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Parents of transgender kids want Alberta government to stay out of medical decisions

Sherwood Park mother Catie Jones has launched a petition against Premier Danielle Smith's planned policy changes affecting transgender and non-binary youth and adults. (Travis McEwen/CBC - image credit)
Sherwood Park mother Catie Jones has launched a petition against Premier Danielle Smith's planned policy changes affecting transgender and non-binary youth and adults. (Travis McEwen/CBC - image credit)

Some parents of transgender children say the Alberta government's policy changes affecting transgender and non-binary youth will interfere with the medical treatment their children need.

On Wednesday, Premier Danielle Smith introduced Alberta's new policy, which includes restrictions on puberty blockers and hormones for children 15 and under.

The Alberta Medical Association's pediatric section says there are benefits for patients to start puberty blockers as soon as they show signs as it will make future surgeries less invasive. Bottom surgery is always performed on patients 18 and older.

Two Edmonton-area mothers, both with 10-year-old daughters, worry what Smith's new policy will mean for them.

Catie Jones's daughter Samantha felt safe enough to tell her parents she was a girl.

Jones said she was terrified to learn the province plans to restrict the use of medication for youth 15 and under.

"The first time I read details of the policy, specifically the one restricting access to puberty blockers and hormone treatments, I burst into tears," she said.

Catie Jones's ten-year-old daughter Samantha.
Catie Jones's ten-year-old daughter Samantha.

Catie Jones's 10-year-old daughter Samantha. (Submitted by Catie Jones)

Jones said her daughter is already showing signs of depression, anxiety and gender dysphoria. Jones said Samantha feels uncomfortable and doesn't want to look at herself in the mirror.

Jones said her daughter was furious after learning what Smith announced on Wednesday.

'This is a big deal'

Anna Paranich's daughter Ellie knew she was a girl since she was two years old, Now 10, Ellie is in the same boat as Samantha.

Paranich said Smith is spreading misinformation about puberty blockers by telling people that the effects are irreversible when they aren't.

Paranich said it's recommended for trans children to start taking medication as soon as they start showing signs of puberty and she thinks Ellie is about 18 months away from that transition point. Paranich said Ellie has been seeing a specialist at the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton for two years.

Paranich said she plans to fight Smith's changes but will go elsewhere to get the medication Ellie needs.

"Developing facial hair or having her voice deepened, that would be very traumatic for her," Paranich said. "This is a big deal."

At a news conference Thursday, Smith defended her rationale for planning to restrict health-care options for youth.

"I am confident that Albertans do not want children to make irreversible decisions that impact their reproductive health," Smith said.

"I am confident that they don't think those are child decisions to make; that those are adult decisions to make."

The pediatric section of the Alberta Medical Association issued a statement on Thursday that spoke against the Alberta policy.

They said gender-affirming treatments are a medical decision involving the child, their parents, their doctor and other health-care providers.

"The doctor-patient relationship is inviolable and sacrosanct," the statement said. "Full stop."

But some parent groups support Smith's policy.

Jeff Park is the executive director of the Alberta Parents' Union. What Smith announced this week resolves many of the group's complaints.

The policy also requires parental notification if a student under 18 wishes to use a different pronoun at school. Parents need to give their permission if the child is under 16.

Park said his members are delighted by the changes.

"We've been hearing consistently from parents since the announcement came down and it's been overwhelmingly positive and a big step in the right direction," he said.

Smith hopes to table legislation this fall. Jones has launched a petition against the policy. She said her daughter has supports but she worries about the kids who don't.

Paranich wants the government to get out of medical decisions that are between Ellie, her parents, and her physician.

"Danielle Smith really espouses bodily autonomy and freedom of choice when it comes to things like vaccines," she said.

"But now she's taken away our choice to follow our recommendations by top physicians."

Paranich said she and her daughter plan to attend a rally in Edmonton on Saturday against Smith's policy.