One Family's Custody Battle Is Fueling A National Debate About Transgender Rights

Nov 13, 2019

From Texas Standard:

Many Texas political watchers would agree that the 2019 legislative session was surprisingly tame. Legislation about divisive social issues – especially about bathroom access for transgender people, which dominated the session in 2017 – seemed to be a thing of the past. But recently, a custody case in Texas involving a 7-year-old child whose mother identifies the child as transgender has divided some along political lines.

Katelyn Burns, a freelance journalist who is transgender, reported about the family’s case for Vox. She says the child’s parents disagree about how to identify the child. But their case has sparked a wider debate about transgender rights. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and President Donald Trump both weighed in.

Cruz wrote a particularly pointed tweet, claiming the child would undergo medical treatment as part of a gender transition and likened it to child abuse.

But Burns says Cruz’s claim was inaccurate. She says the soonest the child could use any medical intervention would be after the start of puberty.

“There’s absolutely no need for any medical interventions for a 7-year-old,” Burns says. “At that point, transition is just a difference of hair, name, pronoun and maybe how they dress.”

Misinformation has spread since the case first became public, and Burns says conservative groups are partly responsible for that.

“The right wing of the political system loves to use trans people as a wedge issue,” Burns says. “I think they’ve seized upon this case.”

That didn’t happen by accident. Burns says the child’s father, Jeff Younger, ran a social media campaign to draw attention to his family’s case, and raised over $130,000 through that initiative.

“I think we’re in just a really interesting cultural moment where every little thing that can be used to attack the trans community gets blown up all over national news,” she says.

Misinformation about transgender people can have real consequences, Burns says. She says some Texas legislators have suggested they’d like to propose a ban on medical treatments for any transgender person under 18 trying to transition.

“And we’re starting to see that spread to other states as well,” she says.

Written by Caroline Covington.