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Getting to the heart of the ethical dilemma of an eleven year old’s desire to re assert their gender and human rights group stage protest in Berlin.

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Alex Kaminsky
Alex Kaminsky

German courts rule that an eleven year old German transgender girl can legally be institutionalized.

Perhaps it’s conspicuous that to date few journals have dwelled on the current ethical drama currently undergoing in Berlin, Germany involving an eleven year old child who was born a boy but whom in their own words wishes to re assert themselves as a female. Something that they have felt since they can remember, according to one report earlierthis year.

That though now may be wishful thinking in the face of a recent court decision that in essence seeks to mandate that the child be placed in institutional care and one suspects have their sense of self ‘normalized.’ To say human rights groups, as led by British activist and transgender herself Katrina Swales are outraged would be an understatement (more on that soon).

But before one can fully understand what is at stake here, perhaps a cursory backdrop to the drama at hand:

Wrote huffpo earlier this year: Though exact details on the case are slim (at least in the English language media), International LGBTQ Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO) declared their support for the girl and her mother yesterday. The girl, identified by various media outlets only as “Alex,” reportedly lives with her mother, who is supportive of her daughter, in Berlin. However, Alex’s father, who is divorced from her mother, reportedly “rejects this view of his daughter’s gender identity and wants to force her to grow up as a boy.”

“If all else fails,” Pink News noted, “there is a real and present possibility that pressure from her father, supported by the Youth Welfare Office in Berlin, means that Alex will shortly be confined in a closed ward of a psychiatric institution to ensure that ‘he’ returns to ‘normality.’

What should strike onlookers as particularly alarming though is the fact that the court this past Thursday denied the mother(who insists that the child be allowed to assert her desire to be a female) and her child access to psychologists or counseling, mandating instead all this will be provided in the care of an institution where she will be cared for and allowed to come to her own terms.

Yet what makes this assertion dubious is the fact that the court’s by insisting that only the state office be allowed to offer counseling, (this off the back of a single hour length interview with a nurse from the state youth office) isn’t necessarily seeking to counsel the child but rather as many activists suspect a rigid state sanctioned process where they will be normalized. This in the city where transgender and lesbian and gay individuals under any normal circumstances would argue is the epicenter of liberal doctrine and compassion. Until now it seems…

As we published over the weekend, having interpreted Berlin taz’s take of the matter:

Implicit in the court’s decision is the very real possibility that the child may now be preempted from pursuing her desire to live as a female, and exposed to a type of indoctrination that does not promote gender neutrality or choice. Also of concern is whether the child is too young to completely understand the ramifications of her choices and the technical legality that German law requires before one can have a sex change or at least begin the process of hormone adaptation to become one’s innate sense of gender.

To date the youth office has asserted that it believes the best interest of the ‘child ‘ would be achieved if it were removed from a sphere of influence that is predisposed to the girl asserting a female identity . This of course raises the question can a child’s ‘transsexuality’ be induced without the child resisting?

Can an individual, even an eleven year old child’s sense of gender identity really be induced? Is this not a far fetched idea? When was the last time one came across a child who claimed to be a girl or a boy against their will? After all, as many transgender individuals can personally attest, such notions despite what traditional literature and cultural ennui would suggest hardly inform their decision to seek to re assert their gender despite what their original biological disposition dictates.

Referencing back to huffpo‘s article earlier in the year we then have this:

Meanwhile, Alex’s father has reportedly insisted on calling his daughter “Alexander” and forcing her to wear boy’s clothing. He is now believed to have gained the support of Berlin’s Youth Welfare Office and is in the process of removing Alex from her mother’s home.

“The board of IGLYO strongly advocates the rights of transgender youth and are concerned with the institutionalization of this happy and healthy child,” IGLYO officials wrote in their statement. “We would like to highlight the endangerment of forced ‘therapy’ to make children fit into the gender roles the society thinks are right for them. IGLYO follows the wealth of research that shows that reparative therapy regarding sexual orientation or gender identity can be seriously harmful to the child.”

Writes blogger Jane Fae: “This proposal by the Berlin Youth Welfare Office will be regarded widely as little more than child abuse and a fundamental breach of Alex’s Human Rights.”

And yet judging from the current stance adopted by the courts they do not perceive placing Alexis Kaminsky as she goes by in institutional care as child abuse. In fact they perceive it as a kind of last resort buffer which will allow the child to magically turn around and accept that perhaps the feelings that they have had all their lives are misplaced.

