rarely noted fact is that many, perhaps even a majority, of
male-to-female transsexual women are mothers. This may be to their
own children conceived before having SRS, as a step-mum to their
partner's children, or as the mother of adopted children.
transsexual women who transitioned and had surgery by her early 20's is
very unlikely to have conceived children as a father, typically such
transsexuals rarely have sexual relationships with women as a man, and
are often still consider themselves to be virgins at the time of their
SRS. However as the age of transition increases then the
likelihood of children increases. It seems probable that MTF
women who transitioned in their late 30's or older, are as statistically
as likely to have been married and had children as any men, certainly
the limited circumstantial information backs this hypothesis.
Former Dad, now "Mom",
Michelle with her two children.
how she coped with becoming a mother after her transition at age 30:
was confident that being as open and honest as possible would encourage
others to be the same. Let’s face it -- female Daddies tend to
attract some intriguing questions. I have gradually encouraged my
children to call me MJ instead of Daddy, and they are slowly getting
used to people referring to me as their Mom. Having two Moms in their
lives makes things complicated sometimes, and causes friction between
their biological mother and myself. Although I do not wish to compete
for the Mom title, it is not socially acceptable for my children to have
a female Dad. Keeping the kids interests at heart, it seems easier to
allow people to refer to me as their mom, rather than teaching the kids
to correct strangers at every turn. I am often accused of "stealing the
title". Without having experienced the pain of labour I am apparently
unqualified to claim Mom. I believe that how we love and nurture our
children is more important than a label, particularly when considering
the child’s comfort level in dealing with society. I’m their biological
parent and am very proud of that fact. Isn’t there room in their lives
for two Mommies? We are still struggling as parents with this issue."
Lisa-Anne with daughter Michelle. Lisa-Anne delayed her SRS
until the mother became pregnant, but was 6 months post-surgery by
the time of the birth.
often been suggested, even in court, that having their father become a
woman must be a traumatic and emotionally scaring process for the
children. But contrarily studies have revealed, perhaps against
expectations, no evidence of any physiological, sociological, or gender
identity damage to such children. Also, statistically the children
are no more likely to grow up homosexual or transgender'ed than any
other children. For example one key study, "Transsexuals'
Children" by Dr R Green concludes:
"Available evidence does not support concerns that a parent’s
transsexualism directly adversely impacts on the children. By contrast,
there is extensive clinical experience showing the detriment to children
in consequence of terminated contact with a parent after divorce.
Continuing contact between transsexual parents and their
children has met with significant opposition. Two areas of concern are
effects on the gender identity of the children and reactions by the
children’s peer group. Eighteen children, 10 boys, 8 girls of 9
transsexual parents, have been evaluated. Their ages range from 5-16
years. All live with or have regular contact with their transsexual
parent. No child has gender identity disorder. No child has had
extensive conflict with the peer group. All continue positive
relationships with their transsexual parent."
After a fathers transition and subsequent SRS, there are several
Hazel (right) with her former
wife, June, and their children
parents remain together and the children effectively have two
reported that the incidence of male-to-female "transwomen"
remaining legally married to their wives is very small.
However, despite the former husband's SRS some couples still
feel a very strong bond linking them.
unknown for such couples to continue to live together, and not
just for the sake of any children.
This situation is also the simplest from a legal point of view, there
normally being no effect on the legal status of an existing marriage
when one of the spouses transitions. So long as both spouses want
to stay in the marriage and continue to live as a married couple, many
"same-sex married couples" in this situation have avoided legal
problems, in large part because there are relatively few situations in
which anyone other than one of the spouses has legal standing to
challenge the validity of a marriage. Legal problems may arise
when one spouse dies and the other attempts to collect survivorship
benefits or to claim inheritance or other tax benefits that are
restricted to married couples. Alternatively, an employer may
challenge the validity of the marriage in the context of trying to
exclude the spouse from an employer-provided health plan.
Mary, with her sons Mark and Llewellyn
years Dr Renee Richards
only visited her son Nicholas dressed
as a man
parent separate, the maternal mother having custody but the father
has regular access and visitation rights.
common outcome. However the transsexual mother faces
severe challenges if her rights to see the child are challenged
by anyone. For example one American court has terminated a
transsexual mother's parental rights - characterizing the
male-to-female transsexual parent as "selfish" and holding that
"it was strictly Tim Daly's choice to discard his fatherhood and
assume the role of a female who could never be either mother or
sister to his daughter". Another court imposed an
indefinite moratorium on visitation rights for male-to-female
parent, finding that it would be emotionally confusing for the
children to see their father as a woman - despite no evidence
being presented that would justify this decision.
