In the midst of a tense custody battle involving the case of a transgender seven-year-old in Texas, the state’s leading conservative politicians have jumped into the fray to defend a father who doesn’t affirm his child’s gender.
A jury in Dallas this week awarded sole managing conservatorship of Luna Younger to her mother, Anne Georgulas, a pediatrician who took her child to professional counselors. As The Texan reports, the counselors claimed during court testimony that Luna is, indeed, transgender and highlighted the need to affirm her gender, including her desire to be recognized under a feminine name.
However, the father argued that his child isn’t trans and brought in his own stable of counselors — who had never met the child — to testify on his behalf. Jeff Younger’s witnesses claimed that a “social transition” or an eventual “medical transition” wouldn’t be in her best interest.
Enter Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz, who tweeted Wednesday night that parents who support transitioning kids are committing “child abuse.” Along with several other Texas Republicans, they leapt in to strongly condemn the court ruling. In a tweet, Abbott claimed the state’s attorney general’s office and child protective services would be investigating.
“This is horrifying & tragic,” added Cruz, a staunch proponent of anti-trans bathroom bills during the 2016 election. “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.”
Other conservatives vowed to respond with legislative action. State Rep. Matt Krause pledged to introduce a bill prohibiting “the use of puberty blockers in these situations for children under 18” at the first opportunity. Two other state representatives, Jared Patterson and Cody Harris, said they would support Krause’s efforts.
Despite these protests, Judge Kim Cooks in Texas’ 255th Family District Court finalized custody terms on Thursday and mandated that both parents have a say in all medical decisions, including in the event that Luna begins the process of undergoing hormone therapy before becoming a legal adult.
Cooks also placed Jeff under a gag order to prevent him from discussing the case publicly.
Research already debunks unfounded assumptions about transgender children, including those who undergo medial treatments. Dr. Jack Turban, a resident physician in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital, refuted politicians’ claims that supporting trans children would give way to “genital mutilation” or cause long-term damage.
“The reality could not be further from the truth. The vast majority of transgender kids who begin hormonal treatments do not change their minds about medically transitioning,” Turban wrote in an op-ed for Vox.
Turban cited studies showing that only a tiny percentage of trans children who start puberty blockers eventually stop the process, as well as research noting that trans young people who are affirmed in their transition have positive mental health outcomes comparable to cisgender peers.
Even so, lawmakers like Texas congressman Chip Roy responded to the Younger custody case by asking federal officials to further study any harmful consequences for transgender children who undergo medical treatments. As The Texan reports, Roy sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, the director of the National Institutes of Health, and the director of the National Drug Control Policy to intervene.
The news in Texas comes as other states, such as South Dakota, have begun zeroing in on trans and nonbinary children and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Legislators in the Mount Rushmore State have proposed laws that would ban schools from teaching about gender identity and expression until the eighth grade, give parents the right to refuse gender-affirming healthcare without any repercussions, and restrict trans athletes from participating in sports based on the sex assigned at birth.
Anti-LGBTQ+ proposals are common in the Lone Star State, including the preemption of local measures that protect LGBTQ+ employees, a bathroom bill preventing trans and nonbinary people from using facilities that best correspond with their gender identity, and a “Save Chick-fil-A” bill that makes it easier for businesses and invididuals to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people based upon their religious beliefs.
The former two bills failed to become law, but the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill was signed by Gov. Abbott in July. He has not stated whether he would be open to the passage of a puberty blockers bill.