A judge in southwestern Ohio has ruled that a transgender teen can’t legally change his name, saying the teen youth is not mature enough to take that step.
The teen’s parents and his medical team support the name change, but Warren County Probate Judge Joseph Kirby ruled June 22 that he is too young to have the "maturity, knowledge and stability" needed to make the move, according to court documents obtained by Cincinnati newspaper The Enquirer.
The paper did not disclose the teen’s name but referred to him with male pronouns; the judge, in his decision, used female ones. The teen has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and is receiving treatment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
"Whether [the teen] is experiencing Gender Dysphoria or is just not comfortable with her body is something that only time will reveal," Kirby wrote. "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." He said he meant “no disrespect” with his pronoun use, but added that using gender-neutral pronouns,” such as “they,” would make the document had to read.
Kirby said the teen can use any name he wishes, but he cannot change his name on official documents, such as school records. He told the youth to seek the name change again “once you become an adult.”
Attorney Josh Langdon, who specializes in LGBT rights cases, objected to the ruling. “Judge Kirby’s decision ignores the reality that transgender teens are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide,” he told The Enquirer. He also said the ruling disregards the advice of the teen’s doctors and fails to recognize the parents’ right under the U.S. Constitution to make decisions for their child.
Langdon did not say if he would file a lawsuit on the family’s behalf or take any other action against Kirby or the court, but in a press release sent to The Enquirer, he said, “We will not let this stand.” Kirby’s ruling can be appealed to a higher court.
Langdon has represented transgender client Rachel Dovel, an employee of the Public Library of Cincinnati, who sued the library and the Hamilton County Board for coverage of her gender-confirmation surgery, The Enquirer reports. The library eventually agreed to cover it, ending the lawsuit.
Hamilton County this year has been the site of another transgender rights case, in which a teen’s parents seek to stop his hormone therapy. The teen, in the temporary legal custody of the county, lives with his grandparents, who support his transition. And Warren County was the home of Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen who took her own life in 2014 after being forced to undergo faith-based conversion therapy.