Bio Edge

Bio Edge

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BioEdge is a weekly newsletter about cutting-edge bioethical issues. Based in the Southern Hemisphere but speaking to the world, BioEdge is completely independent.
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Texas divorce case opposes two views of child transgenders

A bitter divorce case in Texas involving the custody of seven-year-old twin boys has turned toxic after the parents began disputing whether one of them is transgender. It has become a test case for the legitimacy of transgender medicine for children.

The father, Jeff Younger, argues that his son, James, identifies with his biological sex. The mother, Anne Georgulas, a paediatrician, argues that James is really a girl and demands that he be called Luna.

“You’ve heard of people who can’t agree if the sky is blue. These parents can’t even agree if their child is a boy or a girl,” Younger’s lawyer told a jury in a battle over custody.

On October 21, the jury awarded sole custody to Georgulas, which effectively meant that she could proceed with her plans for James to transition to Luna. Apparently she intended to start him on puberty blockers in the near future. However, on October 24 a judge overruled the jury and awarded custody to both parents, meaning that they have to agree on medical treatment.

It is impossible to know all the facts without access to court records, but the Texas Attorney-General was so disturbed by the case that he directed the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate the case because the boys are, he claimed, “in immediate and irrevocable danger”:
According to public reports, the mother has already begun transitioning the boy by calling him a girl’s name and dressing him in girl’s clothes. She also reportedly intends to administer puberty blockers soon, which can cause chemical castration. When the boy is with the father he acts and dresses like a boy.

The public reports and sworn testimony indicate that the child’s physical and mental health and welfare have been and will continue to be adversely affected…

As a reminder, Texas law defines abuse to include “mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning,” “causing or permitting the child to be in a situation in which the child sustains a mental or emotional injury,” or “failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent an action by another person that results in physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child.”

There’s another dimension to the issue which emerged in cross-examination of Georgulas in court. It turns out that she is not the biological mother of the twins. They were conceived through IVF with Younger’s sperm and donor eggs. Katy Faust, director of the children’s rights organization Them Before Us, commented:

there is very little data on how children of egg donors fare, and what if any impact the genetic disconnect has on the mother-child relationship. Maybe it will be more like a step-parent relationship. Maybe because of the continuous prenatal bond, it will be more like that of a natural mother-child relationship. It will be decades before research will give us the answer.

But when I see headlines about a woman pushing her prepubescent son to undergo experimental and risky “treatments,” I wonder if her biological disconnect has anything to do with it. To be clear, most non-biological parents do not wish their children harm. Most are doing the best they can in less-than-ideal situations. But James’s non-biological parent’s willingness to risk her child’s long-term health for what is likely a temporary emotional struggle contrasts sharply with his biological parent’s desire to protect him from harm.

This tangled case of divorce, IVF, donor eggs, and child transgender transition is incredibly messy. More is sure to come.

This article by Michael Cook was originally published on BioEdge.org under a Creative Commons Licence. If you enjoyed this article, visit BioEdge.org for more. Link to article>>