News feed: Berlin authorities endorse forced psychiatric treatment of a transsexual girl

A German child, who has been living as a girl since she started school nearly seven years ago, could be forcibly institutionalised in order to “cure” her transsexualism by encouraging her to take up boyish pursuits.

This, according to German publication taz.de, follows a ruling by the Berlin Kammergericht (Chanber Court) that Alex Kaminski (name changed) may be separated from her mother, with whom she now lives, and forcibly moved to a psychiatric ward in the Charité University hospital.

Nurse knows best?

The court has thereby agreed with the view of a nurse in the Berlin Youth Office that despite living as a girl for many years, Alex’ transsexuality has been induced by her mother.

Following treatment, where behaviours more “appropriate” to her biological sex would be encouraged, Alex would be transferred to the care of a foster family.

The situation arises because Alex’ mother and father have been separated for some time, and key decisions on her welfare have fallen to the Berlin Youth Office. Despite the fact that Alex has lived as a girl since beginning primary school, Alex’ father has recently made representations to the Youth Office arguing that her identification as female is entirely induced by her mother.

This view was supported by a nurse in the Youth Office – and, when Alex objected to having her gender questioned and, unwisely, may have expressed the view that she would rather die than grow up as a boy, led to an initial court ruling that she could be institutionalised.

In the course of this latest hearing, Alex and her mother requested that a formal psychiatric assessment be carried out. Separately, Hamburg sex researcher Hertha Richter-Appelt rejected the idea that Alex’ behaviour could be “cured” through therapy as an “antiquated point of view”. Nonetheless, there was no need for Alex to be institutionalised, since whether her transsexuality had been induced could be determined on an outpatient basis alone.

No hospital backing

The Charité has firmly rejected any suggestion that Klaus Beier, director of their institute for sexology and sexual medicine was advocating this approach: and they have gone so far as to warn that unless serious inaccuracies in German news reports are amended, they will take legal action.

In an official statement put out this evening, they stated:

“Prof. Beier has never commented on or proposed a therapy for “Alex”, neither advocating that Alex be encouraged towards more masculine behaviour, nor diagnosing Alex’ condition as induced by her mother.

“He has never met Alex, nor commented on the case: in the event that Alex was committed to the Charité she would not be seen by Prof. Beier but by the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy (DCAPPMP).”

They further add: “The DCAPPMP would not admit the child against the child´s or the mother’s expressed will – and the Charité would not accept a compulsory treatment. Moreover, it would not be possible to conduct a psychiatric assessment of the child without the child´s and the mother´s cooperation.”

This commentary raises the interesting question of whether, if other institutions take a similar line, it is even possible for the court’s ruling to be put into practice.

The court’s decision was soundly criticized by Alex’s lawyer, who called the decision “appalling”, adding that nowhere in literature is there support for the view “that transsexualism could be ‘induced’.

They went on: “This is an invention of the nurse, who would have talked only once for an hour with the child, whose own views on the matter they have ignored.

Attorney and family now plan an appeal to the pre-Federal Constitutional Court.

Growing outrage

Alarm over this case has been growing both locally and internationally. On Monday, a demonstration of around 250 members of “Action Alliance Alex” took place in front of the Berlin Senate Department for Youth, with the motto: “Stop the forced institutionalisation of Alex – now!”.

A spokesperson for this group said: “This story is not unique. Institutions such as the Youth Office and the Charité have been using coercion and psychological pressure to enforce their views on individuals! Race and gender identity is a right, not a disease. ”

According to one local lgbt activist, during this demonstration, a delegation was received by the State Secretary responsible for the Youth Department. She acknowledged for the first time the seriousness of the case, and while the State Department cannot direct the Berlin Youth Office in matters of this sort, it has agreed to put itself forward as mediator. A roundtable involving all parties is now expected to follow.

A petition is also under way at online site change.org.

Addressed to the Mayor of Berlin Klaus Wowereit, it says: “This young girl will be taught how her feelings are wrong, and pushed more into the denial that has claimed the lives of so many transgendered people, thanks to biased decisions by the Youth Welfare office this child’s life could be irrevocably ruined.” So far, nearly 12,000 people have signed.

The action committee concerned with this issue brings together around 15 different organisations and meets on alternate Sundays: its next meeting is scheduled for 1 April at the offices of TransInterQueer in Berlin.

