A Hamilton County, Ohio, judge took a transgender teen away from her parents on Friday because they refused to allow the 17-year-old to undergo hormone treatments as part of a female-to-male transition.
Judge Sylvia Sieve Hendon awarded custody of the teenager to her grandparents, who will be allowed to make medical decisions for the minor and legally change her name.
The parents objected to the transition procedures because of their religious beliefs and refused to call their daughter by her chosen, male name, court records show.
“It is unfortunate that this case required resolution by the Court as the family would have been best served if this could have been settled within the family after all parties had ample exposure to the reality of the fact that the child truly may be gender-nonconforming and has a legitimate right to pursue life with a different gender identity than the one assigned at birth,” Judge Hendon wrote in her decision.
The custody battle lasted more than a year and included interventions by the Hamilton Country Department of Jobs and Family Services and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where the child is being treated.
The parents ultimately agreed to let the minor reside with her grandparents for the remaining months of her adolescence. The child’s grandparents will be allowed to pursue transition treatments recommended by the child’s doctors after a court-ordered independent psychiatric evaluation.
“Evidence was presented that the parents agree that the child should remain with the maternal grandparents and continue to attend the high school at which the child is excelling both academically and musically,” Judge Hendon wrote in the decision. “The child wishes to remain in the care of the grandparents. The grandparents are suitable caregivers and have demonstrated an ability to meet the child’s needs.”
According to the decision, the legal dispute began in February of 2017 when family services sought temporary custody of the child, alleging parental neglect and abuse.
Those allegations were dropped in subsequent adjudication, but the child was nonetheless placed in the temporary custody of family services and ordered to remain in residence with her grandparents.
Shortly after that, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital recommended the 17-year-old undergo hormone therapy at the hospital’s Transgender Health Clinic. The parents objected, citing their religious beliefs.
Family services then sought to terminate the temporary custody arrangement and grant full legal custody to the grandparents. Both grandparents filed petitions for full legal custody in December.
The parents initially sought treatment for their daughter’s anxiety and depression at the children’s hospital, where they were “legitimately surprised and confused” by the diagnosis of gender dysphoria, according to Friday’s decision. She had lived as a gender-confirming girl until 2016.
Although they objected to the transition treatments, the parents continued to pay for therapy sessions at the children’s hospital.
The parents also said their daughter had threatened to commit suicide if she were forced to return to their home. In medical records admitted during trial, however, the child’s doctors said she was not a suicide risk.
Judge Hendon concluded her decision with a plea for legislation that would give the juvenile court a “framework by which it could evaluate a minor petitioner’s right to consent to gender therapy.”
“What is clear from the testimony presented in this case and the increasing worldwide interest in transgender care is that there is a reasonable expectation that circumstances similar to the one at bar are likely to repeat themselves,” she wrote.
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