Ohio parents appeal after judge denies transgender teen name change


A mother and father in Ohio are appealing a judge’s decision rejecting a name-change request for their transgender child.

Leigh and Kylen Whitaker were in Warren County Probate Court Tuesday morning to appeal the decision by Judge Joseph Kirby to deny their request to legally change their 15-year-old son’s name.

During a hearing last month, some of the judge’s questions surprised them.

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"He 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,” Leigh said.

The Whitakers say Elliott, whom they named Heidi at birth, has been in therapy for a year and under the care of the transgender clinic at children’s hospital.

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

In his decision, Judge Kirby questioned whether Elliott was confused and wrote in part: “Children change significantly and rapidly.”

He continued: “Age. Develop. Mature,” and told Elliott to ask again when he becomes an adult. The Whitakers were aghast.

"I'm also upset that a judge who spent less than 20 minutes with our child in an intimidating setting knows better than both parents, the child, a licensed therapist and a doctor specializing in transgender issues,” Kylen Whitaker said.

The Whitaker’s attorney believes Judge Kirby’s decision violated their rights.

"There are federal constitutional issues here. Importantly, the parents right to decide the upbringing of their child, there's also the child's right to express himself, there are First Amendment issues,” attorney Josh Langdon said.

According to the family’s attorney, Judge Kirby rejected two other transgender name-change requests that same day.

The judge did grant other name change requests last year.