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18 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Natacha said,

    If this is really a case of “induced transsexuality” it really is a world first, even with the aid of surgery and a senior psychologist no-one could make David Reimer believe he was a girl.

  2. 2

    Emily said,

    I am so sad to hear of the horrible treatment of Alex. Having finished my transition in Germany, I was shocked by how some parts of the medical system holds very outdated views. The system is very patriarchal and a lot of the processes seemed to be more to protect the doctors than to help the patients.

    It’s very much a lottery whether one lands in the hands of an open-minded professional using updated approaches to transsexualism or whether one is left fighting a system with some very old-fashioned views.

    My heart goes out to poor Alex and others left in the clutches of the parts of the system which view trans people very unfavourably.

  3. 3

    Shirley Anne said,

    I would say that if indeed Alex wasn’t really transsexual that to determine her/his proper gender for her/his own sake is a good thing but I hesitate to add that any assessment and traetment should be persuasive rather than aggressive. Forcing a child to be what they are not is despicable and authoritarian. If however Alex is proved to be a girl then she needs all the help she can get to be able to live as the girl she is. I am afraid for Alex if this organisation is given the authority to do whatever it feels is right when we all know what they are suggesting is totally wrong.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  4. 4

    Elena Drenth said,

    Apart from the inhumane, downright sickening proceedings happening in a so-called civilized, modern and open-minded sociery – I cannot fathom, or believe, the cruelty of a father signing his own child away into institutionalisation, instead of trying to understand it and communicate with it. If Alexandra gets locked away, I will report myself at the authorities and demand the same be done to me, for I am transsexual as well. Let’s see if any treatment can “cure” me.

  5. 5

    OMG. This is the classic problem with transsexual children and parents. One parent supports the child and the other does not and enter the courts unfortunately. In all cases but one of the kids I have been involved with where we helped them financially through this nightmare both parents were supportive. In the one case, the first actually in 1972, the father was dead. We could not take the risk to help kids with opposing parents which was sad.

    In many ways this is reparitive therapy and another example of an attempt to validate John Money’s belief anyone can be groomed to be a boy or a girl. Everyone seems to forget about David Reimer.

    I had the misfortune to have an interaction with John Money shortly after I met Dr. Benjamin and on a television show in early 70’s with him in Philadelphia. He was an asshole in both meetings because I contradicted his beliefs because I grew up with only boys toys around me.

    I really fear for the safety of this child’s sanity in the short term but also in the long term. I am really surprised the German’s cannot just look at Kim Petras and see what is the correct way to handle this.

    Transsexual children are the most vulnerable of all and from personal experiences I can tell you Psychiatrists can be evil and vicious with transsexual children and reparitive therapy is one short step from aversion therapy. This is not a mental illness.

    I know I would have killed myself if they had forced me to go back to 100% boy. I also fear for this child’s life. She could easily become very self destructive.

  6. 6

    cassandraspeaks said,

    What I find really stunning about this case is that in the face of the public reaction this child will still in all probability end up in the care of people who will carry out reparative therapy. Quite rightly everyone is protesting that Alex should be allowed to express herself andbe helped to deal with what is an easily managed condition when recognised early. Yet In UK children are routinely denied any treatment by the Portman Clinic who are charged with the care of ALL transsexual children until they are 16 and by then puberty has done irreparable damage to the child’s future. Yet amazingly there are no marches no protests no petitions and no campaigns. Could it that it’s because they are not 60 years old and the Father of four kids and therefore not important enough for the transgender crowd to get worked up about. Surely not.

    Well written Jane, however, will anyone do anything in support of UK kids?

  7. 7

    Cassandra, it’s a good question, but a tricky one. I think there’s various issues which arise with campaigning ‘about’ people, especially young people, that lead to campaigns happening and not.

    Most importantly, people do need to lead their own campaigns and consent to them and the approach. Not everybody wants visible campaigning about them and not every family (or their lawyers) will feel it is helpful, especially when legal processes are in course. Speaking on behalf of an individual without their consent and full sight of the facts as they see them is disempowering and can be misleading. Even if a story has hit the public media, doesn’t make the person and their individual situation public property.. if we make it such we’re buying into the same power structure of those who think an outsider has a right to impose gender on children (or anyone else) as if it has something to do with them.