It's also not unknown for a court to only grant the former
father visitation rights to her children if she agrees to hide
her transsexuality, for example only visiting them dressed,
appearing and behaving as a man.
3. The parents separate, the former father having custody
Stephanie Anne Lloyd and her husband. She has an
alienated ex-wife and two sons.
Transgendered and transsexual parents face tremendous
discrimination in the child custody area. Awarding
custody of children to a transsexual mother (the former father)
is still very rare, but thankfully no longer completely unknown.
Hopefully it will become an increasingly acceptable award by
open-minded judges in disputed custody cases.
Courts may sometimes only grant custody to a transsexual mother
when she agrees to hide transsexual status, for example awarding
custody to a gender dysphoric father only when the father agrees
to undergo therapy and "to maintain his male identity".
Another requirement may be regular checks by a psychiatrist to
confirm that there is no evidence the child manifests any gender
atypical behaviours or gender identity problems.
Father's sex change does not alter custody, court says
February 2, 2001
by Anne Marie Owens
National Post Online
father's decision to change his gender from male to female does
not constitute a material change in circumstances sufficient to
warrant altering a child custody arrangement, an Ontario court
recent ruling sets out the premise in family law that a person's
transsexuality is irrelevant on its own as a factor in his or
her ability to be a good parent.
custody dispute was launched by Margaret Saliba after learning
Howard Forrester, with whom she had lived for three years and
had one child, wanted to live his life as a woman and declared
himself to be a lesbian.
child's father has officially changed his first name from Howard
to Leslie, and altered his appearance to appear as a woman.
He lives his life as a woman, although there have been no
surgical changes so far to accompany this transition from male
to the revelation about transsexuality, the couple had agreed to
an equal-time custody arrangement.
custody disputes, any parent seeking a material change in the
terms of his or her custody agreement must demonstrate to the
court there has been a material change in the circumstances
affecting the child.
case, Justice Theo Wolder, of the Ontario Court of Justice in
Brampton, ruled "the applicant's transsexuality, in itself,
without further evidence, would not constitute a material change
in circumstances, nor would it be considered a negative factor
in custody determination."
Radbord, the Toronto lawyer who defended the father, said the
decision could inspire other transsexuals, who often give up
fighting for custody because they assume the justice system will
be biased against them.
live in a transphobic culture ... but it's clear that the test
for custody and access is always the best interests of the
child," said Ms. Radbord, who described the relationship between
father and child in this case as amazing.
best thing for a child in any custody dispute is for both
parents to have equal access," the father said in an interview.
"If you actually love your child, that should be the issue.
You're supposed to want what's best for your child."
ruling, Judge Wolder said the evidence showed a happy child who
has positive relationships with both parents.
"Frankly, it is remarkable how little impact all this storm
swirling about the parties has had upon this little girl," he
said. "It appears from the evidence that [she] is a very
well-adjusted, happy, healthy little girl, who in her own way
has been able to accept the changes in her father and continues
to enjoy a healthy relationship with her father, now a woman
child, who is six, uses both Mommy and Daddy to refer to her
father, although she is cautious about using Daddy in public
when people might overhear.
father says most people do not know she is genetically a man and
believe she is a single mother: "I think right now it's easier
for kids and society to deal with two moms than it is to deal
with the whole trans issue."
Saliba and Mr. Forrester began living together in March, 1994.
Their child was born in November of that year.
Saliba testified it was a "perfect situation every woman would
want in a husband." She said she wanted to marry Mr.
Forrester, a daycare worker who did most of the cooking,
cleaning and ironing at home and was a major caregiver for his
prepared food for [her], read to her, did the morning and
bedtime routine, and shared playtime with [her]. Leslie
stayed up nights with her, with the parties taking turns
comforting [her] to sleep," court documents say. "Most
nights, it would end up that Leslie would have [the baby] on her
chest until [she] fell asleep."
couple separated in 1996 and agreed to equal custody.
1997, the transsexuality was revealed to Ms. Saliba.
is no doubt that the disclosure of her transsexuality and of her
wish to undergo a change of sex from male to female had a
devastating impact upon [Ms. Saliba]," the judge said.
custody case was launched in the spring of 1999, when it was
clear the child's father was intent on living life as a woman.
initial access order prohibited the father from taking the child
to "neighbourhoods known to be frequented by transsexuals."
stress in the relationship over the father's move from male to
female did not appear to have an impact on the child, who was
three years old when the process began, the court heard.
psychological test found the child was free from any gender
was so young that they don't really have a sense of their own
gender so they're very open," said Ms. Radbord. "She's
always known her father as a woman. It's all she's
4. The parents separate, and the former father voluntarily or
involuntarily has no contact with the children
Sadly as documented above there are occasions where a court may deny the
former father any access rights to his children. There are also
instances where the former father, perhaps trying to put his male past
behind him, does not wish to see his children which represent an
uncomfortable or inconvenient reminder.
