We interviewed Bex and James Naylor, parents of Willa, a 7 year old trans activist from Malta. 

As a family of activists they have been raising awareness about the experience of trans children in Malta, Bex and James are the Family Support Officers at Gender Liberation, and Willa is the youngest activist in the recently set-up Maltese NGO. Even though a new law has passed in Malta, they believe there is still lots to be done, both on a local and international level, which is why they have joined this campaign for the International Day of Action for Trans Depathologisation.

In April this year, the Gender Identity, Gender Expressions and Sexual Characteristics (GIGESC) law passed in Malta, James said “it was a great moment, and one which we will cherish for a long time”, because the law affords many rights to trans persons, including the right to self-determination. This means that no one needs to provide proof of any surgical, medical, psychiatric or psychological treatment to be allowed to legally change their gender.

“Being told you have a ‘disease’, is extremely harmful”,

Bex and James are completely against the Gender Incongruence in Childhood being listed in the ICD-11. They argue that the pathologization of children, “being told you have a ‘disease’, is extremely harmful”, when all children are doing is connecting with and expressing their gender, and should be allowed to do so like everyone else is.  They emphasise that “stigmatizing gender diversity in childhood only gives more fuel to the transphobic persons in this world.”

As parents of a trans child they were concerned that ‘gender incongruence in childhood’ is listed in the International Classification of Diseases, particularly because others could use this classification as a tool to deter them from supporting their daughter, and it could further stigmatise Willa and keep people from accepting her.

“We made the choice, we made the decision that we had to listen to our child, because we love her unconditionally.”

Trans children only need to go through social transition, and therefore having a category in the ICD-11 that pathologizes gender diversity in childhood is completely unnecessary. Willa’s transition at school has been received positively by children and teachers alike. Bex believes it comes down to a number of things; Willa’s attitude, strength and openness, but also the simple manner in which children deal with things.

“Willa is so much happier now; and other children can see that, and they accept it.”