Spanish court approves surgery for 16-year-old

January 13, 2010

Via The Guardian and others:

A Spanish clinic today revealed it had performed a […] sex-change operation on a 16-year-old, making her the youngest patient to undergo the operation in the country’s history.

The unnamed teenager had been taking hormones to change her body since she was 15, according to doctors who treated her at Barcelona’s hospital clínico, and she had been seeing doctors and psychiatrists for even longer. “The patient has been in treatment for nearly three years,” said the surgeon who carried out the operation, Dr Iván Mañero.

A sex-change operation on a minor requires the approval of a Spanish court to override a law that sets the minimum age for such operations as 18.

That permission was given in November by a judge after the the child’s parents had themselves made the request. The operation was carried out in December, though news of it was only released on Monday.

The teenager had reportedly tried to commit suicide on several occasions. As a child she was convinced that she was really female, but had been born in the wrong body.

“The judge consulted many medical experts and doctors, all of whom have recommended that [she] be operated on … she is very happy,” Mañero told El País.

Gina Serra, president of the Catalan Association of Transsexuals, said it was possible from an early age for a child to be conscious that they were in the wrong body.

“An eight-year-old child knows already what they want to be and what they do not want to be,” she said.

“In the end, everything depends on the support that they find within their own family.”

“It is a condition that one is born with but which you cannot operate for until they are 18 years old,” said Mañero.

“That, for a doctor, is something of a shock. No one could imagine that if your child was born with, say, leukaemia, we would say we must wait until 18 before operating.”

He said the question of whether children under 18 should be operated on was more an ethical and social debate than a medical one. “The younger the patient is, the simpler the operation generally is,” he said.

“To deny people transsexuality until they become grown-ups only lengthens the suffering of young transsexuals,” Mar Cambrollé of the Spanish Federation of Gays, Lesbians, Transsexuals and Bisexuals, said.

However, others believe that it was better to wait until someone was 18 to have an operation.

“We are not against it, but it is a life-changing decision,” said Monica Martín of the Spanish Association of Transsexuals. “It is a good idea to wait until the person has achieved maturity, legal and otherwise.”

I disagree strongly with this last comment. It reinforces the idea that trans people do not know our own minds. I suggest that we all, trans and cis, are aware from a very early age what our genders are. And when we experience an incongruence between our gender and the body into which we are born, we know it.

Also, the idea that someone wakes up on a completely arbitrary date – their birthday – and is somehow magically mature in every respect is laughable. From the point of view of medically/surgically transitioning, it is why we are required to undergo so many different examinations and consultations by so many different medical/surgical professionals. It is so that the “experts” can be equally sure that we aren’t “making a bad decision”.

One Response to “Spanish court approves surgery for 16-year-old”

  1. Ruth Moss Says:

    Also, the idea that someone wakes up on a completely arbitrary date – their birthday – and is somehow magically mature in every respect is laughable.

    Yes, the transphobia inherent in the idea that she doesn’t know her own mind and needs an “expert” to guide her, and the ageism (children and teens are usually told they can’t know their own mind and an parent/guardian must decide things for them, as here in this case) really are a double whammy here.

    Sixteen really isn’t that young at all. Good on her, like, just a shame she had to jump through so many hoops and get permission from so many people.


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