Judge finds neighbor guilty of harassment in North Side transphobia case

click to enlarge Judge finds neighbor guilty of harassment in North Side transphobia case
CP Photo: Jordana Rosenfeld
Northside family Sean O'Donnell, Ke'Juan, Chris, and Todd Collar stand with legal staff from the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation outside the Observatory Hill magisterial district court after receiving a ruling in their favor on July 26.

A local magistrate has found a North Side woman guilty of harassment for posting a large outdoor sign that her neighbors interpreted as a transphobic attack.

The owner of the sign, Darian Balcom, was found guilty of a summary offense and charged with a $200 fine during a hearing this morning. In a criminal complaint initiating the case, Sean O'Donnell reported that Balcom harassed his family by putting up a large sign reading “‘transing’ kids is abuse and homophobia” in clear view of his trans daughter’s bedroom window.

O'Donnell's daughter, Ke'Jaun, confirmed during a previous hearing that she felt herself to be the intended victim of the message.

“I am a proud Black trans girl,” Ke’Juan said during the preliminary hearing. “I feel attacked and horrified by what Darian Balcom has done to me and my family.”

Balcom's lawyers argued she was exercising her constitutional right to free speech. But during last month’s hearing, Magistrate Leah Williams Duncan shared her initial opinion that the content of the sign constituted “fighting words,” one of the few exceptions to the First Amendment. Duncan invited both parties to submit briefs on the issue last month as she considered her ruling.

Duncan said in today’s proceedings that the briefs, while well-written, did not alter her position. 

The court’s “main concern” is that “these children be allowed to live in peace and be safe and comfortable in their own home,” Duncan said.

O’Donnell, his husband Todd Collar, and kids Ke’Juan and Chris, say they’re pleased with the court’s decision and hope to have no further contact with Balcom.

Balcom’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment by press time.