Xtra Weekly
4 min

A Texas court granted joint custody to parents with opposing views on their trans child’s identity

Here’s your Xtra Weekly, Nov. 15

Credit: Alexmia/iStock / Getty Images Plus; Francesca Roh/Xtra

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WEEKLY EXPLAINER

Last month, after more than a year of battling in court, a Texas judge granted joint custody to the parents of Luna Younger, the couple’s seven-year-old trans child. One of the parents believes Younger is a girl and the other insists she’s a boy.

Here’s the background 👉When Luna was three years old, she told her parents she was a girl. Her mother, pediatrician Anne Georgulas, affirmed Luna’s gender, while her father, Jeffrey Younger, insisted Luna was a boy.

Georgulas and Younger married in 2010 and had twins who were assigned male at birth (Luna and her brother). They filed for divorce in 2015, and their marriage was annulled a year later after a court found that Younger had lied about many aspects of his life and misleading Georgulas into marriage under fraudulent terms.

According to Georgulas, Younger fabricated details about his education, work experience and the number of times he was married. Younger denies these allegations. When the couple’s marriage was annulled, they were given joint custody of the twins, who were four years old at the time. It was also decided that, as long as she informed Younger, Georgulas had the right to make decisions about the twins’ medical and psychological treatment.

In 2018, Georgulas filed a lawsuit to modify the joint custody agreement she shared with Younger. She said that one of the twins, Luna, identified as a girl and was presenting as a female in public. She said Younger would not affirm Luna’s gender and insisted she use her deadname. In her lawsuit, Georgulas said she wanted Younger to honour Luna’s identity and that if he refused, the court would have to change their joint custody agreement.

Younger contested Georgulas’ lawsuit and said that Luna always presented as a boy around him. However, Georgulas claimed that Younger engaged in “emotionally abusive behaviour” towards Luna which he took to extreme measures, such as cutting the child’s hair very short during her visits while her twin brother didn’t get the same treatment.

As a rebuttal to Georgulas’ accusations, Younger started an online campaign over his concerns that Luna was being forced to undergo gender transition treatment—a move that attracted anti-trans groups and captured the attention of the conservative media.

How did conservative media cover the case? When Younger started his online campaign to “save” Luna he accused Georgulas of fabricating Luna’s transgender identity, posted photos and videos of Luna in boy’s clothes and asked for donations to support his case against Georgulas (he raised more than $100,000 in donations).

Although he claims not to have anything against transgender people, Younger continues to use anti-trans language on his website. In a report by the Daily Beast, Younger allegedly wrote that he opposes “irreversible” hormone treatments, and repeatedly referred to gender-affirming treatments as “chemical castration.” (This characterization is false: hormone treatment is not irreversible and trans children who are minors do not receive gender-affirming surgeries or any other more permanent forms of medical interventions.) Younger also said that he prefers “watchful waiting” to practicing gender-affirming behaviour.

In a special report for Vox, journalist Katelyn Burns said that “watchful waiting” is based on an older approach developed by Dutch and Canadian clinicians in the mid-to-late 2000s “that suggests parents must ensure their children perform the role of their assigned sex at birth.”

This means that a prepubescent trans girl like Luna would be forced to maintain her birth name and pronouns, and perform stereotypical gender roles ascribed to being a boy. Supporters of watchful waiting claim that it is statistically likely that a trans kid’s gender dysphoria will desist by the time puberty begins. If the child’s dysphoria persists, only then would they receive gender-affirming treatment and support.

However, in an interview with The Washington Post, social work professor Katherine Kuvalanka said watchful waiting “can be harmful,” especially if a parent refuses to accept the trans child.

“Many people wrongly assume that prepubescent transgender or gender-diverse children will receive medical interventions. The only interventions for young children is affirmation and acceptance for who they are,” Kuvalanka said.

The standard of care for prepubescent trans children is social affirmation—such as supporting a child’s pronouns, their gender expression in their clothing and hair and so on. Medical interventions, such as puberty blockers, are only offered when a trans child is entering puberty and in cases where a child’s gender identity has shown to be “consistent, persistent and insistent.” Further, a growing body of research indicates that children who are supported and affirmed in their gender identity have far better mental health outcomes later in life.

Georgulas and Younger’s custody battle has increasingly been featured in conservative media. These organizations have targeted Georgulas and even accused her of wanting to “mutilate” her child.

The court battles continue. In October, a jury voted to give Georgulas sole custody of Luna. In an 11-to-1 vote, the jury recommended she have exclusive custody and control over Luna and her twin brother’s future medical treatment. This verdict did not sit well with Younger and his supporters. Conservative politicians like U.S. Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the case was “Horrifying & tragic. For a parent to subject such a young child to life-altering hormone blockers to medically transition their sex is nothing less than child abuse.” He also said that Luna was used as “a pawn in a left-wing political agenda.”

Donald Trump Jr. also accused Gerogulas with child abuse. In a tweet, Donald Jr. said, “People need to start to stand up against this bullshit. Enough is enough.”

Two days after the resolution, Judge Kim Cooks overturned the jury’s decision and granted both Georgulas and Younger joint custody. Cooks said both parents will have a say in medical decisions and Younger will not be required to identify Luna as a girl. Cooks also reprimanded Younger for bringing media attention to the case. She said he courted controversy “at the cost of protection and privacy of his children.”

The judge, in her ruling, prohibited both Georgulas and Younger from commenting publicly on the case until Luna and her twin brother turn 18. This means that Younger will be forced to take down his website.

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