Alex Blaze

Codenamed "Not even trying"

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 01, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Australia, best interests, Diana Bryant, mastectomy, nicholas tutti

This is a bit old, but projector boi polloi sent this in. The Herald-Sun wrote an article about a transboy who, at age 17, got a court order for a double mastectomy. Not really news, but if they were going to cover it, this isn't the way to do it:

A COURT has permitted a teenage girl to have her breasts removed so that she can better resemble a boy.

The 17-year-old, codenamed Alex, has been on hormone treatment ordered by the Family Court to prevent menstruation and breast development since she was 13, The Age newspaper said.

She returned to the court in December last year to seek permission for a double mastectomy so she would look more like a boy, the newspaper said.

The Chief Justice of the Family Court, Diana Bryant, said it was in the teen's best interests to have the surgery immediately rather than wait until she turned 18.

The "girl/her" language is bad enough without the "better resemble a boy" tacked on.

I'm not familiar with this paper, and perhaps someone who's more familiar with Australia's media landscape can let us know if the Herald-Sun is the Australian equivalent the Boston Herald or the Boston Globe. Because that makes a large difference.

The unattributed article certainly delves into some lazy journalism. Only one "expert" was interviewed:

But ethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini said mainstream medicine did not recognise hormone treatments and surgery as treatment for gender dysphoria, and that under US guidelines it was psychosis because "it's a belief out of accordance with reality''.

"What you are trying to do is make a biological reality correspond to that false belief,'' he told The Age.

The "ethicist" Tonti-Filippini works for the Catholic Church (not as clergy, but as an associate professor at the John Paul II Institute) and, in his spare time, makes misleading statements about condom failure rates, devises "alternatives" to offering rape victims emergency contraception, and opposes women's right to reproductive freedom. Zoe Brain has a longer take-down of this so-called expert. He couldn't even get his facts right in the two sentences the Herald-Sun quoted him in.

I'm sure there are people in Australia who identify as transsexual or have an operative history who would have been more than willing to be quoted in this article. Instead, their readership gets the Church's opinion on a matter that is both intensely personal and highly scientific and medical. Considering their track record on issues like that, I wonder why the paper feels it needs to publish their views, unopposed, as if it's the only opinion on the matter.

Fortunately, the judge appears to have made the appropriate decision in this case - the boy in question is almost 18 and is definitely old enough to understand the consequences of a mastectomy. He's been on hormones since he was 13, meaning that he's been sure about his gender identity for some years now. And the judge even had the decency to refer to him with the appropriate gender pronouns.


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The article is ridiculous and transphobic up the wazoo, but to be fair, the "codenamed" thing might refer to a court-assigned pseudonym that's required because the case involved a minor.

This is me stammering sheepishly... That didn't even cross my mind....

Thanks for pointing that out. Updated appropriately.

diddlygrl | June 1, 2009 4:31 PM

Yes, the Church's stand on science issues is enough to give even a flat Earth proponent pause.

I wear the name of 'abomination' proudly, keep that badge well polished after the Pope handed it to me back post surgery and told me that there was room in the heavenly mansion for everyone, except me now of course seeing as how I am an 'abomination' in the eyes of the Lord. I asked the Goddess about that, and She told me to not mind poor old Pope Bennie, constipation you know.

Thanks for taking the time to look into this article, Alex, I appreciate it. While I was excited when I first saw the headline, the rest of the article pretty much sickened me. I'm glad the judge made the right decision here, even though the so-called "journalists" seem to have their heads up their kiesters.

I'm not sure how Boston Globe or Boston Herald is like, but the Australian Herlad Sun's more of a tabloid print with--more often than not--gratuitously sensationalised articles.

The Australian courts have made a number of very good decisions regarding trans youth. The papers have made some amazing crap decisions in their coverage of it. With the exception of The Australian most newspapers in Australia are good only for wrapping chips in....