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PRIDE and Family Law

Part 7: Trans Children in Custody Battles

In Part 6 we talked about gender affirming treatment for trans children. Unfortunately, gender affirming treatment, and even the idea of trans children at all, can be controversial. If you have a trans child, you and your child’s other parent may have very different ideas about whether and how to support your child’s gender identity. If you find yourself in that situation, you may also be facing a custody case, even if you are currently with the other parent. You certainly wouldn’t be the first parent to leave a spouse or partner because of their awful treatment of a trans child!

You also wouldn’t be the first parent to be brought to court by a transphobic other parent. Jeffrey Younger has become famous for his anger after he brought a custody case against his ex-wife, claiming that by allowing their trans daughter to transition socially, the mother was “emotionally abusing” the girl. It was revealed that Younger was forcing the child to wear masculine clothes and refused to call the child a girl or use her correct pronouns, and the judge granted custody of the child to the mother.

As the parent of a trans child, you already know that your child’s other parent isn’t the only person against trans children transitioning. Many people think supporting transition for children is a form of abuse or brainwashing. Medical transition for minors is an even bigger issue, seen by some as forcing children into a trans identity, allowing them to make decisions that they are not ready for based on transient moods. After all, opponents say, children play at being other genders all the time. What this doesn’t consider is the existence of children whose gender identity is steady, insistent, and, if ignored, distressing. This also neglects the reversibility of the gender affirming treatment available to children.

Some states are even working to criminalize gender affirming treatment for minors. In April 2021, North Carolina introduced a bill, called the “Youth Health Protection Act,” that would prohibit medical gender affirming treatment of any kind for minors. The bill didn’t make it to a vote, and gender affirming treatment is still legal, but the fact that the bill was even introduced shows that many higher-ups in our state legal system hold these transphobic beliefs, and those beliefs can trickle down to the local judges making decisions on custody. Some judges and courts are more LGBTQIA+ friendly than others, and a local family law attorney may be able to help direct your case to the best court or judge for you.

Regardless of the judge you have, it is your job as a supportive parent of a trans child to show the judge the reasons that your child should be allowed to live in a supportive home and transition if they choose to. All of the arguments discussed in Part 5 would also apply in this type of case. Defending a medical transition will also require the testimony of experts, including your child’s doctor, who can explain the careful approach of medical transition for your child, and an independent doctor who can outline the reversibility of the process and its universal recognition by all major medical associations.

At the end of the day, it is most important to remember that you are fighting for and protecting YOUR child, not the rights of every trans child out there. Be sure to keep your arguments specific to the harms that YOUR child has suffered and will suffer by being left in the care of their unsupportive parent or by being prevented from transitioning by a court order. No matter what the outcome of your case, you can continue to support your child and the wonderful, unique individual that they are. Your unconditional love is the best thing that you can possibly give your trans child.