5. The parents have children before both have sex change surgery
This is an extremely rare occurrence, but it does happen! One
example is Chris Johnson (previously Anne) and Cathy Brown (previously
Eugene). They met, fell in love at first sight, and decided to
have a child before pursuing the sex changes they both desired.
They subsequently write a book, The Gender Trap, about their
experiences and the birth of their daughter.
such circumstances both the marriage and custody of the children is
fully legal in all countries. It's up to the parents to determine
who's the baby's mother and father... ideally within days or at worst a
few months if the baby is to bond to it's rearing mother and avoid, or
at least minimise, any psychological disturbance. By six months
the baby has irreversibly identified who it's mother is.
sex reassignment surgery (SRS) women are infertile, lacking a uterus,
ovaries, or eggs there is no possibility that can become pregnant.
Thus if a transsexual woman and her husband want to become parents,
inevitably adoption is popular option.
Adoption is a court procedure by which an adult legally becomes the
parent of someone who is not his or her biological child.
Michele had SRS at a very young age (16 - inset) and married when
still just 19. With strong maternal feelings, against all
the odds she was able to adopt three children and is now a
cursory examination of the Internet and the media would not seem to
indicate that many transsexual women fall in to the "the husband and 2
kids" category. However as is often the case, appearances can be
There is no doubt that in fact many transwomen do happily marry and want
children. The perceived low incidence is undoubtedly caused in
part caused by the lack of publicity that many transwomen and their
families seek. Accurate statistics are unavailable, but it is
likely that 20-30% of transsexual women pass so convincingly that they
can be "assimilated" in to society as unquestionably a woman, in some
cases hiding their past life so completely (i.e. going "stealthy")
that even their husband or partner does not know of their
transsexuality. [There is no doubt that transwomen fear that a
relationship with a man could not survive him knowing of her
found that nearly half of the women it surveyed could - and presumably
had - kept their transsexualism a secret from all partners with whom
they had had sexual relationships since surgery!]
women eventually settle down and marry, or enter in to long term
relationships with a man, indeed clinical follow-up studies show that
about 10% of transsexual women describe themselves simply as housewives
or homemakers! And many such women then also want (or perhaps
their partners do) children, obviously explaining to their husband that
they are infertile for some reason, even if they hide the full story.
For such a couple
seeking to have children, there are two main options:
Transwaman Heather with her children. She apparently
became a father when still very young.
of a child through an Adoption Agency.
2. Find a surrogate mother and adopt the resulting baby.
Unfortunately a couple seeking to legally adopt children will
face a major hurdle with most adoption agencies, in that they
should preferably be legally married. If the wife is a
transsexual this is unfortunately often not be the case, in most
countries it is extremely hard for a transwoman to legally marry
a man unless she possess a birth certificate stating her sex as
female, something which is also very hard to obtain. If
the couple is not legally married, or more probably the
documentation they can present is inadequate, it is unlikely
that adoption agencies will consider them, indeed they find
themselves to be rather less acceptable than same sex lesbian or
homosexual couples in long-term relationships which "Politically
Correct" adoption agencies will nowadays increasingly consider.
However, transsexual women wishing to marry can and do tell lies, forge
or alter their birth certificate, emphasise a "female" passport,
"forget" or "lose" inconvenient documents, and take other measures to
persuade or even deceive the church and registrar . Many
transsexual women are successful in having an apparently legal wedding,
and in gaining an official marriage certificate. The couple may
thus be able to provide all the necessary and acceptable documentation
to an adoption agency, and this case they are in nearly the same
position as any other couple during the adoption process.
transwoman Vicky hopes to have children eventually
Normal Adoption Process
The actual adoption process through an Adoption Agency is for
good reasons fairly long and complex:
the couple has made the decision to adopt a child, the next step is to
do some research (e.g. via the many books on adoption, or on the
Internet) to prepare themselves for the qualification process. They can
then contact a licensed adoption agency, these can be public or
private, the couple will generally be enrolled in a pre-adoption class
and then scheduled for the "homestudy" to begin.
