Compared to their cisgender peers, transgender youth are far more likely to experience mental health issues like depression. And although there’s concrete evidence that accepting a transgender teen’s chosen name and correct pronoun can help improve their mental health, some people are still unwilling to take this step. Recently, an Ohio judge ruled that one trans teen could not legally change his name because of the lack of “maturity” adolescents possess. However, the teen’s parents are challenging the judge’s decision and fighting back.
Cincinnati.com reported that, in a June hearing to determine whether or not the 15-year-old could legally change his name, Warren County Probate Judge Joseph Kirby denied the teen’s request. Kirby specifically noted that adolescents do not have “the maturity, knowledge, and stability” he felt were necessary to make the change. The site also noted that Kirby repeatedly misgendered the teen throughout his decision, claiming that using the pronoun “they” would make the document too hard to read.
But according to local CBS affiliate WKRC, the boy’s parents, Leigh and Kylen Whitaker, felt the ruling violated their son’s rights. They have decided to appeal Kirby’s ruling in the 12th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Whitakers told the news station that their son came out a year ago, and since then, has received therapy and medical care from the transgender clinic at a local hospital.
The teen’s father also noted that, “He (Judge Kirby) started out by asking us did this all start when all of this stuff came out in the media. And we didn’t know what he was talking about. And later on he clarified he was talking about when Bruce Jenner came out.”
The family’s attorney, Josh Langdon, shared a press release on Facebook after the ruling.
While the Whitakers’ son can use his preferred name in daily life, his birth name currently appears on all official documents and school records, which could have negative effects on his mental health — all because of a judge’s ill-informed and ignorant decision.
We sincerely hope the family wins their appeal. Everyone deserves to be recognized for who they are, and it’s time our legal system reflects that.