An Ohio Judge Denied a Transgender Teen's Name Change and His Parents are Fighting Back

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click to enlarge An Ohio Judge Denied a Transgender Teen's Name Change and His Parents are Fighting Back
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When a 15-year-old transgender teen named Elliott went with his parents to obtain a legal name change in order to apply for colleges and receive a driver's license that matched his true identity, it seemed like nothing more than a formality.

Warren County Judge Joseph Kirby, however, denied the request this week claiming that teens lack the "maturity, knowledge and stability" to make such a decision, said court documents obtained by the Cincinatti Enquirer.

If this were truly the beliefs of Judge Kirby, one would think that having the approval of both Elliott's parents and the medical professional that has been treating him throughout his transition would be enough to prove knowledge and stability.

A CBS affiliate reported that Elliott’s father was extremely unhappy, stating “The judge met with us for 15 to 20 minutes and then decided that he knew better than the parents and the doctors and our child.”

Both of his parents also claimed that Kirby further "questioned" if the desire to change his name was motivated or influenced by media coverage of Caitlyn Jenner's transition, essentially relegating his gender affirmation to a nothing more than a fad.

"Whether [the teen] is experiencing gender dysphoria or is just not comfortable with her body is something that only time will reveal," Kirby wrote in his decision. "Is [the teen's] distress brought about by confusion, peer pressure, or other non-transgender issues – or is it truly a mismatch between her gender identity and her body."

It's important to note the blatant disregard Judge Kirby executed by referring to the teen as "her." The teen's name used by Kirby (which has been redacted from the original quote) is his deadname.

In a footnote to the decision, Kirby acknowledged that using pronouns improperly can be offensive to the transgender community, but said using "they" as replacement made the documents too hard to read, despite using "they" as a singular descriptor like "he" or "she" is still grammatically correct. And the reality is that many children start to define their gender identity as early as pre-school.

LGBTQ attorney Josh Langdon released a statement on Facebook, stating “Judge Kirby’s action not only deprives [the teen's] parents of their federal constitutional right to make decisions for [him], but it also completely ignores the decision of very talented medical professionals.”

It's also important to note that Judge Kirby presides in Warren County, the same area that made international headlines after transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide when her parents sent her to faith-based conversion therapy.

Friendly reminder, Ohio does not have a statewide law that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination, meaning LGBTQ Ohioans can be fired from their job, denied housing, asked to leave a public facility or denied access to the appropriate restroom. Ohio is also one of just four states (plus Puerto Rico) that does not allow transgender individuals to update the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their true identity.

Elliott's parents are determined to ensure their child's identity is respected and affirmed and have filed an appeal against Kirby's decision. Attorney Langdon told the Enquirer, “This appeal is a case of first impression in Ohio, and we will fight vigorously to ensure that Elliott and his family are treated with dignity and respect. We hope the 12th District Court of Appeals moves quickly to overturn Judge Kirby’s decision to put transgender children on trial." 

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