“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,” said Logan Odeneal, the lawyer for Jeff Younger, in his concluding remarks to the jury in a drawn-out custody battle.
For the past week, jurors have been sitting through a family court trial between Younger and Anne Georgulas, who argued over whether their seven-year-old son, James, has gender dysphoria, and if so, whether they should show their parental love to him by taking an approach of “affirmation” or one of “watchful waiting.”
Today, the jury decided to give sole managing conservatorship of the parents’ two twin sons to Georgulas, a pediatrician, who contended that James is transgender and should be affirmed by allowing him to wear dresses and taking him to school as a girl named “Luna.”
Younger had contended that James is not transgender and is happy being a boy, and that a “social transition” or subsequent “medical transition” would not be in his best interest.
The mother filed a request with the court to modify their joint managing conservatorship by requiring Jeff to follow the recommendations of the therapists to “affirm” James by calling him by the name “Luna.”
The father responded to the request with his own: to become the sole managing conservator over James and his twin brother Jude.
Gerogulas’s witnesses in the trial were mostly therapists or counselors who said that James told them that he was a girl and wanted to be called “Luna.”
Younger’s witnesses in the trial, while not having met James, were medical professionals who pointed out the dangers of a “social transition” and the “medical transition” it usually leads to.
The latter transition includes puberty suppression, administration of cross-sex hormones, and ultimately surgical removal of reproductive organs.
At the end of the hearing, the jury was given the charge to answer one or two questions on the basis of what is in the best interest of the children in the case — James and Jude.
First, did they think that the current joint managing conservatorship should change to a sole managing conservatorship?
Second — if they said “yes” to the first question — did they think Younger should be the sole managing conservator?
Naturally, in their closing remarks, the lawyers for both parties argued for the positions they had maintained since the beginning. Georgulas wanted the revised joint custody agreement and Younger wanted to be made sole conservator.
A third amicus attorney, appointed by the court to give a more neutral perspective, asked the judge and jury for a different outcome.
Contending that both parents loved James, as acknowledged by everyone who interviewed both Younger and Georgulas, he asked the jury to choose for the parents to remain joint managing conservators, and leave the rights and duties of that custody agreement for the judge to rule on in a way that would address the concerns of the father.
Ultimately, the jury of Texans decided to say “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second — effectively making Georgulas the sole managing conservator.
The judge is expected to make a final verdict on the details of the new arrangement of the conservatorship on Wednesday.
Benjamin Albritton, who compiled a report for the court on the case, had advocated for the “affirmation” approach, but recommended the court to prohibit Georgulas from initiating a medical transition without approval from Younger.
In the verdict on Thursday, the judge could include Albritton’s recommendation and maintain an arrangement similar to the current one.
Younger could appeal the jury’s decision, but it would be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor that might take a year. By that time, Younger is concerned that James could begin puberty — and begin being treated with puberty blockers.
Update: This piece has been updated to reflect that the verdict has been moved to Thursday instead of today. The time change was made after publication.
Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. While recently finishing his degree in Political Science from Azusa Pacific University, he also interned in the U.S. Senate and co-authored a book on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy. In his spare time, he might be reading up on Dostoevsky or attempting to write a novel.