Hamilton County, Ohio — A judge on Friday gave custody of a 17 year old girl to her grandparents rather than her parents, allowing them to make medical decisions for her.
The teen was born a girl. She says she wants to be a boy. Her grandparents support her medical transition. Her parents don’t want their child to undergo hormone treatment and reportedly continued to call her by her given name, rather than the name she chose.
According to court testimony, the girl claimed she became suicidal as a result of her parents’ refusal to accept that she wanted to transition to a male.
At 17, she is not old enough to decide to drink a beer.
According to news reports, in 2016, the girl was “diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorder, and gender dysphoria.” Her medical team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center testified the teen is improving mentally and emotionally through therapy and because her grandparents have created a supportive environment. They believe the teen should start hormone treatment as soon as possible to decrease ‘his’ suicide risk.
Judge Sylvia Sieve Hendon ruled that in addition to receiving custody, the grandparents can petition to change the child’s name in probate court. The teen will now be covered by the grandparents’ insurance.
While the grandparents, rather than parents, will be the ones to make medical decisions, before hormone treatment is allowed, the court ordered, the teen should be evaluated by a psychologist not affiliated with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, on “the issue of consistency in the child’s gender presentation, and feelings of non-conformity.”
A county prosecuting attorney argued that the parents want to stop the hormone treatment because it violated their Christian religious beliefs.
Donald Clancy of the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office said “Father testified that any kind of transition at all would go against his core beliefs and allowing the child to transition would be akin to him taking his heart out of his chest and placing it on the table.”
Clancy said that, although the father testified he “fully accepts” his child, he also testified that having the teen come home would “warp” his siblings’ perception of reality.
Thomas Mellott, the girl’s court appointed attorney, said the teen was forced to attend a Catholic school where she had to wear dresses and use her birth name.
“It caused additional trauma and anxiety,” Mellott said. “When you lack all hope, and when he thought this would all continue to happen to him, the suicidal ideation became more pronounced, and that is how he ended up where he was.”
The parents’ attorney argued that the child was not “even close to being able to make such a life-altering decision at this time.”
The parents’ attorney, Karen Brinkman, argued that “If the maternal grandparents were to be given custody, it would simply be a way for the child to circumvent the necessity of parents’ consent [for hormone treatment],” Brinkman said. “Parents believe custody of the child should be restored to them, so they can make the medical decisions they believe are in their child’s best interest until [the child] turns 18 years of age.”
In November 2016, the teen contacted a crisis chat service to say she felt unsafe in her parents’ home, according to the complaint. The teen reported that her father told her to kill herself, because she was “going to hell anyway,” according to a transcript of the closing arguments.
The complaint states that an investigation found that the parents temporarily stopped their child’s secular mental health counseling, seeking “Christian” therapy instead. The teen claimed she was forced to sit in a room and listen to Bible readings for over six hours at a time.
The parents’ attorney denied the allegations in court.
Brinkman said the parents’ objection to hormone treatment does not come solely from their religious belief. She argued that they “have done their due diligence contacting medical professionals, collecting thousands of hours of research and relying on … their observation of their own child … that led them to the conclusion that this is not in their child’s best interest.”
The grandparents’ attorney, Jeffrey Cutcher, told the court he would like the grandparents to help the child legally change her name, as even seeing her birth name on documents has caused trauma.
“The name has become a very big trigger,” Mellott agreed. “It has gotten to the point where my client mentioned that he doesn’t want to think about college at this point because the marketing materials he’s getting keep using the birth name. He gets really good grades. He is academically inclined and participates in the band and was really engaged in school, and then all the sudden, this happened. It’s been incredibly hard.”
The grandparents’ attorney argued that the court needed to act quickly.
“What we want to do in the coming months around May is plan for a high school graduation, throughout the summer and fall, plan for entrance into college. We don’t want to be planning for a funeral,” Cutcher said in his closing argument.
In the custody decision, Judge Hendon said the parents will have visitation rights and are “encouraged to work toward a reintegration of the child into the extended family.”
She also encouraged Ohio lawmakers to create legislation giving judges a framework in which they can evaluate a patient’s right to gender therapy.