May 5, 2022

Five Years Later: How the James Younger Case Divided Texas

A highly-publicized custody battle that began in 2017 highlighted the issue of transgenderism and its impact on minors, leading to an all-out political and social conflict in the Lone Star State.
Five Years Later: How the James Younger Case Divided Texas

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''Save James''

Texas doctor, activist, and divorced mother Anne Georgulas began dressing her son James Younger as a girl from three years old. Based on the words of a therapist, she later claimed James suffered from gender dysphoria and needed chemical and surgical treatments to adopt a female identity as "Luna." When James' father, Jeff Younger, contested the diagnosis and argued that Georgulas was manipulating their son, Georgulas began an aggressive effort to wrest control away from her ex-husband, seeking restraining orders, accusing him of child abuse, and attempting to make him pay for "Luna's" trans-affirming treatments and therapy visits.

Despite multiple witness accounts that James displayed no apparent signs of gender dysphoria and willingly behaved like a boy away from his mother, many testimonies in favor of Jeff's case never made it into the courtroom. Georgulas, meanwhile, paid expert witnesses to testify that James was "gender-fluid" to explain discrepancies in his behavior, though they all agreed that fully identifying as a boy would be the healthiest option for him.

Those who saw James as a victim of abusive manipulation by his mother began the "Save James" movement, most notably through a former Meta/Facebook page and website of the same name where his father told his side of the story and raised legal funds. Kim Cooks, the Democratic state judge presiding over the case, tried to stifle publicity by barring news outlets from the courtroom and placing a gag order on both parents, prohibiting them from speaking publicly about the case or any political issue. This resulted in the termination of the Save James site, but Jeff continued to speak out against child transitioning procedures, willing to risk arrest.

Mentioning James Younger by name, Republican Governor Greg Abbott soon tweeted that the case was ''being looked into'' by Attorney General Ken Paxton's office. A day later, Paxton sent a letter urging the state's Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate Georgulas for child abuse, which yielded no results.

Finally, in August 2021, based on late child support and other payments, which he denies, Jeff Younger was denied custody of both his sons, James and Jude, by Democrat Judge Mary Brown. Georgulas is still prohibited from subjecting James to any gender-related medical treatments without Jeff's consent.

Jeff and James Younger

Political Fallout

As the court battle raged on in 2021, Texas Republicans had begun acting on the growing belief that transgender treatments are physically and psychologically harmful to minors and shouldn't be available to them in the first place.

The legislature proposed a bill that would have amended the legal definition of child abuse to include puberty suppression treatment, cross-sex hormones, and gender transition surgery. Other bills would have punished healthcare providers for performing such treatments by revoking their medical licenses or penalizing them.

Local mothers appeared at hearings, pleading with lawmakers not to make them liable for prosecution for raising their children as transgender. One mother, a nurse, raising her 10-year-old as a transgender girl and activist, had the child read a speech to the legislature that gained popularity on social media. ''It makes me sad that some politicians use trans kids like me to get votes from people who hate me just because I exist,'' it read.

Each bill ultimately failed to pass due to the opposition of Democrats and moderate Republicans. Conservative leaders then tried once again to pressure the DFPS. Shortly after the James Younger custody ruling, Governor Abbott asked the agency to investigate ''whether genital mutilation of a child for purposes of gender transitioning through reassignment surgery constitutes child abuse.'' The commissioner replied that it could be prosecuted as such because it ''physically alters a child's genitalia for non-medical purposes,'' has the potential to cause ''irreversible harm,'' and because children cannot consent to it, making them ''vulnerable'' to manipulation. In February 2022, Attorney General Paxton issued a 13-page legal opinion arguing that non-surgical methods of gender transition, such as drugs that ''induce transient or permanent infertility,'' are also child abuse according to similar reasoning. Governor Abbott, citing Paxton's letter, directed the DFPS to prosecute them as well.

These statements do not mean that transgender treatments on minors have been firmly banned in Texas; that could only be accomplished by passing legislation that explicitly addresses them, which hasn't happened. Instead, Texas officials argue that such treatments already fit the definition of child abuse under existing law and intend to prosecute on that basis. Therefore, prosecutors must also convince a court of this interpretation for any criminal penalties to occur.

Likewise, the state quickly began investigations into at least nine households, one of which was a mother who worked for the DFPS. Progressives quickly mounted legal resistance.

