Know Your Rights

Introduction and Brianna and Aidan’s story

Thousands of children around the United States have parents who are transgender, an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity—one’s inner sense of being male or female—differs from the sex assigned or presumed at birth.

(To read Lambda Legal's FAQ about the rights of transgender parents, click here.)

These moms and dads are pretty much like anyone else, whether married, living with partners or single, and whether adopting, giving birth, fostering or step-parenting. Indeed, while the fact that they’re transgender is often what others focus on first, transgender parents are generally more preoccupied with diapers, homework or getting dinner on the table: They are parents first.

Good parenting is good parenting, regardless of gender identity. A common misconception (often exploited in custody disputes) is that transitioning—living and presenting oneself consistent with one’s gender identity in everyday life—is a selfish act rather than a difficult journey that is not embarked upon casually. Transitioning is more accurately understood as a step toward the alignment of a person’s mind and body, and as such can benefit everyone affected, including children. And that’s not to mention the value to children of learning about human diversity and tolerance.

Nonetheless, judges and adoption agencies sometimes try to stop transgender adults from bringing children into their lives or even to remove them from their homes. Misperceptions and prejudices about transgender people fuel many custody disputes. High emotions are often in play when a non-transgender co-parent is unable to accept a transgender parent’s transition and files for divorce. Sometimes an ex-partner questions a transgender parent’s suitability in court in order to try to change a custody arrangement.

Growing knowledge about this issue continues to benefit trans parents’ efforts to protect parent-child relationships, but the courts still have a long way to go.

Our FAQ about the rights of transgender parents addresses some basic questions about the issues transgender parents face during custody and visitation disputes. It also offers practical advice and resources for transgender parents and their families seeking to protect themselves against challenges to their parental rights.

OUR STORY: “I have a dad and a mom in the same body”
Brianna Harris, 50, and Aidan Harris, 14

When I came out to Aidan when he was six, his initial reaction was, “But I’m gonna miss my Dad!” And I told him, “I will always be your dad. No matter what happens we can’t change that. I’m not going anywhere.”

The first year he marched at Pride with me he was seven. He made up a T-shirt that said “I’m proud of my trans mom!” On the front, he drew a stick figure in a baseball cap with the words FROM THIS, and on the back it said TO THIS with a stick figure in a dress.

Only on a few occasions that I’m aware of has he had trouble in school, but he’s always handled it great. When he was in third grade, a fifth-grader made some comment about his dad wearing dresses. He just turned to the kid and said, “Well, you’re just jealous that I have a dad and a mom in the same body.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Lambda Legal at 212-809-8585, 120 Wall Street, 19th Floor, New York, NY 10005-3904. If you feel you have experienced discrimination, call our Help Desk toll-free at 866-542-8336 or go to www.lambdalegal.org/help.