A 17-year-old Hamilton County boy who wants to begin college with the world recognizing him as just that -- a boy -- is fighting in court for the right to live away from his parents, who refuse to accept that their child is transgender.
On one side of the battle are the boy's grandparents, with whom he currently lives and who have supported his gender transition; on the other are his parents, who lawyers say insisted he receive Christian therapy rather than be allowed to pursue hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or sex reassignment.
"The parents in this case do not desire to parent their child," said Donald Clancy of the Department of Jobs and Family Services. "They merely have a desire to parent a child who, in reality, no longer exists."
Attorney Karen Brinkman, who represents the boy's parents, said they believe his expression is a phase -- "a place to park (the child's) anxiety" -- and withholding treatment is a protective measure to prevent long-term damage.
"The belief that hormone therapy or sex reassignment therapy would help patients who have gender dysphoria is based on hope, not science," she said.
In fact, multiple recent studies of long-term health outcomes for transgender men and women report that such patients experience "high degrees of well-being and good social integration" when allowed to receive the above-mentioned treatments.
In one study, researchers wrote that, compared to patients who had not received HRT or sex reassignment surgery, "participants showed significantly fewer psychological problems and interpersonal difficulties as well as a strongly increased life satisfaction."
Doctors and therapists who examined the boy have testified that his mental and physical health have improved since he moved in with his grandparents, according to Paul Hunt of ProKids.
"The child has stated, 'I don't want to go back home,'" the grandparents' attorney, Jeffrey Cutcher, said. "'When I was home, dad chased me around the house. When I was home, I lived in terror in that home.'"
The longer the custody battle lasts, Cutcher said Friday, the harder it will be for the boy to introduce himself the way he wants to be seen.
"What we want to in the coming months around May is plan for a high school graduation, throughout the summer and fall plan for an entrance into college," he said. "We don't want to be planning a funeral."