The subject of divorce and transition has been on my radar this month, inspired by a story I saw on Twitter, in which the trans status of one parent is being used against them in a custody battle.

For many trans women of my generation, there has always been this overwhelming fear that accepting ourselves for who we truly are can only be achieved through sacrifice.

Marriages and partnerships, careers, family, and crucially, our relationships with our children – are all potential casualties of accepting and embracing our true selves.

Nowhere does this come under the spotlight more than in the divorce courts.


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Biological mothers naturally have the upper hand when it comes to being recognised as vital to the child’s wellbeing, with the father all too often taking a back seat. Throw some gender variance into the mix and the mother has enough ammunition to strip away any access to the child, should they choose to do so.

But I often wonder, where the child’s wellbeing factors in all of this.

My parents divorced in the late 1970s. My childhood involved me being pulled from pillar to post, with each parent trying to gain an advantage over the other by using me as collateral. It became a competition between the two of them and I was the prize.

The experience was traumatic. I never truly connected with my mother after the dust settled. I always sensed some bitterness in her because, having been given the choice, I chose to live with my dad. If this was indeed a competition between the two of them, she had lost, and I felt it was my fault.

As an adult, I can rationalise the fact that I was a pawn in the proceedings but, for a long time, I was devastated by what had happened.

In those cases where gender variance is cited as the cause of the relationship breaking down, it seems to me that the law is able to use it as a ‘mitigating factor’ – a reason in favour of removing a child from their parent. Surely, the focus in any divorce should be on helping the child to understand that none of it is their fault and being trans isn’t a choice. If gender variance can be used in a law court as an argument against the trans parent, how can they ever hope to get a fair hearing?

Furthermore, what impact does this display of prejudice and intolerance have on the long term relationship between the parent and the child? Surely by pinpointing the trans parent as ‘other’ the court is reinforcing a sense of shame in all those involved.

As trans men and women become more visible, we are making positive strides in gaining the recognition that, while we may not identify with the gender we were assigned at birth, our journey does not make us something to be feared. This translates into an increase in the chances of us being able to transition without all of the sacrifice and keeping some semblance of our previous life is far from impossible.

Some of us will be able to transition whilst holding on to our relationships, partners, families and children. Careers will mould around us and colleagues will accept us. We may never be accepted by everyone but we can be accepted by those who truly matter. The law must reflect this level of trans normalcy, if it does not, being trans will forever put us at a disadvantage.


If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this post and you would like to speak to someone, please visit our Therapy page to find out about some of the services we have available, including one to one sessions with Marianne.


Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash