Despite ample evidence showing that simply respecting transgender teenager's identities is, on top of being the right thing to do, the best way to support them, people in the community still face innumerable obstacles. An Ohio teenager's parents are fighting back after their 15-year-old son was denied a legal name change, with the judge saying that teens don't have “the maturity, knowledge, [or] stability” to make this decision for themselves.
The family said in a statement that they thought the name change would be "just a formality," as "the child, both parents and medical specialists agreed that a name change was in our child’s best interest," Cincinnati.com reported. "Instead, it felt more like a 20-minute interrogation with very intrusive questions," the statement continued. Both parents had filed their consent to their son's name change, Cincinnati.com reported.
Despite the fact that the teen is receiving medical care that confirms the necessity of his legal name change, as currently his birth name appears on all of his school and medical records, Warren County Probate Judge Joseph Kirby denied the teen’s request on Jun. 22. Legally changing one's name is an important step in the process of confirming one's gender, but CBS Pittsburgh reports that, according to court documents, Kirby stated that “Children change significantly and rapidly” and that "only time will reveal" whether the teen experiences gender dysphoria, even though the teen has been officially diagnosed with it. He further stated that the teen could make the request to change his name once he was officially 18 years old. "In essence, the Court isn't saying 'no' to the name change" Kirby's decision stated. "The Court is simply saying 'not yet.'"
CBS also reports that the teen’s father stated that “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.” The teen’s parents also claimed that the judge further "questioned" if the teen's desire to change his name may have been influenced by media coverage of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, CBS reported.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that, in a footnote to his decision, Kirby noted that he felt using "they" pronouns would make the documents too hard to read, though he acknowledged that improperly using pronouns can be offensive to the transgender community. Kirby stated, "No disrespect is meant to the child in this decision."
An LGBTQ attorney, Josh Langdon, shared a press release on Facebook in response to Kirby’s ruling, which stated that “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.” CBS Pittsburgh also notes that Judge Kirby recently denied two other requests for name changes for transgender individuals, but has approved such cases on other occasions.
"No disrespect is meant to the child in this decision."
Langdon further noted that “There are federal constitutional issues here,” and went on to say that these First Amendment rights include “the parents (sic) right to decide the upbringing of their child, there’s also the child’s right to express himself.” As the teen will be applying for both a driver’s license and college in the coming months and years, it’s vital to his mental health and well-being that his name is legally corrected beforehand.
Supporting transgender folks of any age by respecting their names, pronouns, and identity is a critical part of making sure they feel safe and welcome in their communities. While parental support is paramount, the support of society as a whole is in some ways even more crucial.