Are 11 year olds old enough to decide their gender identity?

Photo by Alexander Grey
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Are there any other psychological conditions – besides gender dysphoria – where we allow 11-year-olds to self-diagnose?

John SikkemaOn Sept 10, the Toronto Star published an editorial called, “It’s a privilege, not a right, to know your kid’s gender identity” by Julia Malbogat. Julia is the mother of a transgender boy (i.e. biological girl) named Zack.

Julia knows her 11-year-old is trans because “He told us.” I wonder: Are there other psychological conditions besides gender dysphoria that we defer to 11-year-olds to self-diagnose?

How does Zack know, anyway? As Julia explained a couple of years ago, Zack learned about being trans from the Rainbow Alliance at his school. Julia is grateful to the Alliance “for giving Zack the word to name his feelings and his identity.”

“With few exceptions,” says Julia, “(Zack’s social transition) has been as nothingburger as it sounds.” But potential pharmaceutical intervention looms.

gender-identity-transgender gender dysphoria
<strong>Photo by <a href=httpsunsplashcomsharonmccutcheonutm source=unsplashutm medium=referralutm content=creditCopyText>Alexander Grey<a><strong>
Related Stories
Who should have control over a child’s gender identity?


New Brunswick’s pronoun policy ignites much-needed nationwide debate


Parents must be kept in the loop about their children


“By the time he has his first appointment at SickKids gender clinic,” Zack will be 12 years old and four years into his gender transition, meaning he will be eligible – since his trans identity will be considered consistent and persistent – for puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones according to transgender treatment guidelines.

Julia will support him in this, of course. But she laments that not all parents would. “Not all kids have the luxury of an LGBTQ+ tolerant home.” Julia flags a recent survey that suggests “fewer than one in three transgender and non-binary youth find their home to be gender-affirming.”

What to do? “So those of us who are (gender-affirming) need to band together to make sure the most important rights in this discussion – the rights of children to freely express their gender – are upheld and uplifted.” For one thing, this means keeping children’s “gender transition” at school secret from parents.

What does “the rights of children to freely express their gender” actually mean, and why is it the “most important” thing? What about children’s right to receive the care and guidance of the people who know them best and care about them most? What about the right of children to parental protection against an ideological fad that may lead them down a road to infertility, sexual dysfunction, and other serious side-effects?

Julia only gets to be involved in Zack’s transition, she says, because she has “earned the privilege of Zack’s true self”. (In this case, the “true self” is the mystical, spiritual male trapped in a female body.) You see, Julia is a gender-affirming parent, the kind worthy of children’s and governments’ trust. But the majority of parents (at least two-thirds, remember) are not.

The state should not trust or inform non-affirming parents about what happens with their children at school as it relates to “gender identity,” say Julia and others. Of course, the government only knows anything about a child’s self-identity because the parent has chosen to send their child to a state-run school.

Perhaps the best “non-affirming” parents can do is to pull their children out of public schools. But how much longer will we be free to not send our children to be educated by the state?

Maybe we should try it while we still can.

John Sikkema is a constitutional lawyer in Ottawa and the Director of Law and Policy for ARPA Canada.

For interview requests, click here.


The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

© Troy Media
Troy Media is an editorial content provider to media outlets and its own hosted community news outlets across Canada.

By John Sikkema

John Sikkema serves as ARPA’s in-house legal counsel. His litigation work focuses on constitutional and human rights issues. John has written extensively about these issues for both popular and scholarly publications. John also provides legal research and advice for ARPA’s board and staff, analyzes federal and provincial public policy issues, and contributes to ARPA’s publications. John returns to ARPA after two years in private legal practice with The Acacia Group, a Christian firm in Ottawa. John has acted as counsel in cases before numerous courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court, and several provincial appellate courts. John acted as co-counsel for ARPA in a precedent-setting Charter case that struck portions of the Ontario Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act that shielded abortion-related data in the government possession from public view. John earned an Honours BA in Political Science from Brock in 2011, a JD from Queen’s University in 2014, and an LLM from Emory University in 2019, where he was awarded the Gertie and John Witte Prize in Law and Religion “for outstanding work in law and Christianity.” John articled with a mid-sized law firm in Toronto and was called to the Ontario bar in 2015.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This