What started as a custody battle in Texas over seven-year-old twins has transformed into a cultural debate that underscores the damaging effects of intolerance and misinformation about health care for transgender people.

The custody battle between Jeffrey Younger and Anne Georgulas made national headlines in late October due to the couple’s disagreement over the gender identity of their child. One of their twins, who chooses to go by Luna, was assigned male at birth but identifies as female. Luna first began expressing a desire to be a girl at around age three. Since then, her mother has taken Luna to doctors who have recommended certain gender-affirming actions, such as allowing Luna to dress as a girl and identify as a girl in public. These so-called gender-affirming actions follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines on how best to support children like Luna.

Luna’s father, however, refused to follow these recommended steps and would not recognize his daughter as a girl. He continued to use male pronouns for the child, called Luna by her birth name and refused to allow her to dress in female clothes. As he and his wife entered into a custody case, Younger also began publicizing the court battles, using a website created to raise donations for himself. He claimed that Georgulas was forcing Luna to identify as a girl and was going to push a medical sex change on Luna. Younger also used his website and subsequent media coverage for personal monetary gain. He is said to have made over $139,000 as a result of his actions.

It did not take long for right-wing media to pick up on this story and add further false information, including claiming that Georgulas was going to “chemically castrate” Luna. Soon, the case became fodder for conservative politicians. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, claimed Luna was being used as a “pawn in a left-wing political agenda,” and Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, said he had referred the case to the Texas Department of Family Services.

These comments by politicians only serve to misinform people about transgender health care. For young children such as Luna it is recommended to use gender-affirming actions, such as allowing them to choose a new name, choose their pronouns and wear what they want. If children continue to identify with the gender they choose, they can begin undergoing treatment to block the onset of puberty in early adolescence. These hormonal treatments are reversible. Only later are the decisions made about undergoing surgeries.

On Oct. 24, Judge Kim Cooks decided to award the couple joint custody without compelling Younger to recognize Luna as a female. This unfortunate ruling will undoubtedly have a negative effect on Luna. 

Upon reading about this court case, I brought it up in conversation and was shocked to find many people whom I interact with in my daily life incorrectly believed that young children would receive irreversible medical treatments to change their gender. Most of these individuals are very tolerant of the LGBTQ community but are unfamiliar with the process of how gender affirmation works in regards to young children. 

For these people, it was simply a lack of information or even worse, the spread of misinformation. One of the most shocking things about this whole story is the role of fake news and hyperbole. Not only were websites pushing Younger’s claims, but so were elected officials such as governors and members of Congress. These are people who at face value we believe we can trust, but in reality, we cannot. Though it may be tedious, it is more important than ever for us to be cautious and to question the media we consume. We will all be better off if we read critically and ensure that what we are reading is actually rooted in fact.

If people ensured they read credible articles on this case, they would likely be able to find out about the benefits of gender-affirming actions and would, therefore, be more accepting of parents and children who are using these actions. If we want to build a more tolerant and accepting world for children like Luna, it is up to all of us to embrace information that is based in truth.

Isabelle Schindler can be reached at ischind@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *