She was a 19-year-old California girl who, like many teenage girls, was plagued with depression and anxiety, and she came to believe she was transgender after being bullied in middle school.
According to her mother, Abigail Martinez, “she went on her knees, raised her arms up and just laid on the tracks.”
Her story has been widely shared amongst right-leaning news outlets, but the mainstream left-leaning media—New York Times, The LA Times, Washington Post—have, unsurprisingly, never meaningfully covered the epic failure of the legal system that occurred in this case.
Abigail told us that she was visited regularly by members of the trans-advocacy group RISE and recounted one of them encouraging her to “have a funeral for your daughter and adopt your son.” She was told not to talk about God. "They told me if you do that, you'll never see your daughter," she said.
At one of her monthly court appearances, Abigail expressed concern to her daughter’s attorney about the undue influence of RISE. Yaeli’s court-appointed attorney addressed this with the judge. This same attorney did not believe it was in Yaeli’s best interest to be placed on testosterone at age 16, and when she raised her concerns, she was removed from the case.
Abigail was absolved of the physical abuse claim. But RISE, as well as all those in positions to help a very confused child, pushed the court to keep the emotional claim alive. Even when Abigail finally capitulated to call Yaeli her now-second created new name, it wasn’t enough. RISE had convinced the court that what depressed, internet addicted, and anxious Yaeli needed was testosterone and to be away from her loving family.
The courts took custody of Yaeli, but her three siblings were not removed, making it crystal clear that Abigail was a fit parent and not abusive. It also cemented the fact that the state was willing to call a parent who does not permit her minor to engage in unproven medical procedures, abusive.
At 19, Yaeli was sent to an independent living situation but continued to struggle emotionally and financially. She was hospitalized after another overdose attempt. She called her mother, not RISE or a friend, but her mother—who she knew would always be there for her. “Mom, I don’t have any food, my last meal I’m giving it to a friend because she’s pregnant,” she said. Abigail dropped everything and brought her daughter food.
Two months before Yaeli took her life, Abigail was vindicated by from DCFS that reduced the allegations of abuse that had resulted in her loss of custody from “substantiated” to “inconclusive.” She was not guilty. She never had been. Absolution was too late. Yaeli’s three years on testosterone and being paraded around by RISE as the “poster foster care trans child” had taken its toll. Yaeli’s pain was too much.
The lawsuit should have been a slam dunk, but it was fraught from the beginning with ineptness, sloppy legal work, and ignorance about the nuances of this healthcare issue. The wrong people were named, the wrong birthdates were recorded on official documents, filings were late or simply inaccurate, and the lawyer who initially handled her case is no longer with the firm. A spokesperson for the firm offered sympathy and understanding, but it remains to be seen if the firm can rectify their mistakes and get Abigail some justice.