Why Parents In An Alberta Custody Case Need To Pull It Together

Updated on October 27, 2016

Love Of Your Son Or Daughter Should Be First

It's always sad when a couple chooses to split up, especially when there are kids involved. I'm always impressed when couples look at each other and realize that just because they are no longer a couple does not mean they are incapable of working together to raise their kids as a team. While I'm certain that doing so takes a lot of work on the part of the exes, I'm equally sure that the kids are better for such an experience.

I was appalled to hear of a situation in southern Alberta in which a five year old boy is having to switch how he expresses himself depending on which parent he is living with. According to reports, the boy wants to wear dresses while living with his mom and is forbidden from doing so when he lives with his dad, who has primary custody. Making things even more difficult is the father's assertion that the mother is to blame for their son's gender confusion.

I'm not a parenting expert by any stretch. I can only go by what my own experiences are with my own children, but it strikes me that as parents, we should be focused on ensuring that our children feel loved and respected for who they are at any age. While I don't endorse kids dressing in a provocative manner - self-respect is paramount in all things, I think - if someone chooses to wear a dress, let them wear a dress. At least they're not choosing to parade around their school hallways naked, and they aren't engaging in criminal behavior.

I can only imagine how confusing things might be for that young boy caught in the middle. If the child is actually experimenting with his gender identity, he should be supported and loved for who he is, not for the clothes he chooses to wear. It's got to be troubling for the youngster to have to rein in his gender expression around his father and be allowed to wear what he wants around his mother, and the fact that a previous judge in the case had ordered that the child only wear clothes conforming to the gender he was born with at his dad's place only flies in the face of being supportive of this child.

Thankfully, the previous judge's restriction has been lifted by a third judge in this case, but the strife between the parents remains. According to CBC, the youngster in this matter is also experiencing a great deal of anxiety as a result of what's happening, and small wonder, if it does turn out that he is experimenting with his gender identity.

According to CBC, kids who identify as transgender are coming out at younger ages, and without supportive loved ones, the risk of suicide among this demographic is high as they get older.

"Parenting doesn't really influence a child's gender identity," said Kris Wells, an assistant professor with the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta. "That's an innate part of who they are. It's being in non-supportive environments that cause the most damage."

I'm sure that these parents love their kid. I'm sure that when it comes down to it, all they want is to see their kid grow up and be a successful, socially responsible member of society. However, it should not matter at all as to what clothes this boy wears. While I realize that he is quite young, there are a number of young kids who are starting to realize that their gender identity may not necessarily be the one they were born with.

Couple Bands Together To Support Trans Son

Ryland Whittington was born a girl, and when he started expressing his gender identity at around 5 years old, his parents accepted him as their son.
Ryland Whittington was born a girl, and when he started expressing his gender identity at around 5 years old, his parents accepted him as their son. | Source

Embrace The Differences

Ryland Whittington is a very fortunate young boy. After having been born deaf, he received cochlear implants and once he had access to sound, he started telling his parents that he was not a girl - as he'd been born - and that he was a boy.

His parents, Hillary and Jeff, were at first resistant, thinking that Ryland was going through a phase. That was five years ago, and shortly after they learned back then that 41 percent of transgender kids attempted suicide, the couple decided that they would rather have a living son than a dead daughter.

While the couple's decision was met with blatant fury by some, they stood by their son, and now, he's a happy, smiling 8-year-old. The couple has noted that they have not done anything that would be irreversible - for now, it's just a matter of Ryland dressing as a boy and cutting his hair - but as he enters puberty, the couple knows that they could be looking at putting their son on puberty blockers so that his biology doesn't affect his growth as a member of the gender identity he ascribes to.

Perhaps these parents from Alberta could take a lesson from the Whittingtons, who continue to face the court of public opinion over their support of their son. Love your children, regardless of how they express their gender identity, folks. It doesn't matter who they love or whether they feel they are male or female. Let them be good and decent members of society, and love them for it.

Ryland's Story

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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