    When we campaign about general issues – say trans policies in hospitals, or sexuality laws – we are campaigning about things we’re personally affected by and have a moral right to speak about them – all of us, including various viewpoints and counter campaigns etc. Not so when we’re outside a court waving placards ‘about’ someone else though.

    What we can do is limited without involvement of the people concerned. Which leaves us with the starting point Jane is at here: raising awareness of the sharing the facts so people know what is going on.

    Crossing fingers for the young lady concerned. Sounds like the wishes and recommendations of the professionals initially involved won’t be met by the doctors in the system she is being forced into, which is good news. Hints there of the whole thing being potentially overturned with higher level doctors pointing out a mistake on behalf of low level professionals I reckon. Could be ultimately educational for the welfare system, but it ripping a child’s life and their identity apart in the process is unforgivable.

    Here’s hoping the best possible outcomes from here in.

    • 8

      janefae said,

      Spot on. This line betwixt campaigner and responsible fellow human is always difficult. Sat in my inbox right now are three cases that absolutely deserve exposure. I am salivating at the prospect of writing about them. But for now, at least, i am under a vow of silence, because all that i know about these cases i have discovered through my privilege as journalist and – more important – activist in this area.

      So i must respect the individual decision and wait and wait – even on those occasions where i think them absolutely wrong to take the line they do.

      Even harder in cases, of which i also know a couple, where an individual or group most closely associated with an issue takes this view: yet the issue has much wider currency… affects tens, hundreds, thousands of others. There is certainly an argument there that the person protecting their privacy at the expense of others maybe is on shaky ground. Which is a debate and a half in itself, and one without easy answers.

      jane xx

  8. 9

    cassandraspeaks said,

    I understand your points, both of you; I am not without some experience and knowledge in these issues. I was trying to make the point somewhat clumsily I guess, that the current policy of subjecting children to a “wait and see” regimen is extremely harmful and will always produce a less than optimum outcome.

    The simple fact is that the use of statistics as an excuse to withhold treatment fails to take into consideration that type VI or high intensity transsexuals are not quite rare but are extremely rare. Portman and WPATH use the excuse that of the children presented to them only a few still seek treatment for transsexuality after the age of 16. There are few in number simply because they are indeed the type VI children. I would understand if these kids were hard to recognize and diagnose but they are not. They are very obvious. One WPATH board member has claimed repeatedly that no-one under the age of 16 knows they are transsexual. It’s simply rubbish. The kids like Alex and Kim Petras know and are very sure years before age 16

    Arguing the case for timely intervention i e 13/14 with hormone therapy surely does not require specific cases to be revealed. I hesitate to use myself as an example but I can tell you that at 13 I was fully aware my anatomy was wrong and decades later that has not changed. I have also witnessed similar cases to my own and have reliable information concerning children of that age who are currently thriving due entirely to their early treatment.

    These are thorny issues it’s true but they need to be faced and faced in UK The current policy surrounding young transsexuals is totally unacceptable and borders on cruelty. The current focus and the bulk of resources are biased towards older patients where outcomes are frankly not that great. The balance needs to be redressed. The costs in the long term both fiscally and practically would be far less.

    • 10

      Sandy said,

      While I totally respect what you are saying and have heard of similar stories, I do not think it is always as simple as some would like to make out.

      I know of a case, where a person born female was profoundly sexually abused, raised in a pedophile ring. The child was finally removed by child protection at the age of 12. They are acutely fearful of men and will not be anywhere near any male at all. If they see a male walking down the street and go and hide behind a tree, anything at all to get away from them. They refuse to be in the same room as a male. This includes male students at school.

      They got a lawyer and demanded access to hormone therapy so they could become a male. Activists such as yourself, claimed that these children ALWAYS know exactly what they are doing it would do irreversable damage to the child not to allow them to have male hormones. Others felt that it seemed pretty questionable that a child who was acutely distressed by the presence of males that they could actually want to be a male.

      The court ruled that they were allowed to be given hormone blockers to stop them from going through purperty, but not hormone replacement to allow them to go through male purperty. They also demanded that the child be given trauma therapy and allowed to process what had been done to them and to try to enable them to feel safe around males. The court also ruled that NO ONE was to try and force the child to be a girl and that they be allowed to wear the clothes that they liked, to take part in whatever hobbies they wanted, etc, providing they were age appropriate not gender appropriate.

