When gender transition happens after marriage and parenthood, it tests a family's tenacity, flexibility, and love.
A 2011 survey of 6,500 transgender and gender-nonconforming adults conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality found more than one-third of them had children. The experiences of transgender people - an estimated 700,000 U.S. adults, according to the Williams Institute, a UCLA law school think tank focused on LGBT issues - point to a different way of thinking about maleness and femaleness as complex facets of identity that unfold over a lifetime, rather than facts declared conclusively at birth.
Kids of transgender and gender-nonconforming parents tend to cope better with the news of a parental transition at a younger age, rather than during adolescence. It is relatively easy for a kid under the age of 7 to get the concept that Daddy's a boy on the outside but a girl on the inside. It is more difficult when kids are older and can think in more abstract ways.
The gender journey is not always so smooth but the rate of divorce among Trans adults is about the same as that of the general population. The 2011 transgender survey supports this observation: About half of intimate relationships survived the transgender partner's "coming out" or transition. In some cases, a partner will say, 'I married him or her for better or for worse,’ or they say, 'What I love is not that she is male or female. It is that he is gentle . . . kind . . . a good parent.' Patience is vital. You have to give kids the chance to say, 'I don't feel comfortable with your new identity just yet.' "
Even if family members embrace a Trans man or woman's identity, the world may not. In the transgender survey, 63 percent reported experiencing bias in employment, housing, school, health care, or other arenas. Kids of Trans parents may struggle with discrimination and the pressure to be perfect "poster children" for the LGBT community. But they also learn authenticity, courage, and "the ability to question the limitations we are taught. Families can really come out on the other side of this, and when they do, they demonstrate the paradox of gender, the tricky knot of biology and culture we are still learning to untangle: that gender is both essential - key to a person's sense of him or herself - and irrelevant.