At least one of those conflicts was resolved on Tuesday, as a jury in Dallas effectively granted Georgulas sole custody of Luna in a deeply personal case of gender identity, family conflict and viral misinformation that has lit conservative circles aflame.
Since the start of the trial last week, a number of conservative media outlets have cried foul about the situation, claiming that Georgulas, a pediatrician with a private practice in a Dallas suburb, was going to have Luna “mutilated” or “chemically castrated.” The case even made its way to at least three Texas Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, who called the child “a pawn in a left-wing political agenda.”
Gov. Greg Abbott (R), meanwhile, said late on Wednesday that state agencies were looking into the situation. Neither office immediately responded to a request for comment. Attorneys for both parents also did not immediately respond.
But as Younger turned the parents’ fight into one over irreversible medical procedures, experts on health care for transgender children told The Washington Post that Georgulas’s approach to the child would not involve any kind of surgery or hormones for years.
“Many people wrongly assume that prepubescent transgender or gender-diverse children will receive medical interventions,” Katherine Kuvalanka, a social work professor at Miami University in Ohio, said in an email to The Washington Post. “The only interventions for young children is affirmation and acceptance for who they are.”
In its 11-to-1 decision, a jury all but gave Georgulas the right to sign off on any medical and psychological decisions. If a judge upholds that decision on Thursday, the verdict would end a bitter, two-year saga between the parents, who had their brief marriage annulled over their child’s gender identity, a case that wades deep into thorny, polarized and little-known questions about the impact of medical transitions on young children.
It all began, Younger says on his blog, on the twins’ third birthday, when Luna expressed a desire to be a girl.
At that point, the father was paying maximum child support and had standard custody in Texas: He saw the twins once a week for two hours and had them sleep over at his apartment two weekends a month. They spent the rest of their time with Georgulas, who had noticed that the child, known by the name James at the time, wanted to wear dresses and look like the female characters from the Disney movie “Frozen."
Georgulas took Luna to see a therapist, who diagnosed the child with gender dysphoria — a mismatch between the gender assigned at birth and the one they identified with. From there, the therapist laid out steps on how to make the child feel affirmed, like letting Luna paint their nails and putting them in a dress, as the mother did when the twins turned 5.
But Younger has repeatedly told a different story in interviews with conservative media outlets, including LifeSiteNews, a website run by a Canadian antiabortion organization that advocates for “traditional family values” and against same-sex marriage.
“James presents as a boy with me and he presents as a girl with his mom,” Younger said to the website last month. “He gets dressed as a boy at his mother’s home and he comes out to me as a boy. That means that he’s comfortable as a boy at his mother’s home.”
Younger charged that Georgulas had been pressuring Luna to want to use female pronouns. He cut the child’s hair, put the child in boys’ clothes and continued calling them James.
In August 2018, Georgulas filed for a restraining order to block Younger from entering the twins’ school or telling other parents or students “that the gender of Luna is different than a girl named Luna.”
She also tried to enroll their child in gender transition therapy at GENECIS, a pediatric clinic for transgender children in Dallas and the first one like it in the Southwest. (Representatives for the clinic did not immediately answer a request for comment on Wednesday night.)
But Laura Edwards-Leeper, a clinical psychologist at Pacific University, said that for someone of Luna’s age, gender-affirming care would not include any kind of medical intervention until they hit puberty. Even then, she said, it’s not an automatic procedure.
After a mental-health evaluation and discussion with parents, it might encompass a range of activities to help “the child to live as their authentic gender, and with their preferred gender expression, at any given point in time, without a presumption about their future gender identity,” she said.
For a 7-year-old, that might mean speaking to experts and potentially helping them through a social transition, which might include changing their clothes, hairstyle or pronouns. At around ages 10 to 13, parents, health professionals and the child might decide to take puberty blockers, which delay the development of secondary sex characteristics, like facial hair or breasts.
Those can be stopped at any time, and puberty continues as it would normally. “It is only irreversible if the adults in the child’s life make it irreversible,” Edwards-Leeper told The Post. “If the adults can stay open to whatever trajectory the child has, then it’s completely reversible.”
Younger, however, said that a tactic of “watchful waiting” would be more prudent for Luna instead. Because he still had custody, his objections meant that the clinic said it could not take Luna on as a client, LifeSiteNews and other outlets reported.
Kuvalanka, however, said the “watchful waiting” approach can be harmful when a parent is withholding acceptance, and that tactic has been deemed “outdated” by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Around the time she filed the restraining order, Georgulas also tried to alter the terms of what is essentially Texas’s version of joint custody. She wanted Younger to affirm the child’s gender identity, requiring him to call her Luna and use female pronouns, and prevent him from making them spend time with those who did otherwise.
In response, Younger made a request of his own: a petition for full custody over the twins. Launching an Internet campaign to #ProtectJamesYounger, which was shared by Cruz and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.), he argued that Georgulas was going to force the child to undergo “chemical castration” once the 7-year-old became old enough to transition.
And he stepped up his calls. In January, on a podcast with a Texas political operative, he described talking with the child on FaceTime, accusing Georgulas of having “dressed him as a drag queen,” with fake eyelashes, makeup and hair covered in glitter.
“This is not just emotional abuse but is the very, most fundamental form of sexual abuse, tampering with the sexual identity of a vulnerable boy,” the father said.
The judgment effectively giving the mother sole custody of the twins was unusual, Kuvalanka said, given that juries and judges tend to side with parents who repress a child’s gender identity. But the victory has come with a cost.
Georgulas’s attorneys said the mother has faced threats, harassment, and vandalism, having been “viciously attacked and threatened by complete strangers,” they said in a statement to the Daily Caller, “based on false and untrue statements.”