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Judge denies transgender teen's name change request - parents appealing

Parents are appealing a decision made by an Ohio judge last month, denying a name change for their transgender teenager. (Image source: YouTube screencap)

The parents of an Ohio teenager are appealing a court's decision to deny their transgender son a legal name change.

What happened?

Kylen and Leigh Whitaker requested last month that their 15-year-old's name be officially changed from Heidi to Elliott.

Warren County Probate Judge Joseph Kirby declined the request, saying, "Whether [the teen] is experiencing gender dysphoria or is just not comfortable with her body is something that only time will reveal.

"Is [the teen's] distress brought about by confusion, peer pressure, or other non-transgender issues — or is it truly a mismatch between her gender identity and her body."

"Age. Develop. Mature," Kirby further wrote in his decision, reasoning that, "Adolescence is a time of fevered exploration. The Court is sympathetic to the parents of the child and their desire to assuage their child. In essence, the Court isn't saying 'no' to the name change. The Court is simply saying 'not yet.'"

Kirby told the teen to ask again "once you become an adult."

What are the parents saying?

The Whitakers insist that both they and Elliott are comfortable with formally changing the teen's name to the preferred moniker. Elliott has been in therapy at Children's Hospital Medical Center's transgender clinic since announcing the transition to his parents a year ago.

Leigh said, "We did a lot of therapy to make sure that this was something that was real."

Kylen added, "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. We just don't feel that's right."

According to Leigh, at the beginning of the hearing before Judge Kirby, "[the judge] 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."

Anything else?

LGBT rights attorney Josh Langdon —who is representing the family — said, "This appeal is a case of first impression in Ohio, and we will fight vigorously to ensure that [the teen] and his family are treated with dignity and respect.

"We hope the 12th District Court of Appeals moves quickly to overturn Judge Kirby's decision to put transgender children on trial."

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