Scott, formerly Barry:
"I'd love to adopt and one day hopefully be a mother"
homestudy is the critical piece in the pre-adoption process. No one can
adopt a child without a successfully completed homestudy. This is
not a simple visit to the house (or apartment), but as the name implies,
a study of the "home"
they will be providing to a child. The study consists of a
myriad of items including reference and background checks, financial
statements, and personal visits from caseworkers. The homestudy
process can take from 6 weeks to three months depending on the agency
and the individual particulars of the couple's situation. The
homestudy will include two hurdles of particular relevance to
transsexual women as they may potentially present problems:
Personal History - She will be asked to provide in writing or
through an interview information describing the family in which she grew
up, how she was disciplined as a child, educational experiences, life
experiences, successes and history of coping with problems.
References - She will be asked to provide the names, addresses
and phone numbers of at least five individuals who can speak of her
characteristics and her experience with children.
entire adoption process can take 6 months to one year to complete.
After the homestudy is completed the process of matching the couple with
an appropriate child takes place. Once a child has been found,
they will spend up to six months with the couple before the adoption is
finalized. This period is usually supervised by the agency and a
report made to the court on the process of the child's placement.
A social worker will visit the home several times to assess the child's
progress and prepare a written report for the court.
actress Antonia San Juan stars in the film "All About My Mother",
a wonderful study of the relationship between mothers and their
natural or surrogate children.
An option that is increasingly pursued by childless couples
desiring a baby is use of a surrogate mother. Assuming that the
wife is a transwoman, the most common technique used is via "Artificial
Insemination" (AI) - the surrogate mother is artificially inseminated
with the sperm from the husband of the couple. The child is
genetically related to the surrogate and the husband, but not the wife.
The wife of the couple adopts the child via a step-parent adoption.
surrogate mother is commonly selected by the couple because of her
location or physical similarity. Others want a surrogate who is
intelligent. All couples, however, look for a woman who is
healthy, has no significant medical/psychological difficulties, is
emotionally and mentally stable, conceives easily, and who is
responsible and mature enough to realize that the couple is placing an
enormous amount of trust in her to carry their child. In most
reputable programmes the potential surrogate mother must be between
18-35 and have previously had a child. While some agencies tend to
seek out poor women highly motivated by the fee payable to her (usually
between $10,000 and $15,000, although sums as high $30,000 are not
unknown), the typical surrogate is perhaps 28, married, employed, and
solidly middle class.
Obviously using a surrogate mother unrelated to the wife means that the
later will not be genetically related to her new baby in any way.
This can be partially resolved if a close female relative (sister or
mother) of the wife is willing to act as the surrogate mother using AI,
or at least as an egg donor for what's termed IVF/ED - In vitro
fertilization with an egg donor. In this technique the female
relative's eggs are combined with the sperm from the husband, and the
resulting embryos are then transferred to a surrogate.
her dream to come true".
Caroline Cossey's request to her sister to have a baby
for her got considerable publicity in the UK.
alternative variation is if the wife had sperm frozen before her SRS, an
increasingly common practice. This sperm could be used to
fertilise an egg from a female relative of the husband, again strongly
linking any baby genetically to both parents.
IVF/ED the [hopefully] resulting baby is not genetically related to the
surrogate, and only the husband's name usually goes on the birth
certificate. If legally married, the wife of the couple can then
adopt the child, as with the AI procedure. The wife will be as
closely related to the baby as she would be to any niece or nephew - and
both herself and others will undoubtedly very happily recognise many
features and characteristics of the "mother" in the baby.
Finally there will be legalization or "Finalisation" of the child's
adoption. This is the legal act that establishes a family
connection between the adopting person(s) and the adopted person. Done
in a court setting, this act creates a parent-child relationship and
grants rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parents and child
that are equal to those rights and responsibilities granted to families
created by birth - including child support obligations, inheritance
rights and custody. The birthparents' legal relationship to the
child is terminated, unless the adoption is a stepparent adoption, in
which case only the parent without custody loses parental rights.
After the Adoption
After finalisation the women becomes the legal guardian
of the children, effectively its mother for all legal and
However there still remains a potential problem that natal "XX"
women don't face. The validity of the transwoman's marriage
could still be potentially challenged later, and thus the woman
at least remains in a potentially vulnerable legal situation as
a parent, and even as a wife in most countries. For
example, in the event of marital problems it would be very easy
for the husband to get the marriage annulled or voided (note,
not a divorce as the marriage was never legal) on the grounds
that his wife is a transsexual. A typical legal judgment
is along the lines of "there is no authority .... for the
issuance of a marriage license to consummate a marriage between
a post-operative male to female transsexual person and a male
person". If it's successfully argued that the marriage was
never valid, then the transsexual woman's parental status and
parental rights may well be jeopardized. In such
circumstances its not unusual for the children to be
taken in to care, or at least have sole custody awarded to the
Marriage of transsexual outside law, says judge
by Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
Friday November 3, 2000
A transsexual who became a bride after a sex change
operation lost her high court battle to have her
marriage declared legal yesterday.
