'Fighting for My Children': Michael's Secret Life
Linda has been struggling for seven years to regain custody of her kids from her ex-husband.
"Michael doesn't care about my children. Michael has ulterior motives," Linda says, revealing what makes their battle exceptional: Michael used to be a woman. "His motive is to be considered a man in society, but custody of my children does not make Michael a man."

As a child, Michael knew he was different. "When my mother would put me in a dress, I would literally hold my breath and just pass out," he says. "When I was 25 years old, I began changing my gender. I had a hysterectomy and a mastectomy."

Linda was pregnant when she met Michael, and he helped raise the child. Three years later, his brother was a sperm donor, and they had a daughter.

Michael doesn't think that being a transsexual has a negative impact on his ability to parent. He was "flabbergasted" in court when his sex became an issue. "I don't think that there's any other divorce proceeding where anyone should have to stand up and explain whether they sit down or stand up to urinate," he says. "I love my children. I am the only father they have ever known."

Linda argues, "I'm concerned about my children. Michael shouldn't have my children. I gave birth to them. They came from me. It's like a nanny having your children."
"Tell me why you wanted to be here today," Dr. Phil asks Linda.

"I want my biological children back. They were taken for no reason, and I want your help to be able to deal with the daily situations of them living with Michael and having to have visitation with me," she replies.

Dr. Phil is shocked at Linda's claim that her kids were taken "for no reason." "I find that almost entirely unfathomable," he tells her. "What you're saying is that for absolutely no reason — no contribution of misconduct on your part — that
somebody just out of the blue decided to take children from their biological mother and give them to her spouse, in this case, a transgender male."

Linda explains that her children were taken away because a judge ruled that she was alienating them from Michael. "Now, in turn, Michael's alienating those children from me," she says.

Addressing Michael, Dr. Phil asks, "Why are you here?"

"I want all the unnecessary things to stop," Michael says. "I want what's in the best interest of the children, and I want them to have a mother and a father, whom they both dearly love. I think they should be entitled to both."
When Dr. Phil asks Michael if he filed a motion for his children to testify, Michael explains, "My children have stated several times that they want to be heard. They are two young children who know what an impact this decision is going to have on their lives as well as Linda's and myself."

"The children don't make adult decisions," Dr. Phil argues. "Why are you dragging the kids into these third-party proceedings?"

Michael protests, "The children want to be heard —"

Dr. Phil interrupts, "Children want a lot of things, but is it in their best interest to do that?"

Michael says that it is. "We're not necessarily asking that they testify," he clarifies. "What we're asking is that they do have a chance to speak to the judge, and that's in their best interest."
Linda's religious beliefs have changed in recent years, and she now disapproves of Michael's lifestyle.

"Is this a referendum on transgender and sexual reassignment, or is this a fact that you think that your former husband is an unfit parent?" Dr. Phil presses.

When Linda maintains that her ex is an unfit parent, Dr. Phil asks, "Have you handled it in a way that you think is in the best interest of the children?"

"Absolutely," Linda replies.

Dr. Phil begs to differ. The court-appointed psychologist, Dr. Dies, criticized how Linda handled telling the children about Michael's sexual orientation. "You used it as a weapon against him and wound up hurting the children to the point that he said that he felt you were suffering from Parent Alienation Syndrome, and that the children should be given to Michael," he says.

Dr. Phil is not taking sides; he wants to speak on behalf of the children. "I want you two to understand I'm not taking a side here as to you two, but I am taking a side in this. I'm taking a side to these children. I don't like what's going on here," he says. "I don't like what's going on in terms of what they're being subjected to."
Dr. Phil introduces Michael's lawyer, Karen, who questions Linda's integrity. "One of the things that the judge found in his 800-page ruling, was that Linda simply isn't credible. She has changed her story so many times, and we're getting yet another version here today," she says.

Linda's lawyer, Matthew, speaks up. "This is a judge who actually, in his opinion, said that gender or the notion of binary sex, male and female, is just a mental construct. It's an outdated,
19th-century, stereotypic notion that we ought to abolish. And that's the same judge who, in all of the testimony that was presented before the court, it was unanimous and undisputed that these children told all of these doctors that they wanted to be with their mom. And despite that testimony, he took them and put them with Michael."

When Dr. Phil points out that for legal purposes, the court found that Michael is not a male, Karen says, "The key here is the children. He may not legally be a male, but he is absolutely these children's father."
Addressing Michael, Dr. Phil asks, "What have you done to contribute to the problems that these children are now enduring?"

"I've tried daily to make sure that the children have a relationship with their mother," Michael begins.

"Does that mean you're not going to answer the question? I know you have a white-washed version of this, but the truth is that nobody in these things is perfect," Dr. Phil says. "You're not going to get anywhere until you get real with this. And you better be glad I'm not on the bench, because I'm looking to see who has the best interest of these children at heart, and I don't see anybody stepping up. This family needs a hero. This family needs somebody to step up and say, 'We're going to put these kids first.'"

Dr. Phil runs down a list of Michael's actions against his ex-wife. "Linda says that you were so controlling when you were involved in this relationship that you wouldn't let her even call her family, that you told your children that the judge had determined that she was an unfit mother."

"That's not true."

"Did you have her arrested over a phone card?" Dr. Phil asks. "She was using your parents' phone card, and you had her arrested and later dropped the charges?"

Michael explains that he wasn't the one who pressed charges.Dr. Phil asks Linda if she wants her ex-husband totally out of their children's lives. "I want to have legal custody, sole legal custody of my children. Do I never want my children to see Michael? Absolutely not. That's not what I'm saying at all," Linda says.

Dr. Phil challenges her. "The court believes, and I think Dr. Dies believes, that if you have control of these children, that you would take steps to ensure that he had little or no contact with them ever because you believe that this is an immoral, evil, bad situation and that they shouldn't be exposed to that," he says.

"When I get custody of my children, and Michael's involved with my children, it will be under a counselor's care," Linda responds.

"Do you think that what you're doing has created trauma for these children, has hurt these children in any way?"

"Oh, absolutely. Through this whole entire thing, I have not just sat there and done the right thing," she says.

Michael answers Dr. Phil's question. "And I'm not sitting up here saying I'm the best parent, either," he says. "I'm very frustrated because I don't know how to co-parent with Linda because our views are so different."

"I don't want this to be a referendum on transgender," Dr. Phil stresses. "What I'm concerned about is who is giving these children good, solid, predictable, stable, loving and caring."
Dr. Phil explains that children of divorce have special needs: "They need to know that they are accepted on both sides of the equation so they don't feel that their base of operations has been shaken." Children also have needs for safety, freedom from guilt and structure. "They need to see that there's a parent involved that has the strength and stability to conduct the business of the family, and is not going to break down into name-calling and yelling and screaming. Children need to be allowed to be children. They don't need to be involved in all of this drama."

Addressing Michael, he says, "If you alienate these children from their mother, I promise you before their life is over, you will feel the sting of their resentment." The same will happen to Linda if she alienates the children from Michael. "They'll look at you and say, 'Why did you do that to me? Why did you tear that support system from my life?'" he tells her.

Linda doesn't have to endorse Michael's sexual orientation, but she has to accept her children's relationship with him. The lawyers should encourage Michael and Linda to find a mediator to come up with a family plan. "I'll bring whatever resources to bear that I can to try to find and create a soft place to fall for these children, because that's what they need," Dr. Phil assures them.