Searching for true Four Corners and love

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Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume. But what if truly being yourself involved changing your gender? Would you have the courage to do it? Eleven-year-old Isabelle does. To the world she looked like a young boy. But she knew that she was really a girl, and a year ago she told her parents the way she felt.

This week Four Corners reporter Janine Cohen tells Isabelle's story and the story of the family, the doctor and ultimately the community that backed her decision to truly be herself. Along the way we meet other people who've confronted the same feelings and discover that a growing and ificant of children are finding themselves in the same situation.

Some find support from their parents and doctors. Others discover fear, prejudice and a legal system that doesn't make it easy for them to be themselves. For Isabelle, the decision to tell her story was not made lightly. She and her parents tell Four Corners that they are willing to speak about their experience so that others won't feel alone and other transgender children can be helped and protected.

Doctors tell the program that trying to repress the feeling that you are trapped in the wrong body simply does not work. Instead, it can lead to self harm and even suicide. Paediatricians also make it clear that timing is important. They explain that if children want to make a physical change, then treatment should begin at puberty. In that way, hormone treatments can be prescribed with far better. A senior judge tells Four Corners she is keen to see the law relating to transgender treatment tested sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, doctors and families warn the current legal situation is putting some children at risk. Isabelle's story is remarkable and inevitably raises many questions for families, doctors and society in general.

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Ultimately though, it's a journey that shows courage and honesty is essential to triumph over ignorance. It's a story that is not to be missed. It is replayed on Tuesday 18th November at You don't set out to measure these things but I can't think of a more powerfully poignant story that I've introduced than this one. Nor can I think of one more capable of suspending prejudice and creating understanding. It's about transgender children, the potential nightmare they have to confront, the lives that hang in the balance and a special brand of courage that is ultimately inspirational.

It involves first and foremost children, then their parents, skilful and dedicated health professionals and a more understanding court system. This is a very real social issue, more than you might think and one we can only reveal because people were prepared to put themselves on the line in an utterly compelling way.

There are three stories here of two girls trapped in male bodies and a boy who started life as a girl, the reporter is Janine Cohen. I think Hattie really adores Isabelle. She's looked up to her since she was really, you know as long as I can remember.

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I don't, I don't like my body, I don't feel right in my body. And I said well you know, what do you mean? And I think I started off on a tangent and said oh well you know lots of kids feel that way and um I sort of initially my thoughts were for Campbell then, it's oh geez what's life going to deal, um you know I had these sort of little images of you know standing with a rainbow flag and you know, I was all for it, it was going to be great.

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When Isabelle told me that night I sort of Andrew and I sort of said why couldn't she have just been gay laughs it would have been a lot easier than this, at that time that's what we'd sort of felt, and obviously they're two completely separate things. And from a toddler he always preferred girl's things. We had Lego and Matchbox cars had not interest in them. As soon as we're home from anywhere, straight into dress up, straight into either a mermaid tail or a Cinderella dress or fairy wings.

I didn't really know there was anything to do about it. I started looking up things. I just looked up what to do if you feel like a girl and I found all these websites and they were saying that you're able to get special surgery and that you can actually come out that way and Searching for true Four Corners and love found some videos too about some other children feeling that way. Just be true to yourself and express yourself. Like it was, she felt less alone and just came with Um and she watched it over and over again.

I don't see a future for myself I remember her saying one night. And that was awful begins to get upset and that like I just. I think for me that was the point where the confusion kind of melted away a little bit and you just sort of think well God we've only got one job here and this is to help her create a future that she can live with, that she can thrive in and um Studies show 30 per cent of young people who don't get treatment attempt suicide and 50 per cent self harm.

I'm not going to do anything that's going to you know make sure she does have a long and happy life. I was standing. His parents tried to get their child to conform. His parents had no idea. If my parents had of been able to access some support around it, it could have been really different.

I honestly believe they did the best they could with what they had. For young trans boys of the terror of breasts growing, of a menstrual cycle starting, which you know is just on every level so wrong for them and not natural for them. I'm now an 85 kilogram bear um laughs. ROB LYONS: So a person that transitions on testosterone late will be basically be appearing as your average male within twelve to 18 months and probably would have deepened his voice within three. Yeah so it was like, ouch, okay yep. And it kind of, I kind of a hit a point with it where I was like yeah you know what holding this And this is replicated across the western world, so the same s are being seen across America, across Europe.

