Last Friday, the highest court in British Columbia, Canada, ruled that a father could not prevent doctors from giving his 15-year-old daughter testosterone injections to “affirm” her transgender male identity. The court also ruled that the father, Clark*, must “acknowledge and refer to [his daughter Maxine*] as male,” and refrain from talking to the media about her case.
The decision concludes a nearly year-long appeals process that has garnered significant attention in both Canada and the United States. As previously reported, a school counselor identified Maxine as transgender when she was only 12. The school helped her pick out a male name and began treating her as a boy without informing her father.
When Clark found out what was going on, he was deeply uneasy but went along with the school’s recommendation that Maxine see psychologist and LGBT author Dr. Wallace Wong (“Dr. IJ” in the decision). To Clark’s surprise, Wong recommended Maxine begin taking cross-sex hormones at 13.
Suspecting his daughter’s history of mental health issues might be more the cause than the effect of her gender dysphoria, Clark refused to grant immediate permission. He reasoned it would be better for Maxine to wait until she was older before she embarked on any irreversible course of treatment.
Shortly after Maxine’s 14th birthday, however, Dr. Brenden Hursh of BC Children’s Hospital (“Dr. GH” in the decision) informed Clark that his consent was unnecessary — not because Maxine’s mother had consented, but because Maxine was capable of deciding the question on her own. Clark immediately took the matter to court.
In late February 2019, Justice Gregory Bowden of the BC Supreme Court affirmed Hursh’s opinion, ordering that 14-year-old Maxine should begin taking cross-sex hormones on her own prerogative. Bowden further stipulated that if either of Maxine’s parents referred to her using female pronouns or addressed her by her birth name, they would be considered guilty of “family violence.”
The evening of Bowden’s decision, Clark granted an interview to The Federalist in which he referred to his daughter as a girl, “because she is a girl. Her DNA will not change through all these experiments that they do.”
Citing this statement — among other verbal “expressions of rejection of [Maxine’s] gender identity” — the BC Supreme Court convicted Clark of “family violence” in April 2019. Judge Francesca Marzari even issued an order authorizing Clark’s arrest “without warrant” by any police officer who might catch him referring to his daughter “as a girl or with female pronouns.”
Last Friday’s decision walked back these orders to some extent. The BC Court of Appeal opined that Clark’s comments did not constitute family violence and that Clark should be allowed to share his opinion on the case in private. However, the court still demanded that “in general,” Clark must “acknowledge and refer to [Maxine] as male,” and strictly prohibited Clark from speaking to the media about his case.
As mentioned in the court’s ruling, Maxine began taking testosterone in March 2019. In recent months, her voice has deepened, and she has begun to grow masculine facial hair.
Although Clark refused requests for a formal interview, this author has talked with long-standing friends and family. Saturday night, Neil Lavery, a longtime close friend of Clark’s, said Clark’s experience with the courts had “shaken [Clark’s] world” and his “faith in the political and legal system.”
“Anyone who could put themselves in his shoes and see what he’s gone through” would respect him, Lavery said. “Eventually, I think [Maxine is] going to realize that her Dad was sticking up [for her], trying to protect her,” he said.
In the meantime, Friday’s decision from the BC Court of Appeal likely removes any hopes Clark may have had of avoiding the irreversible effects of cross-sex hormones on his daughter. The next step of appeal, if taken, will be the Supreme Court of Canada. Clark previously indicated he would be willing to appeal his case all the way up to the Canadian Supreme Court, but it is unclear whether he will follow through.
*Clark and Maxine are not the real names of the father and daughter involved. Their identities have been concealed by court order. Court documents use the initials CD and AB, respectively, and media refers to Maxine as simply “Max.”