Last Friday's StoryCorps excerpt on Morning Edition featured a conversation between Les and Scott GrantSmith as their 25th wedding anniversary nears. When they married, Les was a woman; the couple then had two children. Fifteen years ago, Les told Scott she was a woman in the wrong body; she feared Scott would leave and take the children with him. Instead, the couple stayed together. Be sure to click on the link on the website that leads to an excerpt of the conversation between Les and his two daughters, Amanda and Thea; that part did not air on the radio.
Les's fear that transitioning would cost him his children is quite reality-based. Judges are extremely reluctant to grant custody to a trans parent. This is especially true if the children show any signs of anxiety or distress, even though such reactions may be both normal and exacerbated by the reactions of their non-trans parent. One of the most poignant parts of the exchange between both Les and Scott and Les and the children is when Les says he would not have transitioned if it would have meant losing the children. His younger daughter was seven years old at the time. I have to wonder if he really believes he could have spent the subsequent decade living with the depression that finally brought him to talk to Scott.
I am sure many listeners are incredulous that Scott and Les remained together through this process. I don't know of any statistics, but I do know other couples, both personally and through accounts of others, who stay married through one spouse's transition. Those families do not wind up in front of judges. Forty years ago, all judges needed to be educated about gay and lesbian parents, to break down myths and stereotypes and allay fears that children would be harmed living with a gay father or lesbian mother. As readers of this blog know, such prejudice continues today in some parts of the country. Well, for trans parents, we are back where we were in the 70s with lesbian and gay parents. I give a lot of credit to Scott for adapting to a circumstance he could have never imagined the day he got married and for believing that Les remained a good parent to their children. For those whose transition stories don't have this happy ending, we need massive judicial education as well as resources for families and clinicians.