Metro Weekly

Ohio parents appeal judge’s decision blocking transgender child’s name change

Judge ruled that name change request was "not reasonable and proper or in the child's best interest at this time"

Photo: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

The parents of a transgender boy in Ohio have appealed a judge’s decision refusing to grant a name change to better reflect their son’s gender identity.

Judge Joseph Kirby, of Warren County Juvenile Court, had rejected the request for a name change after asking 15-year-old Elliott Whitaker and his parents, Stephanie and Kylen, a series of seemingly biased and awkward questions about when Elliott had decided to transition and whether he understood the effect transitioning might have on his life going forward.

Kirby penned a decision in which he referred to Elliott by his birth name and misgendered him by referring to him with female pronouns. Kirby’s primary objection seemed to be Elliott’s age, writing in his ruling that “children change significantly and rapidly” as they age and noting that Elliott can pursue a name change when he turns 18.

He noted that Elliott’s birth name will still be used for the next few years on official school documents, as well as his driver’s license and any future passport or college applications he applies for, as Ohio law does not allow transgender people to change their name or gender on driver’s licenses or vital records unless they first obtain a court order.

While he acknowledged that changing Elliott’s name to reflect his gender identity would “resolve some of the feelings of distress,” Kirby maintained that allowing the change was not “reasonable and proper and in the child’s best interest at this time.”

In court, the Whitakers testified that Elliott was diagnosed with gender dysphoria a year ago and has undergone extensive therapy at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s transgender clinic during that time.

Elliott identifies as male, and has cut his hair and wears clothes that match his gender identity. His family and close friends have been supportive of his transition and refer to him by his male name.

The family was stunned by Kirby’s decision, feeling that he impulsively decided how to rule after only hearing from Elliott’s parents for 15 to 20 minutes. They previously filed a lawsuit against Judge Kirby, alleging that his ruling was unconstitutional.

This week, they finally appealed Kirby’s decision. That means that a higher court will be able to weigh the facts of the case and consider whether to overrule Kirby while their lawsuit alleging constitutional violations moves through the courts.

This isn’t the first case from the Greater Cincinnati area involving transgender youth to come before the court. In February, a family court judge ruled that a transgender boy, who was also a patient of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s transgender clinic, should be allowed to receive hormone therapy against the wishes of his parents, who had refused to acknowledge his gender identity. The boy has since started undergoing therapy and is living with his grandparents.

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