It’s a rainy Monday, and Caitlyn Jenner is all over the place. (As an aside I have to confess to owning two goats named Kim and Khloe, after the Kardashian girls.) While she was a very good looking man, she is a stunning woman as well. It’s heartening to see the media portraying this as a positive, exciting change. According to a study by the UCLA School of Law, just .03 percent of the adult population of the United States identify as transgendered. As a result, transgender issues do not come up that often in divorces, but when they do arise it can cause a battle.
Gender changes can affect divorces when one spouse wants to express their gender identity differently, as did Caitlyn Jenner when announcing that she is a woman. I assume there are marriages which remain intact, albeit different, under these circumstances but others fall apart like the Jenners’ did. There’s another, even darker aspect of this, where courts have taken conflicting stances about transgender parents and custody. Questions about the transgender parent’s ability to provide a stable home for children can cause custody battles, and in some cases result in a loss of visitation rights.
It’s important to remember that adults aren’t the only ones who struggle with gender identity. It’s becoming more common to see parents with a transgender child. During a divorce this situation can cause religious, cultural and financial challenges. Occasionally co-parents will fight about accepting a transgendered child for who he or she is, and must determine how to handle the costs and psychological/physical needs associated with their child’s change in gender. These cases can be truly horrible. It’s hard enough to be the child of divorce, much less to have your gender identity be the central issue in your parents’ divorce.
Gender identity is central to who we are. It is also central to how children view their parents. If a marriage ends because of the gender identity of one parent, it makes sense to settle the parental and co-parenting arrangements first and let the children get used to that before making the gender change obvious to them. This is different in a very real way from keeping new partners from kids until enough time has past, but it is no less important for the kids. If a marriage ends and one of their children is transgender, co-parents need to work out their differences regarding the raising of the child. Divorce is stressful, and there is no one right answer to handle a specific situation. Approaching gender identity questions with an open mind will help the whole family.