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Monday, February 19, 2018

Custody Ruling Impacts Transgender Teen

transgender child custody
Ohio Judge Sylvia Hendon
Interesting custody cases involving transgender-minded teenagers are emerging from family courts around the country. Many of these cases pit the minor children against their parents, and bring grandparents into play.

On Friday, an Ohio family court ruling modified custody of a transgender-hopeful teenager, terminating his parents' rights and awarding custody to his maternal grandparents. Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Sylvia Hendon was moved by the high school student's desire to begin hormone therapy; the first step to transforming from the male to female gender.

In this case, known as In re: JNS, the teenager disagreed with his parents about whether he could begin hormone therapy. Eventually, things became so bad at his home over the past year, the teenager reached out via email to a crisis hotline and was admitted to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. 

From there, the teenager provided details of his home life and mental condition to doctors. The hospital refused to return the teenager to his parents and the matter was referred to the family court.

Over the past two years, the teenager's parents struggled with their son's deep depression. When they sought treatment from Children's Hospital, they were shocked by a diagnosis of acute gender diaspora [strongly identifying with the opposite of one's biological gender]. 

A juvenile abuse and neglect case opened last February and several "best interests" hearings were conducted to determine where the boy should live until he emancipated into adulthood. Placement was an issue because the boy's parents objected to case plans stating that Children's Hospital "would like" to begin hormone therapy consistent with the diagnosis of gender diaspora.

Eventually, and according to the family court judge, inexplicably, the hormone therapy case plan was withdrawn after the abuse and neglect charges were dropped. From there, the boy was interviewed by the judge and a 4-day trial was conducted in January on the maternal grandparents' petition for custody.

During trial, proofs went in detailing the boy's struggle with severe depression; about acute gender diaspora; about the role of the Children's Hospital Transgender Program; and the methods of treatment such as psychotherapy, hormone therapy, and surgical intervention. Judge Hendon expressed concern in her opinion and order that the director of the hospital's Transgender Program testified that 100% of all the patients seen were considered appropriate for continued transgender therapy. 

Therefore, the order changing custody to the maternal grandparents -who purportedly support the 17-year old's transgender ideation- entered last Friday; the order contained a few conditions. First, the teenager will undergo a psychiatric evaluation by a professional not associated with the hospital's transgender program; and the boy's parents were awarded reasonable visitation and were "encouraged to work toward a reintegration of the child into the extended family."

In papers filed with the family court, the boy stated that he fears returning to his parent's home. He claimed his parents are in denial of his gender diaspora and have attempted to reprogram their son by reading passages from scripture for up to six hours at a time.

Judge Hendon carefully articulated her rationale for changing custody:
The parents acknowledged the child expressed suicidal intent if forced to return to their home. 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.
The judge's opinion and order also called for legislation to provide a framework for courts to assess a juvenile's request to explore gender therapy. 

We here at the Law Blogger agree with Judge Hendon that many similar cases are "out there". Yet we are perhaps somewhat naively surprised that children have such acute sexual preference awareness and gender nonconformity alienation at such an early age.

Kids these days; they're growing-up fast, that's for sure.

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