This report reviews existing research on the prevalence and characteristics of transgender people who are parents, the quality of relationships between transgender parents and their children, out-comes for children with a transgender parent, and the reported needs of transgender parents. Our analysis of the research to date, which includes 51 studies, has found the following:
- Surveys show that substantial numbers of transgender respondents are parents, though at rates that appear lower than the U.S. general population. Of the 51 studies included in this review, most found that between one quarter and one-half of transgender people report being parents. In the U.S. general population, 65% of adult males and 74% of adult females are parents (Halle, 2002).
- Some studies suggest that there may be substantial differences in the rates of parenting among trans men, trans women, and gender non-conforming individuals. In all the studies included in this review that provided data about different transgender subgroups, higher percentages of transgender women than transgender men reported having children.
- Two studies have found that people who transition or “come out” as transgender later in life tend to have higher parenting rates than those people who identify as transgender and/or transition at younger ages. This higher rate of parenting could be due to individuals becoming biological parents before they identified as transgender or transitioned.
- Of the six studies that asked about both “having children” and “living with children,” all found that there were more transgender respondents who reported having children than living with children. It may be that many of the respondents represented in these studies had adult children who are no longer living with them. However, there is some evidence that formal and informal attempts to limit the contact of transgender parents with their children may also partially explain this discrepancy.
- In studies that asked transgender parents about their relationships with their children, the vast majority reported that their relationships are good or positive generally, including after “coming out” as transgender or transitioning.
- Studies on the outcomes for children with transgender parents have found no evidence that having a transgender parent affects a child’s gender identity or sexual orientation development, nor has an impact on other developmental milestones.
- Transgender parents have reported having social service needs related to child care, networking with other parents, and support for family planning.
- Transgender parents have reported discrimination – either formally through the courts or informally by the child(ren)’s other parent – in child custody and visitation arrangements. Transgender people who wish to adopt may experience discrimination in adoption.
Based on our review of existing research, we recommend the following for future research endeavors:
- To advance research endeavors about transgender parents, federal agencies and administrators of national population-based surveys should include questions to identify transgender respondents on surveys, such as the American Community Survey (ACS) and the National Survey on Family Growth (NSFG). While research that targets transgender parents is necessary, the ability to identify transgender people in national, population-based datasets will help create national benchmarks for certain aspects of transgender parenting.
- More research is needed to understand differences in parenting rates among various groups of transgender people, including to examine differences based on gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, whether a parent has transitioned, age of transition, factors related to family formation, and other characteristics that may drive differences in parenting rates among transgender people. Research on these topics may shift over time in terms of outcomes as society becomes more accepting of transgender and gender non-conforming people.
- Further research is needed to determine whether discrimination against transgender parents or potential par-ents – either formally or informally – has an impact on the prevalence of parenting, as well as the prevalence of children living with a transgender parent.
- Further research is needed to more clearly illuminate how parent-child relationships evolve in relation to a parent’s transition. Research on parent-child relationships should take into account the age of the children when transition occurs and examine transgender parents’ relationships with adult children and with children born subsequent to their transition.
- More research is needed, including longitudinal studies, to assess various developmental and other outcomes for children of transgender parents.
- Another area where research is needed is in family formation, including regarding increased availability of options to assist reproduction. A more nuanced approach to studying family formation among transgender people will provide a better understanding of how transgender people are becoming parents and what their needs may be.
- Relatedly, further research is needed to understand the differences in family formation and parenting among transgender people by age cohort and by age of transition. Family formation may be quite different for self-identified transgender people who are currently younger and those who have transitioned at earlier ages than those who had children as part of relationships prior to their transition. Further research can illuminate these differences and the different needs of those cohorts.
- Future research should also consider focusing on gender non-conforming parents, including people who identify as genderqueer or outside the gender binary.
- Finally, further research and designed interventions are needed to begin to address discrimination by courts, adoption agencies, and foster care and child welfare systems.
Data collection and research in these areas and others will lead to a fuller understanding of the experiences and needs of transgender parents and their children, as well as discrimination and bias they may face.