Two parents in Texas have been publicly duking it out for the right to make medical decisions for one of their two twins. Their father, Jeffrey Younger, contends that one of their twins only identifies as transgender due to their mother’s influence, while the mother says that their daughter has consistently identified as a girl since she was three.
This week, a jury ruled in favor of the mother, pediatrician Dr. Anne Georgulas, with 11 of 12 recommending she receive sole custody and conservatorship of both children. If the judge had supported the jury’s findings, it was reported that an appeal would have taken about a year to be heard, making Younger’s chances of intervening very weak for the immediate future.
Judge Kim Cooks of the 255th Family District Court in Dallas, who was charged with reviewing the decision, went in a different direction.
She rejected the jury’s decision and instead ordered yesterday that both parents share the responsibilities jointly, which means they will have to share decisions over any medical decisions. That paves a way for the father to potentially block any medical treatment for the child that will allow them to affirm their gender.
“The state of Texas has no compelling interest to justify such interference… requiring the father to affirm the child and honor the child’s choices,” Cooks said.
Younger and Georgulas had already shared – and battled one another – for custody to both of their seven-year-old twins. Younger had mounted a public campaign for the government to intervene – reaching the Texas governor’s office – after Georgulas contended that their daughter identifies as female and now goes by the name Luna.
Georgulas petitioned family court to limit Younger’s custody rights and allow her to have complete oversight of any medical decision making. In part, her argument was that Younger was not fit for sole custody because he refused to acknowledge Luna’s gender identity, continuing to refer to her as his “son” and by her birth name.
Younger then countered with a petition to prevent Georgulas from approving medical treatment related to Luna’s transition – something that she is still years away from – and began a social media campaign that garnered attention from rightwing media, which presented the story as a father’s attempt to save his seven-year-old child from hormones and surgery instead of a mother who was trying to affirm her daughter’s gender identity through a social transition.
According to the Washington Post, experts say Luna wouldn’t receive any major surgery or medication for the coming years. Yet conservative media used the story to promote several transphobic beliefs.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claims that Luna is “a pawn in a left-wing political agenda,” while Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) remarked that “A 7-year-old can’t possibly make this decision or understand it. Parents should know better,” adding that he hope Younger “receives the public support he needs.”
On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) tweeted that he would have the Texas Attorney General’s Office and Department of Family and Protective Services “look into” it, meaning the impacts of this custody battle will drag on beyond the courtroom.
In case it wasn't clear: anti-trans conservatives don't give a damn about this child. This little girl is being exploited as a vehicle of outrage by rightwing pundits all-too-happy to make this about their hangups with the *actual* science of sex and gender.#ProtectJamesYounger
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) October 23, 2019
Following Tuesday’s jury decision, online users cheered and claimed this as a victory for the child. A thread went viral explaining how an initial investigation by state Child Protective Services concluded that no abusive behavior was being exhibited to Luna.
What I'm posting here are screenshots of the CPS investigator's testimony at trial.
With no parent present, Luna says she's a girl, and denies that anyone's making her be a girl.
She also says she's afraid of her dad because he won't let her wear girls' clothes.
— Barry makes comics (@barrydeutsch) October 23, 2019
The story has been covered worldwide, and very heavily on conservative websites. A petition by “pro-life and pro-family choice” publication LifeSiteNews has reached 64,000 signatures hoping to prevent Luna from transitioning.
Unfortunately for Younger, the judge’s ruling also allegedly came down with a restraining order preventing Younger from speaking publicly about his daughter or custody agreement. A website that was dedicated to supporting Younger must also be taken down. Georgulas’s attorneys claim that the damage from the publicity has already been done though, as the mother has faced harassment and threats from “complete strangers,” online and in real life, which includes vandalizing of her property.
At trial, both parents produced medical and psychiatric doctors or professionals for testimony, but only Georgulas’ witnesses had actually spoken with Luna. In addition to Georgulas’ own testimony describing that Luna had identified as a girl since the age of three, this persuaded a majority of the jury to support her.
Following the testimony provided by Georgulas and her doctors, Younger began to initiate a very public campaign that asked for Gov. Abbott or other officials to intervene and prevent the mother from allowing Luna to freely express her gender.
Precedent in the historically conservative state of Texas didn’t provide much security for Georgulas, and Judge Cooks’ decision essentially brings this conflict back to square one.