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What role does family law play in transgender rights?

More than ever before in history, "transgender" is now becoming a familiar household term. Aided by celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner to pioneering TV series such as Transparent, the general public has been quickly gaining awareness and understanding of transgender issues.

Nonetheless, for many of us, the concept is a new one-and there is a learning curve. In the legal community, we are still seeking answers for how to respond to the multi-faceted complexities of transgender rights.

In a recent case in Ohio, a transgender teenager-who identifies as male and goes by a male name-wanted to begin hormone therapy to transition to this gender. His parents-who denied his male identity and refused to call him by his chosen name-were staunchly opposed to the move. They refused the treatment and therapy recommended by medical professionals, citing that it goes against their religious beliefs. Consequently, the boy began to suffer from anxiety and depression and even became suicidal.

As his legal guardians, the boy's parents have the right to make medical decisions for their child. But what if their decision goes against what medical professionals assert is a life-or-death situation? And what happens when parents refuse to believe that their child's disconnect between their gender assignment and gender identity is a legitimate condition?

Currently, there are limited family law standards in place that address such complex issues.

In this case, the boy's grandparents came forward, seeking to gain legal custody of the boy and help him get the treatment he desired. They argued that as legal guardians, they would make decisions that are in the best interest of the boy's wellbeing. The judge granted their request.

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