Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Youth & Divorce

By Jen Segura

Of course, in our line of work, we have many clients with kids—school-aged kids, college-aged kids, babies, etc. I, myself, have two daughters, an 8-year-old and a 13-year-old. This allows me to come towards conflicts and hot topics from a parent’s perspective.

There has been a lot of attention in the media regarding teens and gender. More and more young people feel open to identifying as their true authentic selves. Things become more concerning on so many different levels when you read about things happening around the country that may cause actual harm to children and young adults in one way or another. For example, they are trying to deny essential medical care to trans-youth in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott pushes parents who allow gender-affirming medical treatments to their children to be reported to the Department of Family and Protective Services for child abuse. And while you might blow it off like it is just crazy Texas, many other states are trying to impose similar laws that would ban access to medical treatments for transgender individuals.

The anti-transgender laws are increasing and broadening, and it is scary. While I can understand both sides, it cannot be ignored that the group of people we are discussing are children. By focusing on laws that limit their access to fundamental human rights (like medical care), they are essentially being placed in a category of the “less important, the less worthy, and the less protected.” This may increase violence against an already vulnerable group of individuals. Moreover, there are less restrictive ways to handle the issue that these are children/minors, and they sometimes may need protection, even from themselves. There are ways to provide treatments that do not create an irreversible transition. Treatments can be as simple as referring to individuals by their chosen name and pronouns. There is a misinterpretation that these treatments are surgical because they rarely are.

The more extensive (and frankly terrifying) picture is that policies such as the one on the table in Texas may separate gender-diverse families and take transgender or non-conforming kids away from the loving familial environment that offers them the support and safety they need while at the same time isolating them from doctors, therapists, and teachers who want to support them. This may create higher suicide rates in trans kids for obvious reasons. This is not legislation that is going to help these children. And it is challenging to negotiate with people who only see black or white. This is not a black or white issue.

So what do you do when you are getting a divorce, and one parent supports a child who identifies as the opposite gender or non-binary, and the other does not? What if the child requires medical interventions but the other parent does not agree? The answer is not simple.

If you have shared legal custody, both parents must sign off on medical decisions relating to the child, including any hormone therapy or surgery. Discussion can be heated surrounding medical interventions. Generally, we advise parents to discuss their concerns in mediation with a third-party neutral who can help provide a non-biased viewpoint and lead the conversation to minimize conflict.

On a day-to-day basis, our advice is simple: love your child how they come to you. Meet them wherever they are and just simply love them. They will feel your love and acceptance, and even if the other parent struggles with their identity, they will remember who just simply loved them.

Do you have concerns that you would like to address in mediation? Contact West Coast Family Mediation today at (858) 736-2411 today to schedule your free consultation.

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