By Mila Madison
An attorney representing the mothers of three transgender teens in Ohio claims that Joseph Kirby, the Probate and Juvenile Court judge in Warren County, has shown a disturbing pattern and practice of not allowing transgender children to legally change their names. The filing also says the judge’s refusals can prove harmful to the teenagers and his rulings violate their constitutional right to equal protection.
Stephanie Whitaker, of Mason, is suing on the behalf of her 15-year-old son Elliott. In June, Kirby refused to allow him to change his name, telling the teenager he should come back when he turns 18. Jennifer Saul sued to protect her 15-year-old son James, who is set to have a hearing with Kirby on August 14th. A third woman, who is listed in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, says her 17-year-old son fears that Kirby will reject his name change petition, which has yet to be filed. All three teens have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and have the full support of their therapists and doctors to change their names.
According to the lawsuit, Kirby has refused to grant two other transgender teens their name changes because they are minors. The only approval for a transgender minor in Warren County this year has come from a court magistrate.
"Forcing children to wait until they're 18 to change their names increases their risk of being outed and bullied, having violence perpetrated against them and having depressive symptoms," attorney Joshua Langdon told the Associated Press. “It’s especially important for transgender children to be allowed to use their new names on their driver's licenses, school records and college applications.”
The Whitaker's claim that during Elliott’s hearing in June, Judge Kirby was asking him questions about what he does when he has to use a public restroom and whether he decided to transition after hearing about Caitlyn Jenner who he had deadnamed at the time. In his ruling, Judge Kirby claimed that Elliott lacked “the maturity, knowledge, and stability to make this decision.” He also mentions that it may be possible Elliott’s distress is brought upon by “confusion, peer pressure or other non-transgender related issues.” This comes despite Elliott’s diagnosis of gender dysphoria, consensus, and treatment from three medical professionals, and the fact that he have been living and presenting according to his gender identity. Contrary to the doctor’s recommendations regarding what is best for the child, Judge Kirby ultimately ruled that Elliott was “simply not ready to make this life-altering decision.” Kirby told Elliott to come back when he turns 18.
The lawsuit filed by the three mothers in this case brings to light an ongoing issue that is taking place throughout the courtrooms across the United States. Transgender teens are being denied their name changes even though there is medical consensus that it is in their best interest to do so, even when they have the full support of their parents and legal guardians. The outcome of this case could set a precedent that could affect transgender teens everywhere.