Recent years have seen increased attention to the rights of transgender individuals. The debate over these rights has been especially heated surrounding the issue of transgender youth. The family courts are not immune from this debate and it is likely that disputes regarding how parents treat their transgender children will become more and more common.
Although the Minnesota courts have not yet weighed into this issue, it is only a matter of time before it occurs. In determining custody, the courts must consider the best interests of the children, including “a child's physical, emotional, cultural, spiritual, and other needs, and the effect of the proposed arrangements on the child's needs and development.” This statutory factor is directly related to how parents respond to children whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex, and a failure to act appropriately is likely to have repercussions when custody and parenting time are determined.
If you have a child who identifies as transgender, there are basic things that you can do to ensure that you are acting in that child’s best interests:
· Recognize that your child knows best who he/she/they are. Research indicates that children sense their gender identities at young ages, as early as 3 or 4, and that transgender children are just as confident in their gender identities as are cisgender children.
· Accept your child. Studies show that rejection by family members greatly increases the likelihood that children will engage in risky behaviors and exhibit mental health problems.
· Understand that your child isn’t “broken,” don’t try to “fix” him/her/them. Attempting to change children’s gender identity is ineffective and can permanently harm children mentally and emotionally. “Conversion therapy” has been condemned by major professional organizations and outlawed in many states and municipalities (including Minneapolis).
· Always use your child’s preferred pronouns and names. Respecting your child’s sense of self not only demonstrates your love and support, it benefits your child’s emotional and mental well-being.
· Advocate for your child. Children need support from parents and parents need to be willing to stand up for their children’s interests and demand that their identities be respected. Research indicates that, as a group, transgender children suffer from greater levels of depression and anxiety than do cisgender children; however, when parents are supportive of their trans children’s gender identity, this disparity disappears.
Ultimately, it is important to remember that being transgender is not “wrong,” and a child should NEVER be treated as if it is.
To discuss custody, parenting time, and the best interests of children, or any family law issue, call Kruse Family Law PLLC at 612.231.9865 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.