This High Court case concerns a sixteen year old child, referred to as PD, who from a young age has struggled with gender identity issues. Born a female, the child was adopted aged 6 by the parents referred to as SD and JD in the proceedings. It was not until aged 14 that the child revealed to his parents that he wanted to change his identity to become a male and his parents responded by referring him to a gender identity clinic where he was diagnosed with gender dysmorphia. In 2015 he changed his name by deed poll. However, his adoptive parents of ten years struggled to come to terms with his decision and continued to refer to him by his female birth name, ‘to his very great annoyance and distress’.
After two suicide attempts, P was taken into foster care after being discharged from hospital. From the tension caused by this situation, P decided he no longer wanted his parents in his life and refused for them to have access to any details of his life, including any medical treatment he was undergoing. Although the parents originally rejected this application, the parents accepted that they should not have access to his medical information and instead applied to the court to receive quarterly updates on his life in preparation for a reconciliation that they believe will happen eventually. This was strongly contested by their son.
Mr Justice Keehan stated in his judgement that “The situation in which P and the parents find themselves is extremely difficult for each party. The parents struggle to understand P’s position, feelings and his decision about his gender. He struggles to understand their complete lack of support and understanding. The upshot is that he, at 16 years of age, has decided to completely disengage from family life with them.”
Justice Keehan decided the best way forward was to respect the wishes of the teenager, stating: “The depths of his wishes are conveyed by his view that if he suffered a serious accident and underwent emergency surgery he would not want to wake and find his parents at his bedside.” Although he recognised this was a disappointing decision for the parents, he clearly stated he hoped his decision would help towards their reconciliation in the future.
To read the full judgement, please visit the England and Wales High Court decisions website.