An Australian court has allowed a family to pursue surgery for their five-year-old intersex child. From The Australian:

The child, known as Carla, was born with ambiguous genitalia. Doctors at first thought the infant was female but tests revealed that while Carla had no female reproductive organs, male gonads were tucked inside her body. Her genitals resembled that of a female.

Such babies were once, and often erroneously, called hermaphrodites but are today more commonly known as intersex. For much of the 20th century parents were encouraged to assign a gender to them, and then opt for surgery. This approach is today rejected by many in the emerging intersex community, who argue against “medically unnecessary surgery” on children.

Carla’s case was decided by Family Court judge Colin Forrest in January, whose reasons were initially reserved but have now been published. Carla was born with the “external appearance of a female child” but when her mother ­noticed swelling around the vulva, more tests were done, ­revealing that she was “genetically male”. “Her loving parents, after ­obtaining expert medical advice and support, determined to rear her as a female,” the judgment says.

They opted for surgery to ­“enhance the appearance of her female genitals” while she was still an infant. Then, when Carla turned five, they decided to clarify whether they needed to seek a judge’s permission for more complex surgery, including the ­removal of gonads.

The court determined that the parents were well within their rights to pursue surgery for Carla, and did not have to consult the court. The court heard that Carla “enjoys toys and colours that are stereotypically female, for example, having pink curtains, a Barbie bedspread and campervan, necklaces, lip gloss and ‘fairy stations’”.

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