Mr Justice Johnson said during the hearing last month
that he was "sympathetic" towards Elizabeth Bellinger.
But yesterday he said the law as it stood prevented him
declaring the marriage valid.
Mrs Bellinger, 54, who married husband Michael at
Southwark register office in south London in 1981 is one
of a few transsexuals in Britain who have gone through a
marriage ceremony. She brought up the five-year-old
daughter of her husband, a widower, with the approval of
For nearly 20 years, only her husband knew her secret.
But two years ago she went public in an interview with
the Guardian at the start of a campaign to have her
marriage legally recognised.
Mr and Mrs Bellinger
Vatican: Transsexual Adoption an Insult
Saturday, June 26, 1999
By Daniel Schweimler in Madrid
The Vatican has strongly criticised the decision by a
court in Spain to give custody of an 11-year-old girl to
The transsexual, called Eva but born Alfredo, says she
is a good mother and a devout Catholic who will continue
sending her adopted daughter to a convent school.
The girl's natural mother died when she was a year old
and her father, who lived as a couple with Eva for many
years, died two-and-a-half years ago.
The Vatican, in its official newspaper, called the
decision by the court in the southern city of Seville
said the ruling was an insult to the institution of the
family. The Vatican also said it resented the fact
that many courts in the European Union appeared to be
making similar decisions.
The 11-year-old girl, who has not been named, first lost
her natural mother when she was a year old. She
was then brought up by her natural father and his new
partner, a transsexual called Eva, who legally is still
considered a man.
The father died in February 1997 and Eva continued to
care for the daughter until her maternal grandparents
took her away and looked after her for 18 days.
There then followed a long battle in the courts for
custody of the girl. The courts first sided with
the grandparents, but an appeal court decided Eva would
be the girl's best guardian.
Eva says she is a good mother and a devout Catholic who
will continue to send the girl to a school run by nuns.
I believe in equality for all, said Eva, who says she
has always felt as though she were a woman.
She is now in the process of changing sex and is saving
the money for a full sex change operation.
Eva says everyone knows her situation and she is
accepted by the people in her neighbourhood and by the
other mothers at the girl's school.
Psychiatric reports ordered by the courts say the girl
is well-balanced and accepts Eva as her mother.
Spain is a fast-modernising, increasingly liberal
country but Eva's situation is still a long way from
being accepted by all elements of the society.
Sex change no bar to adoption
By Clare Sterling
July 22, 2000
Men and women who have sex change operations may be
allowed to legally marry and adopt children. A
Home Office consultation document is set to be launched
on legal recognition for the new genders of
If the law is changed, it would also enable transsexuals
to inherit family titles and property. While
ministers privately fear a public outcry similar to that
provoked by repeal of Section 28 if new legislation is
adopted, they are mindful that the Government could be
forced to make the changes after the Human Rights Act
comes into force in October. The Act is expected
to lead to challenges to existing laws.
Many transsexuals marry illegally in Britain, but it can
be declared null and void if discovered.
It is also illegal for them to adopt. Last year
transsexuals won a court battle for protection under the
Sex Discrimination Act and recently won the right to
remain in the Armed Forces.
They are able to have their new gender recorded on
passports and driving licences but not birth
transsexual woman marries a man with children from a previous marriage,
she can seek to adopt them as a step-mum. This will gives her full
legal rights and responsibilities as a parent and their mother.
However as already indicated above, if the legitimacy and legality of
the marriage was ever challenged, the marriage would almost certainly be
annulled or voided given the way the law currently stands in most
countries, she would then be in a very vulnerable legal situation as a
Transwomen make Good Mothers?
course this is an impossible question to actually answer. It's
like asking "do men make good fathers"?
only reasonable answer is that some make very good mothers, while others
may make very poor mothers. However it's also reasonable to suppose
that transsexual women who actively seek marriage and children, or
actively seek custody of their own children, are at least as likely to
be as good a mother as any other woman. Conversely, it can be
supposed that transsexual women who don't want to be a mother are less
likely to actually be put in this situation than fertile natal "XX"