Melissa Rose Liljestrand is a 15-year-old boy who identifies as a girl. He recently appeared in front of Superior Court Judge Edward Moreton in Los Angeles, California, seeking a legal name change and gender marker change.
Under current California law, individuals seeking a gender marker change must obtain a note from a doctor, and individuals seeking name change must obtain a court order. Although some judges will sign the court order upon request, it is not uncommon for the judge to require a minor to appear in court for a hearing. A new law, which takes effect next year, modifies this process.
According to the Liljestrand family, Judge Moreton’s questions at the hearing “seemed skeptical — even critical — of Melissa’s transition.” The family claims Judge Moreton initially asked what pronouns and name he should use to refer to Melissa, and eventually asked “how she knew she was a girl,” saying, “Convince me.” The family also alleges he asked if the letter submitted to the court claiming Melissa had undergone “clinically appropriate treatment” was signed by “a real doctor” and that although he signed the court order approving the name and gender marker changes, he told Melissa it’s “just a piece of paper” and “does not make you a woman.”
After being asked to explain his claim that he is a girl, Melissa “began crying” and “fainted” and was granted a brief recess. Eric Liljestrand, Melissa’s father, referred to the question as “a strange, unanswerable request” (likely because it’s a garbage claim) and later stated that “the whole experience just drained my faith in the legal system.” One reasonably questions Mr. Liljestrand’s perception of how the legal system works, as he appears to believe one should be able to make a claim in front of a judge without being expected to provide any explanation or evidence to support it and somehow still obtain a favorable ruling.
The family filed a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Performance, referring to the hearing as “a traumatic experience.”