      Personally I think the court made a very good decision. I personally fail to see how someone who is so acutely afraid of males can make an informed decision to want to be one. The child needs time to heal, if at all possible from the horrors that have been placed upon her. Surgically changing her gender and placing her on hormones for life for a gender they are scared of being near, seems a strange way to deal with such issues. And yes, maybe they really will want to be male, but personally I fail to see how a child in that situation can possible make an informed decision. How can a child want to be something they are too scared to be near??

      I know well and truly that MOST cases are not like this. But what amazed me was how many advocates came out saying that The child should be given surgery now, as well as immediate hormone treatment and that the childhood had nothing to do with it and there acute fear of men was nothing to be concerned about.

      I have a problem with what is being suggested in this article. I see no reason why there should be a need to remove a child and to give them therapy to become a certain gender. But that does not mean that at some times, some other things do need to be considered.

      • 11

        janefae said,

        A couple of reactoins of my own.

        First, i would be interested to know more about the case you cite: was it made public? Where reported?

        Second, there is a world of difference between what you are writing about here and what is alleged in the German case. As in many other cases in the UK and elsewhere.

        No-one is proposing that the girl, currently aged 11/12, should undergo gender re-assignment procedures or transition at this age. The principal request seems to be that since she wishes to live as and grow up as a girl, she should be permitted to do so and not be forcibly “re-socialised” as a boy.

        That feels like a simple enough ask.

        The second request that may follow on from that is that she be permitted to take hormone blockers, thereby stopping puberty. Another rasonable request from someone who has now lived for more than half their life a gender other than that to which they were assigned at birth.

        Nowhere in the story has there yet been any hint of abuse, or any suggestion that the individual concerned has been co-erced in any way.

        So while i respect your own concerns, i don’t really think they apply here.

        Jane x

      • 12

        Sandy said,

        I NEVER said that the case I cited was relevant to the case mentioned. In fact I stated that as such. It was in response to someone else who stated that it was not unreasonable to allow a 13 year old to undergo hormone replacement therapy. In fact in the case I cited the child was allowed to take hormone blockers. I said that I had NO problems with the case mentioned, but I also mentioned that simply allowing ALL children to be given hormone replacement, which is very different to hormone blockers is not necessarily something to be taken lightly. Obviously that is not something you and others are able to consider. In the case I mentioned the child was ALLOWED to have what you said is what is being requested here, ie, to be allowed to be whatever gender they wanted in day to day life, ie, in terms of clothes, hobbies, etc, and to be allowed to take hormone blockers. They are very reasonable requests yes, and ones which 99% of the population would consent to. It is when you demand access to hormone replacement, which is VERY different from hormone blockers and even surgery at a young age that things become different. You need to be clear about what you are asking for and why. You say that what is being requested here is reasonable and I agree totally with that. BUT then in comments, you and others state that EVERYTHING should be given.

      • 13

        janefae said,

        Sorry. Part of the iossue here may be that i tend to reply to comments as they appear in my comment stack, which is easier for editing and the like…but means i lose track of how they are threaded.

        So i thought you were responding to the main piece and drawing a comparison that i accept you weren’t.

        Beyond that, let’s rewind. If that’s all you were saying, i have no probs with it. At the same time, though, i am not sure about my saying in comments that everything should be given? Did i? In the context of this story?

        That certainly doesn’t feel right – or particularly in line with what i would usually say.

        jane xx

  9. 14

    […] supportive of her. Thankfully the hospital in question wants nothing to do with this. As Jane Fae explains, the doctors have refused to attempt forced “cure” and have threatened to sue newspapers over […]

  10. 16

    […] from Jane Fae’s blog Related content: Paging Dr Mengele Better Related Posts PluginTransadvocate contributor: Jane Fae […]

  11. 17

    Sh387 said,

    Oh please Cassandra, with the type 6 nonsense. You are just as transgender as the rest of us, so get over it.

  12. 18

    […] News feed: Berlin authorities endorse forced psychiatric treatment of a transsexual girl (janefae.wordpress.com) […]


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