CINCINNATI - A Hamilton County judge has paved the way for a 17-year-old who wants to transition in gender to undergo hormone therapy. The case pitted the teen against his parents.
Sylvia Hendon, a visiting Juvenile Court judge, issued a ruling Friday granting legal custody to the teen's grandparents, who according to a prosecutor "accept their grandson for who he is." But the ruling comes with conditions.
Hendon said before hormone therapy can begin at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, the teen must be evaluated by a psychologist not affiliated with the hospital. That evaluation, Hendon said, should look at "the issue of consistency in the child's gender presentation and feelings of nonconformity."
Hendon noted that the teen's parents took him to Children's Hospital in November 2016 for psychiatric treatment for anxiety and depression.
"That diagnosis rather quickly became one of gender dysphoria," Hendon said, adding she was concerned that the director of the hospital's Transgender Health Clinic said 100 percent of patients seen by the clinic "who present for care are considered to be appropriate candidates for continued gender treatment."
The teen's parents opposed hormone therapy and, according to the teen's attorney, sought to maintain control over him and focused their case on denying his gender dysphoria. The diagnosis refers to someone who identifies their gender as being different from their biological sex.
Hendon said it was understandable that the teen's parents "were legitimately surprised and confused when the child's anxiety and depression symptoms became the basis for the diagnosis of gender dysphoria." She also said it was unfortunate the case had to be resolved in the courts.
"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," she said.
Hendon also called on state lawmakers to craft legislation that would give the juvenile courts a framework to evaluate a juvenile's right to consent to gender therapy.
A case like the one involving the Hamilton County teen will come up again, she said.
"That type of legislation would give a voice and a pathway to youth similarly situated," she said, "without attributing fault to the parents and involving them in protracted litigation which can and does destroy the family unit."
The teen was admitted to Children's Hospital's psychiatric unit in November 2016 after emailing a crisis hotline, documents say.
Based on what he told doctors, the hospital refused to return him to the custody of his parents and contacted Hamilton County Job and Family Services.
According to documents submitted by the teen's attorney, Thomas Mellott, he felt unsafe in his parents' home, "and was particularly in fear of his father, especially after the reprogramming attempts."
The teen reported that he was once forced to sit in a room and listen to Bible scriptures for more than six hours at a time, documents say.
JFS placed the teen in the temporary custody of his maternal grandparents, who on Friday were given full custody. His parents, Hendon said, have been paying for traditional therapy at Children's Hospital.
The teen will continue to attend high school and is excelling both academically and musically, Hendon said.
Living with Change, a local organization that supports transgender youth, said in a statement that it was grateful for Hendon's decision "to put the safety and medical care of the child first."