After local progressive law organizations sued to overturn the Governor's directive, Democrat Judge Amy Meachum issued a statewide injunction, blocking all such investigations until the case is heard in July. Lawyers argue that the Governor's directive has no basis in existing law and is, therefore, unconstitutional use of executive power that is ''killing the ability of transgender youth to continue to get necessary care.'' The state, however, argues that the judiciary shouldn't obstruct ''such a critical task as ensuring the welfare of [Texas] children.''

The progressive district attorneys for Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Fort Bend released a joint statement vowing not to comply with Abbott and Paxton’s ''cruel directives treating transgender children's access to life-saving, gender-affirming care as 'child abuse.''' They added, ''Elected officials should be protecting our most vulnerable.''

As the fight over Texas kids has been brought to yet another temporary standstill, some see no other option but to take matters into their own hands, including Jeff Younger. Amidst the GOP's failure to reach concrete legislative victories, he decided to run as a Republican candidate for the Texas House in 2022. Among other issues, his campaign centers heavily around outlawing transgender treatment on minors.

''Until these laws change, my son will never be safe,'' he said at a campaign event.

Culture War

Younger's controversial campaign increased the already fierce community polarization following the Governor's directive. When the University of North Texas allowed Younger to speak for an event about criminalizing child transitioning, the pressure boiled over.

The student newspaper North Texas Daily published a letter to the editor by a member of the UNT faculty, a father raising his child as transgender. He accused Younger of "advocating harm" and "denying the existence of transgender people," even insinuating that allowing him to speak was equivalent to dignifying Holocaust denial. A combination of UNT students and protestors unaffiliated with the school crashed the event, shouting down Younger and calling him a "fascist." Some chanted, cursed, made vulgar gestures, spit on him, and came up to grab his microphone. He repeatedly taunted the crowd with statements like, "There is no such thing as a transgender person!" One organizer of the event for Young Conservatives of Texas was forced to hide in a janitor's closet with police as leftists verbally harassed and chased her.

Jeff was eventually forced to leave, after which protestors clashed with police. Later, the university spoke against the riotous behavior but clarified that it strongly opposed Younger's views. Students responded with more protesting, accusing the school of "victim-blaming."

As the cultural divide deepens, local left-wing media isn't helping. While attempting to appear neutral in their coverage of trans-related political conflicts, some outlets refer to transgender treatments as "gender-affirming" to promote the progressive view of gender: an inner identity unrelated to biology. Others like the "non-partisan" Texas Tribune, one of the state's most influential papers, plainly advocate them while failing to adequately address the issues some Texans are concerned about.

The Tribune argues, for example, that puberty blockers are "completely reversible." While it's true that a child can be taken off of them, data indicates it is not certain that they leave no permanent effect on physiology. There is also statistical evidence that these drugs influence children toward a trans identity when they might otherwise grow out of it.

"Gender reassignment" surgeries that physically castrate a child are among the most concerning of these procedures for Texans who see them as harmful and immoral. While insisting that they rarely occur, the Tribune danced around the issue of ''genital mutilation'' by merely quoting a local medical expert who took offense to the Governor's use of the term.

"It's literally the harshest language possible because he wants a reaction from his side," she said. "And they can gain supporters in that of like, 'Oh, that sounds awful. Yeah, we shouldn’t be doing that to our minors.'"

So far, Texans concerned about child transgenderism remain undeterred by the Left's institutional power. Despite local media's attempt to characterize the movement as a ''far-right fringe,'' the state's Republican primary election in 2022 sent a clear message. Ninety-two percent of GOP primary voters approved a ballot proposal to ''ban chemical castration, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and genital mutilation surgery on all minor children for sex transition purposes.'' The Washington Post's report on the election acknowledged that criminalizing transgender surgery on minors was a mainstream priority for candidates. ''[Texas] Republicans think calling gender-affirming surgery 'child abuse' is a winning strategy,'' the Post lamented. There was also strong voter turnout in the school board primary among parents who oppose progressive gender ideology being taught to children. Voters largely succeeded in rejecting GOP candidates who weren't as tough on the issue.

Overall, the transgender politics of the Lone Star State reflect how firmly the rest of America is divided as both sides see their view of gender as a fact beyond dispute. Because a society cannot abide by both views, they contain different societal ramifications. If the traditional idea of gender is correct, imposing a delusion onto a child that may lead to bodily or psychological harm is an act of abuse that warrants government intervention. If the progressive idea is correct, conservatives are unjustly invoking state authority to stop children from living according to their identity.

As a result, each side sees itself as ''protecting'' children from the other.

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