Trans man seeks right to pursue adoption

A Delaware County Trans man hopes the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will clear the way for him to pursue the adoption of a 12-year-old girl whom he views as his daughter.

The Trans man is known in court papers as T.B. In 2009, T.B. and K.L. planned the birth of a child, known as K.N.L. The following year, K.L. gave birth to K.N.L. with the assistance of a sperm donor, who’s never been identified. 

K.L. was incarcerated at the time of K.N.L.’s birth. T.B. helped raise K.N.L. for the first five years of her life. K.L. continues to be incarcerated, and her parental rights regarding K.N.L. were terminated in May 2017, according to court records.

In March 2015, K.N.L. was placed in foster care, after allegations of sexual abuse were lodged against T.B.’s mother. T.B. also was accused of sexual abuse. However, the allegations against T.B. subsequently were determined to be unfounded. Since 2015, T.B. has had limited interactions with K.N.L., according to court records.

T.B., 42, has several criminal convictions, mainly relating to theft. In 1998, he was incarcerated in a county jail. However, he’s never been required to serve any time in state or federal prison. He’s attempting to have his criminal record expunged, according to court records.

K.N.L.’s current foster mother, K.D., would like to adopt K.N.L. However, T.B. also wishes to adopt K.N.L., whom he’s always viewed as his daughter, according to court records.

On Jan. 26, 2021, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Daine A. Grey Jr. held a hearing on the dispute. T.B. testified during the hearing. When T.B. said he’s K.N.L.’s father, Grey chastised him for allegedly being “untruthful.”

After T.B. left the courtroom, Grey issued an order for T.B. to stay away from K.N.L. Thes stay-away order subsequently was vacated by a higher court.

Moreover, Grey denied T.B.’s request to be granted legal standing to pursue the adoption of K.N.L. In his eight-page ruling, Grey repeatedly misgendered T.B.

Grey didn’t immediately reply to an email, seeking comment about concerns expressed by T.B.’s attorneys in court papers of alleged anti-Trans bias.

On May 18, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held oral arguments on the dispute inside Philadelphia’s Old City Hall, 5th and Chestnut streets. The court must determine whether Grey misapplied the law when denying T.B. legal standing to pursue the adoption of K.N.L.

Attorney Judy M. Springer, who serves as an advocate for K.N.L., opposes T.B.’s quest to adopt K.N.L. During oral arguments, Springer asserted that T.B. never assumed a parental relationship with the child.

However, Regine Charles-Asar, an attorney for T.B., emphasized that T.B. discharged parental duties for the first five years of K.N.L.’s life. Charles-Asar also noted that T.B. continued to visit K.N.L. after the child was placed in foster care.

The judges said they would take the case under advisement and issue a ruling at a later date.

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, the Keystone Press and the Pennsylvania Press Club.