Transgender Teen Ohio Custody

Parents Lose Custody Rights After Refusal to Allow Transgender Hormone Therapy

Cincinnati, OH— On Friday, Hamilton County, Ohio judge Sylvia Sieve Hendon took a transgender teenager away from her parents, and awarded custody to her grandparents, due to the parents’ refusal to allow their 17-year-old daughter to undergo hormone treatments or call the child by her chosen male name, according to court records.

The case began when the parents took their daughter, who had lived as a gender-conforming female until 2016, to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for treatment of the teen’s depression and anxiety, where they were “surprised and confused” by the diagnosis of gender dysphoria, the court decision noted.

An article in The Washington Times reported that court records show the legal dispute began in February 2017, when family services alleged parental neglect and abuse and sought temporary custody of the child. The allegations of neglect and abuse stemmed from the parents’ refusal to allow their daughter to undergo hormone treatment or call their daughter by her chosen male name.

According to the report in the Washington Times:

Those allegations were dropped in subsequent adjudication, but the child was nonetheless placed in the temporary custody of family services and ordered to remain in residence with her grandparents.

Shortly after that, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital recommended the 17-year-old undergo hormone therapy at the hospital’s Transgender Health Clinic. The parents objected, citing their religious beliefs.

Family services then sought to terminate the temporary custody arrangement and grant full legal custody to the grandparents. Both grandparents filed petitions for full legal custody in December.

Although they objected to the transition treatments, the parents continued to pay for therapy sessions at the children’s hospital.

Prosecutors for the state argued that hormone therapy needed to begin as soon as possible to prevent the teen from becoming suicidal, and claimed that the child was traumatized by her parents’ refusal to call her by a male name. According to a CNN report, the grandparents’ attorney, Jeffrey Cutcher, told the court that “even seeing [her] birth name on documents has caused trauma.”

The New American reported:

The girl herself alleged that she felt unsafe in her parents’ home, saying her father had told her to kill herself because she was “going to hell anyway,” and that she was forced to attend “Christian” therapy that consisted of listening to Bible verses for hours on end.

The parents’ attorney, Karen Brinkman, denied the allegations and said the parents’ objections were not solely based on their religious beliefs. She maintained 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.” In fact, they believe hormone therapy “would do more harm than good,” she said.

“It does not appear that this child is even close to being able to make such a life-altering decision at this time,” Brinkman said, adding that granting custody to the grandparents “would simply be a way for the child to circumvent the necessity of parents’ consent.”

The parents ultimately agreed that regardless of the custody decision, living with the grandparents was in the best interest of the child.

The order specifies that although the teen can legally change her name, prior to undergoing hormone therapy she must be “evaluated by a psychologist who is not affiliated with the current facility where [she] is receiving treatment, on ‘the issue of consistency in the child’s gender presentation, and feelings of non-conformity,’” according to a report by CNN.

In her decision, Judge Hendon wrote, “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.”