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Texas custody battle hinges on child's transgender identity

A lot of divorcing parents end up at odds over their children -- but a Texas case is putting the issue of transgender rights in the spotlight.

In the middle of this case is a 6-year child, a biological male. According to the child's mother, the child is transgendered and lives as a girl in her home. The father, however, insists that the child "violently" refuses to wear female clothing in his presence or home.

Now, the father is being accused of child abuse for acts that include cutting the child's hair and generally taking an aggressive stance about the child's gender. The mother also seeks to force the father to pay for the child's therapy visits and future medical alterations, including future hormonal sterilization.

The court has already barred the father from discussing scientific or religious concepts of gender with the child. He is also required to offer the child both male and female clothes when it is time to dress. The child is diagnosed with gender dysphoria, which is the technical term for situations where someone's biological gender doesn't match their internal sense of self.

Naturally, the case has become a major focus for people on both sides of the ideological fence when it comes to transgender rights and transgender identity in the first place. Groups of people loosely associated with the father have even started a campaign to "save" the child from being "turned into" a girl.

What's important to remember here is that -- outside of the principal players involved in this case (the mother, the father, the child, the doctors, the therapist and the court officials) -- nobody knows the whole story. The court's primary duty in any custody case is to look after the best interests of the child. That the court has imposed serious limitations on the father's speech indicates that the court believes that the father's rhetoric is potentially harmful to the child's mental health -- no matter what the father believes.

In any custody battle, parents absolutely have to focus on what is in their child's best interests. If you want the court to support your assertions, concentrate on building a good case with solid evidence that backs your case. Barreling ahead without the court's consent with any disputed course of action is asking for trouble and could put your future custody rights in peril.

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