A cursory look at Katrina Zwales petition will see the number of individuals mandating that the child be removed from the servitude of the state now approaching 11 000.

Offers the petition where one can sign on electronically and titled, ‘Mayor of Berlin: Stop the institutionalization of a 11 year old transexual’:

The Youth Welfare Office of Berlin is putting an 11 year old transgendered girl into a father’s care who is putting her into a mental institute simply because he believes transexuality is wrong. This young girl will be taught how her feelings are wrong,and pushed more into the denial that has claimed the lives of so many transgendered people, thanks to biased decisions by the Youth Welfare office this child’s life could be irrevocably ruined. I am starting this petition to try and make it known that this is not okay, that this is a breach of some of the basic human rights of this child.

And then today we received this comment from someone who had participated in a protest march held downtown Berlin this afternoon:

I live in Berlin, I just came back from the rally. Nazi references were brought up several times — no wonder: a chief resident declaring that “gender-atypical behavior” is to be “ended” by institutionalization, and that only because somebody who spoke to the child for just one hour believes the transsexuality was “induced” by the mother? That’s… rather… totalitarian behavior, and the Germans know totalitarian behavior when they see it.

Is there even any evidence that transsexuality can be induced??? Is there any reason to expect that gender identity should be more fluid than sexual orientation? To me, it sounds like made up as someone went along.

And perhaps a sampling of other comments readers have left may offer a point of view as to the ethical drama at hand. I would suggest readers brace themselves as some of the comments are inflammatory but nonetheless reflect prevailing viewpoints in the community:

As far as I can see, the German government has done exactly the right thing. We are not talking about a man who has struggled his whole life trying to fit a into a gender binary model of behavior and now defiantly breaking free and realizing who he really is. We are talking about a child at an impressionable age whose mother is encouraging him to pursue an extremely difficult lifestyle and a course of treatment that will end in life altering surgery. To think that a child’s wishes in this matter should be respected at that age is totally absurd, and to call this decision bigoted is dishonest.

 

She probably read some magazine glamorizing the transgender lifestyle and now thinks it’s the cool thing to do. She’ll grow out of it. Those wgi don’t like Chaz Bono are just doing it for publicity. The rest are either mentally ill or possesed by demonic beings.

 

A lot of trans people I know started feeling that way at a very young age, so it’s definitely possible that this child is trans but you would likely have to see a psychiatrist’s report before being sure one way or the other.

 

It seems pretty extreme to take the kid away from the mother, I would have imagined there would have to be some pretty serious abuse before that would happen. Particularly given how liberal Germany can be I would kind of surprised if this was exactly what it seems.

 

If she goes through puberty without hormone therapy, she will develop a male body, and this can never be totally reversed. If she does get hormone therapy? The type of hormones children get typically only delay puberty – so basically, she would be able to, as an adult, choose which type of sex hormones she wants to take, and how her body should develop. This choice is being taken from her.

 

The mother is supporting her child’s desire for self determination. How is that wrong?

 

To date the mother’s lawyers have indicated to fight the case in a constitutional court, that said it will be interesting to see what direction the courts may choose to take this case but what though does remain dumbfounding is why the courts will not allow the child or her mother access to further counseling defies logic, which in some way may represent the contorted point of views emanating from that part of the world that has had a very conflicted history with respect to same sex orientation, ethnic purity and transgender issues.

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  • This is wrong. As a transgender woman myself, I am appalled and disgusted by the court’s decision, as well as the father’s bigotry.

  • Rachel

    I want to comment in support(as a transwoman myself) but am, frankly a little to angry to form words on the matter. Let HER decide.

  • It’d be nice if everyone else realised this. I know I’m just one of thousands, but I signed your petition. I really hope something gets done about this.

  • Katrina Swales

    Hello, it is great to see this, One minor nitpick is you spelt my name Katrina Zwales in one section 🙂

  • Katrina Swales

    That is why what happens is the child would be in normal circumstances put on puberty blockers, if she somehow grows out of it, once removed puberty would resume as normal

  • I understand where people are coming from saying that “she might grow out of it”, and, fair enough, she might. Personally I don’t think she will, but, whether she is genuinely transgendered or not, throwing her in an institution is not the right way to go about solving this.

  • David Marjanović

    It wasn’t a march. We just stood in front of the building of the responsible office.