257 7660.