A born-male four-year-old (now five) who identifies as female was ordered by multiple judges not to wear girls' clothes in public until another judge overturned the orders.
Susan Smith says she remembers walking out of the court room in Medicine Hat, Alta., last December in shock after a judge ordered that her four-year-old child would not be allowed to wear feminine clothing in public.
It happened in family court during a custody battle. Smith was the primary caregiver. CBC News is not using her real name to protect the identity of the child.
Initially the mother didn't understand gender dysphoria.
"I explained to them the female and male anatomy and that what you get when you're born is what remains your entire life," says Smith.
A few days later, she says her child woke up in the middle of the night to tell Smith she was going to cut off her penis.
"My child was severely unhappy and was prepared to do anything to prove to mom that they were not a boy. It was basically like a ton of bricks, I got hit. It was a major wakeup call."
Smith says she then sought some professional help, started researching gender dysphoria and decided to acknowledge her child's preferred identity.
"Our eyes locked and it was maybe the millionth time they told me they were a girl ... and I promised I was going to do whatever I could to validate and support them and to be that one person they could go to."
She says as soon as she did, the outbursts and the tantrums were replaced with a happy, confident child.
The father blamed the mother for the child's dysphoria, and one judge ordered that the mother would have primary custody, but that the child could not wear girls' clothing in public, and another repeated the clothing order and furthered the ruling by granting the father primary custody and restricting the mother's access. Finally a third judge ordered the parents to provide both boys' and girls' clothes and that the child would be allowed to choose.
Smith and the child's father are separated and share custody.
Smith says she told the father what had happened and about her decision to support their child. Weeks later he served her with papers seeking primary custody, blaming Smith for the child's gender confusion and anxiety.
When the two went to family court in Medicine Hat in December, 2015, Judge Derek Redman kept Smith as primary caregiver, but in his interim order, said the child would not be permitted to wear clearly female clothes in public, but if desired, could do so in private.
Then in February, the case went before Judge Fred Fisher. In his interim order, he again stated the clothing restriction and granted primary custody to the father. Smith was given limited access.
By this past September, the interim clothing order was revised by a third provincial court judge. Judge Gordon Krinke said, after consulting with a parenting expert, the parents must provide both boy and girl clothing options and the child can then choose from those options.
The mother still does not have primary custody, but is seeking to regain it; the story doesn't say how restricted her access is.
Smith says she doesn't know if her child is just curious, or is transgender, but she says it doesn't matter to her. She says what does matter is that the courts respect the right of gender expression.
She plans to launch a human rights complaint against the two judges, and continue to fight to regain primary custody.
"I'm not going to hide under a rock and just give up — this is still a big fight."
The Alberta Bill of Rights does, however, protect gender identity and gender expression.
Angela Reid, with the Trans Equality Society of Alberta, says this unusual court order dictating the type of clothing a child wears goes against Alberta's Bill of Rights.
She says gender identity and gender expression are both protected, and the legislation does not require a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or any other medical condition; these rights apply to everyone.
"If it's actually a boy who thinks he's a boy but he wants to wear dresses anyway, that is totally OK, and that should not be prevented by the court," says Reid.
There have been a few other cases of this sort, but in those cases the issue was a parent's choice of clothing when visiting with their children, not the child's clothing. This is essentially tantamount to a court overruling a person's right to gender expression.
Reid says this is the third case she's seen like this. However it's the only one involving a child in a custody case. In the other situations, she says it's the parents who aren't being allowed to dress in the clothing of their choice when visiting their children.
"The fact that we're seeing multiple cases where someone's gender expression is being dictated by the court tells us that perhaps a more visible ruling that, that it's not OK in our court system, would be very useful," says Reid.
Alberta: Canada's Florida.