And that's something that's only been around for about 15 years around the world, and probably only 10 years here in Australia. MICHELLE TELFER: That's the reason that we don't use any medical interventions until puberty has started because the evidence shows that if you look at the of children in early childhood who show gender non-conforming behaviour, only about 25 per cent of those children will identify as transgender in adolescence.

Some will be heterosexual. There's a If you decided in a couple of years time, so you are 11 now, say you were 13, 14, or 15 and you thought, you know I don't want to be a female, I'm going to go back to being Campbell, then we can stop the Zoladex. But if it does and it's really important to know that you can make this decision if it does happen we can stop this drug and your body goes back to how it would have been with no long term consequences.

So it makes There is a team of us that are involved um, and in the first instance it's a psychiatrist and an adolescent physician or an endocrinologist and we get a detailed assessment from the family. As doctors, every decision we make on a clinical basis is about weighing up the risks versus the benefits. And in this case what we have is a risk of self-harm and suicide that is extremely high, and yet a risk of regret that is very small. For this reason, Four Corners has gone to great lengths to disguise Jamie and her mother using facial prosthetics and digitally altering their voices.

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I just need, just my identity is private for the moment. JAMIE: It was very gradual cause at the start I was just wearing girly dress ups at my house and then I would go outside in the wide world just as a boy, but gradually I started to change things a bit like growing my hair longer, trying to wear boy's clothes in a girlish way.

ALISON: I think school became very difficult for her because school is very gendered and to have to fit into the role of a boy was extremely difficult for her. She would come home from school saying 'Mum I go to school disguised as a boy and it's so hard trying to be a boy'.

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And that language is very indicative of the deep understanding of herself as female. When she was around about seven she started to say suicidal things. Essentially, and that's a devastating thing to hear as a parent of whose very young so we knew that it was time to really do something.

She's very insightful, she's very clear, she's not precocious so I believe her and I've believed her all along that she's needed to do this. It's been difficult but because she is so true to herself she needed at least one person to have her back and because she is the amazing person that she is she's got way more than one person. The same as you would feel being a girl 'cause you just are a girl and there's nothing else to it.

ALISON: Unfortunately, that's created a really, really awful situation for young people who are transgender and it means that a lot of children are not able to access treatment in good time or even before they're 18 because they simply can't get access to lawyers and justice. And starting the puberty blockers for Jamie was a form of medical emergency for her, because she knew that once her voice broke she could never get by in a body that's congruent with her female gender identity.

We are not wealthy people and we could not have afforded it.

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If that's the case then your child misses out on treatment that's going to improve their lives incredibly and going to give them a future that they can happily walk into rather than a future that they're scared of and that they don't want. So the rest of the transgender population as a whole who can't get access to the court process. And what it has done is increased the morbidity and the mortality associated with gender dysphoria by decreasing access to treatment.

But the judge said she couldn't determine now what would be in Jamie's best interests in six years time when she would need the second stage of treatment - cross changing hormones. ALISON: We had requested that both stages of treatment be awarded at the same time and that second stage was not granted.

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We thought that was unfair because it meant that we would have to go back to court twice for the same diagnosis and the same treatment regime. They also challenged the court's jurisdiction arguing both stages of treatment should be decision of the child, their parents and doctors.

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Children would no longer have to go to court for puberty blockers. But to obtain the second stage of treatment the court would have to establish that the teenager was capable of informed consent known as Gillick competency. DIANA BRYANT: It relates to the child's capacity in a holistic and psychosocial way to give informed consent to the treatment so that in these kind of cases you'd want to be satisfied that the child concerned was aware of all of the problems, the risks, the dangers, you would want to know that the child was psychologically in a position where they could make these kind of decisions.

This time to establish their ability to consent to treatment. I don't think it is necessary to be honest. JAMIE: I don't think it's necessary that we have to go back to the court so they can decide if I'm Gillick competent 'cause that's just up to the parents and doctors I think. They would make DIANA BRYANT: I am confident that we can put in place a process which will be easily manageable and will not be expensive for parties to be able to come to court and get a decision about capacity to consent.

She's just another girl in class. DIANA BRYANT: I think society is changing about these issues as well, and I think it is important to remember that I think from what we've seen it's completely innate and when you read all the psychiatric reports and all the reports about how it affects a young person, it At 18 she hopes to take another big step. Like, I don't know It's weird.

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