While celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner are making inroads for the acceptance of the transgendered into U.S. society, the reality is that transgendered parents may still face significant discrimination when it comes to family court and custody issues. If you're transgendered and a parent, this is what you should know.
Not everyone is in agreement about the transgendered.
Historically, the transgendered have been labelled everything from perverse to mentally ill. Unfortunately, not much has changed. While many medical and mental health professionals now view the transgendered as unfortunate individuals whose biological gender simply doesn't match their emotional and psychological gender, even some of the most well-respected psychiatric authorities persist in equating "transgender" with "mental disorder."
The statistics are also against you. The latest statistics indicate that 41% of people suffering with gender-identity issues attempt suicide at some point or another, which adds to the idea that transgendered people are inherently mentally unstable. (The transgendered point out that many of those who attempt suicide do so because of the pain of dealing with an unaccepting society or family, but this isn't necessarily how the court will interpret those figures.)
The harsh reality is that transgendered people face unequal acceptance that varies greatly depending on where they live. For example, only a few states have laws protecting the transgendered from employment discrimination. The reception that a transgendered individual receives in family court is also likely to vary from state to state (or even court to court, depending on the judge). You simply cannot guess ahead of time how the court is going to perceive you based on the sole fact that you are transgendered.
It's only the judge that you have to convince.
Fortunately, you don't have to convince everyone that your transgendered status has nothing to do with your ability to be a fit parent -- you only have to convince the judge. Judges have a great deal of latitude to decide how to divide up custody and award visitation based on what's "in the best interests of the children." While most states have guidelines that the judge is supposed to follow, realistically the judge is free to consider anything that he or she feels is important.
If you want custody or liberal visitation with your children, you have to convince the judge that you are a stable, loving parent and that your transgendered status won't harm the children in any way. There are a number of things that you can use to help:
psychological evaluations are often useful, especially since they can help convince a judge that you aren't a suicide risk
assessments of court-appointed professionals can undertake a home study, which will look into the stability of your life with your child and your parenting skills
evidence that you are able to maintain stable employment
evidence of social support in your community, church, or through close family members, including the child's extended family in the form of aunts, uncles, and grandparents
psychological assessments of your children can show that they are adjusting to the change in your gender-identity without any issue
The more evidence that you can provide a court that your transgendered status is merely incidental to who you are as a person and a parent, the more likely that you are going to be successful in your pursuit of custody or visitation.
If this is your situation, take heart: prejudices are slowly waning and transgendered people do win visitation and custody of their children. For more information, talk to divorce attorneys in your area.