The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, August 31, 2021 1:00 am

Appeals court rules against transgender teen's request

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – An Allen County transgender teen who wanted to change his gender marker on his birth certificate won't be allowed to under an Indiana Court of Appeals ruling Monday.

His mother filed the petition for her minor child, and both parents supported the move. But Allen Superior Court Judge Andrew Williams denied the request and a 2-1 appellate ruling said the “trial court did not clearly err by denying mother's petition for a gender marker change for H.S.”

The teen and his parents can appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.

A dissent disagreed with the finding, saying “it should go without saying that H.S.'s parents, who have known him since his birth, are infinitely more capable than the trial court of judging what 'happiness' means to their child and what is in his long-term best interests with respect to his gender identity.”

The case was filed in September 2020 and was a dual request – a name change and to change the gender marker from female to male on his birth certificate. Williams held a hearing in March and ruled in April – granting the name change but denying the gender marker change. He also sealed the case from public access.

The Indiana Court of Appeals opinion written by Judge Mark Bailey said the parents didn't submit enough medical documentation to prove it was in the best interest of their child.

“Clearly, the totality of the child's medical history is highly relevant. But here the parents decided to forgo expert testimony or the proffer of any relevant medical records, in favor of their conclusory testimony prompted by their teenager's relatively recent disclosure,” the ruling said.

Williams in his trial court ruling also said “(a)ny parent who has raised a teenager is well-aware that their thoughts, opinions and wishes change rapidly. Teenagers are full of hormones and emotions which often results in impulsive, short-sighted decisions. At this age, teenagers are also easily influenced by peer pressure, trends and pop culture.”

That drew a rebuke from dissenting Judge Terry Crone.

“These are not specific findings based on the evidence actually presented to the court; these are blatant and biased overgeneralizations,” the dissent stated. “There is no indication that H.S.'s decision to change his gender via a medical procedure was impulsive or the result of peer pressure or pop culture influences.”

The dissent also said plenty of evidence was provided. This included a letter from H.S.'s doctor saying his sex “has been changed by medical procedure from female to male.” A letter from a licensed mental health counselor also was submitted saying the teen had been seen for issues related to gender identity.

The counselor said the teen had already begun testosterone therapy and the counselor believed changing his name and gender marker “to be important to his overall well-being.”

The teen and both parents also testified in support of the request.

“We must review the trial court's ruling based on the record before us, and I believe that the record is more than sufficient to support the granting of mother's petition to change the gender marker on H.S.'s birth certificate,” Crone said in his dissent.

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