PRIZM News / February 20, 2018 / By Bob Vitale

But she also asks Ohio legislators to address the issue so others won’t have to fight it out in court.

A Cincinnati judge has awarded custody of a transgender 17-year-old to the grandparents who support his transition and at the same time has called on Ohio legislators to create new rules that might spare other families long fights in court. 


The Hamilton County case decided by Judge Sylvia Sieve Hendon involved an unidentified teen whose parents objected to a treatment plan developed by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center that involved hormone therapy. The child had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria after his parents took him to Children’s because of anxiety and depression. 

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the boy emailed a crisis hotline in December 2016 about “reprogramming attempts” his parents. According to the paper, the teen said he once had been forced to sit in a room and listen to Bible passages for more than six hours. 

Hamilton County authorities intervened, and the boy went to live with his grandparents. 

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In her four-page ruling, Hendon said the child’s parents were “legitimately surprised and confused” about the diagnosis of gender dysphoria, because the boy had lived until the summer of 2016 “consistent with the assigned gender at birth,” which was female. 

The judge also expressed skepticism at reports the child was suicidal. Court filings said he was, but medical record indicated otherwise, the judge said. 

But Hendon said she sided with the child because he, his parents and his grandparents all felt it was best for him to remain in the grandparents’ custody. She also ordered the child to be evaluated by a psychologist not affiliated with Cincinnati Children’s before any hormone therapy begins. 

It’s a situation courts will see more of, Hendon said, and that’s why she called on the Ohio General Assembly to issue guidance.  

“What is clear from the testimony presented in this case and the increasing worldwide interest in transgender care is that there is certainly a reasonable expectation that circumstances similar to (this) are likely to repeat themselves,” she said in her ruling. “The Legislature should consider a set of standards by which the court is able to judge and act upon the child’s maturity. That type of legislation would give a voice and a pathway to youth similarly situated…without attributing fault to the parents and involving them in protracted litigation which can and does destroy the family unit.” 

(Read Judge Sylvia Sieve Hendon’s ruling here.)





Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, he has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Contact: