Writing in Vox, Katelyn Burns’ piece about Luna Younger demonstrates why media outlets should have trans people covering trans issues: unlike pretty much every piece about the poor kid I’ve read so far, it eschews ill-informed scaremongering.
If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s about a horrible battle in the US between two estranged parents over their 7-year-old child after the mum took out a restraining order against the father. The child has been consistent about her gender identity since she was three, and her mum has let her present as she wishes – as a girl. Her dad disagrees vehemently, and has taken to the courts and to the right-wing media, culminating in a judge’s decision to overrule the jury that granted the mother sole custody. It has become a cause celebre among US conservatives, with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz suggesting that letting Luna be herself is “child abuse”.
As Burns notes:
The case has hit a boiling point where lives feel threatened and trans families inside and outside of Texas feel unsafe — all over whether a child should be allowed to wear a dress and be called “she” and “her.”
Much of the reporting over the Younger case has claimed that her mother, Anne Georgulas, wants to “chemically castrate” her and force her into medical transition because “she wants a girl”. But as Burns points out, Georgulas already has daughters from a previous relationship; and at age 7 there is no medical involvement whatsoever. Social transition for this kid is wearing her hair long and donning the odd frock, things that are completely superficial and reversible (albeit important to the child).
Burns’ report paints a very different picture than the right-wing press, which has gone with the father’s side of the story and portrayed him as a saint battling political correctness and “gender ideology” gone mad. The court documents are considerably less favourable, suggesting a serial liar whose main concern is how to make money from demonising his estranged partner and bullying one of his children.
According to court documents of the annulment of his and Georgulas’s marriage, the court found that Younger lied about multiple aspects of his life: his career, his previous marriages, his income, his education, and even his military service. It was enough for a Texas court to annul their six-year marriage because it was entered into under fraudulent terms.
Judge Cooks also called out Younger for profiting off a violation of his family’s privacy. “The father finds comfort in public controversy and attention surrounded by his use of unfounded facts and is thus motivated by financial gain of approximately $139,000 which he has received at the cost of the protection and privacy of his children,” she wrote in her judgment, referring to a crowdfunding and merchandising scheme launched last year by Younger.
Even conservative pundit Glenn Beck expressed concern over Younger’s past. On his radio show, he read the court’s findings of fact showing that Younger acted aggressively toward Georgulas’s older daughters, withholding their possessions, locking them in their rooms, and forcing them to do “plank push-ups” until they agreed to follow house rules.
That aggressiveness was also directed at Luna
There are of course two sides to every story, but the picture that emerges from the court documents hardly makes it sound like a case of fatherly love denied.
The child’s father wasn’t particularly keen to exercise his custody rights, refuses to accept the recommendations of any of the professionals involved in his daughter’s care, does not attend appointments or seek the second opinions he claims to want, and treats his daughter in an aggressive and arguably malicious way: where her twin brother’s hair is left long, her father deliberately shaves her head.
Luna’s hair figures so prominently in this case because at age 7, hair is often the only differentiating physical indicator of a child’s gender. Clothed, boys’ and girls’ bodies at that age are essentially the same, having not yet undergone any effects from puberty. A trans child at age 7 does not make permanent changes to their body, despite what Younger claims Georgulas wants to do.
Ultimately, the dispute at this current stage — and several years into the future — is over Luna’s social transition: how she wears her hair, what clothes she wears, her name, and pronouns.
Luna is not taking any medication, let alone undergoing any surgical intervention. Her care is in accordance with international best practice. Those details are missing from almost all of the reporting.
But then, the reporting isn’t concerned about the welfare of the child. The people who scream “think of the children!” rarely do.