Parents of gender-expansive or transgender kids may have some legal considerations to contend with, such as identity documents, health insurance, discrimination, and custody. Many of the legal issues faced by parents with gender-expansive children can be resolved through education, research and referrals to the right help.
Seeking Legal Help
Keep in mind that most institutions have little or no experience responding to gender expansive or transgender kids. Rather than anything malicious, they may simply be unaware of the challenges being faced by your child, and don’t know how to respond effectively. Sometimes the easiest and most efficient way to get the support you seek is to approach the individuals involved directly, armed with the most up-to-date information and laws. If you can’t resolve the issues, you may want to consider seeking legal advice.
While legal name changes give you a great deal of leverage to ensure your child is referred to consistent with their gender identity, some parents are not able or ready to take this step. Many have found it helpful to approach the school, program, agency or organization in which their child is involved and simply request that their child be referred to by their preferred name. There are no laws preventing schools and other organizations from calling children by their chosen name. Many times all it takes is a little education to help them understand that it is the right thing to do.
Many lawyers and judges have no experience with issues related to gender and children. If your child lives in two households and you are experiencing disagreement about your child’s gender status and what is best for your child, you might try family therapy and/or mediation as your first steps. Try to reach an understanding outside of the courtroom about how to proceed with parenting your child. This may mean having to make compromises, especially if your child is young; though perhaps not ideal, it likely preferable to the risks of going to court..
If your family is already in the family courts system, you should immediately seek the counsel of an attorney familiar with issues and rights related to gender expansive and transgender youth. It is also advisable to secure the professional support of experienced doctors and therapists who can speak to the court about gender expansive and transgender children and what they think is in the best interest of your child with regard to gender expression.
Choosing a Legal Provider
If you are in a situation where you need an attorney, especially for a family law case, it is imperative that you find one that has experience in dealing with gender expansive or transgender children. There is too much at stake in custody cases to take unjustified risks or an unwise approach to a case based on inexperience.
Gender Spectrum works closely with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the ACLU, the Transgender Law Center, and other legal advocates who are committed to support of gender diverse youth. If you need referrals for legal support, contact us and we will connect you to professionals who can help you find appropriate referrals.