The parents of a 15-year-old transgender teen in Ohio have filed court documents to challenge the decision of a Warren County probate judge, who has denied their son’s request to legally change his name. Reports from Cincinnati.com state that the judge, Joseph Kirby, ruled that the teen was not allowed to legally change his name because adolescents lack the “maturity, knowledge, and stability” he deemed necessary to make those kind of choices.
The teen, who was given the name Heidi Claire Whitaker at birth, is already referred to in public as Elliott John Whitaker. However, Kirby wasn’t supportive of the legal adjustments.
“Adolescence is a time of fevered exploration,” continuing, “The Court is sympathetic to the parents of the child and their desire to assuage their child. In essence, the Court isn’t saying ‘no’ to the name change. The Court is simply saying ‘not yet,'” Kirby wrote.
According to WKRC-TV, the teen’s parents, Leigh and Kylen Whitaker, issued a statement saying they felt the judge’s ruling violated their constitutional rights.
“We thought that since the child, both parents and medical specialists agreed that a name change was in our child’s best interest that the hearing would be just a formality. Instead, it felt more like a 20-minute interrogation with very intrusive questions,” Leigh said.
They have since decided to appeal Kirby’s ruling in the 12th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Whitakers told the news station that their son had already come out over a year ago, and has since received therapy and medical care from the transgender clinic at a local hospital.
For transgender and gender nonconforming individuals, a name change is a critical part of finally stepping into their true selves and LGBTQ rights attorney Josh Langdon seems to be of that same mind.
Langdon, who has been quite vocal on social media in an attempt to stir up support and bring attention to the issue, said that the family feels that their child is on trial for being transgender, when all the teen wanted was a legal name change to reflect his rightful gender, according to Cincinnati.com. Langdon said the appeal could set precedent in the state and will be the first of its kind in front of the court.
“This appeal is a case of first impression in Ohio, and we will fight vigorously to ensure that (the teen) 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,” Langdon said.
Cincinnati.com also mentioned the fact that throughout the hearing, Kirby constantly used the wrong pronoun to address the teen, saying that using the pronoun “they” would make the document too difficult to read.