If you happen to follow any of Texas' Republican leadership on Twitter — and God bless you if you do — you've likely encountered the state GOP's latest cause célèbre: a child-custody dispute in Dallas County between a mom who says that one of her two 7-year-old twins is a trans girl and a dad who insists that the child chooses to dress and live as a boy when they're at the father's house.
A family court jury in the case initially awarded sole custody to the child's mother, Anne Georgulas, in late October before a state district judge overruled their decision and gave Georgulas and the child's father, Jeffrey Younger, joint custody, including joint responsibility over medical decisions affecting the child.
In the wake of the judge and jury's decisions, conservative media outlets like the Washington Examiner, The Texan and The Daily Wire pounced on the story, suggesting that Georgulas' and Younger's child might be "chemically castrated" or "mutilated" if left in Georgulas' care.
Politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott hopped on the bandwagon.
This is horrifying & tragic. For a parent to subject such a young child to life-altering hormone blockers to medically transition their sex is nothing less than child abuse.https://t.co/sl8VcBgfTD via @nypost— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) October 24, 2019
Comments like Cruz's are representative of the backlash against Georgulas. They're also screaming to be corrected.
Georgulas does not, as her representatives are careful to point out, intend to have her child placed on hormone blockers. Seven-year-olds don't go on hormone blockers, because they don't have sex hormones to block — unless they're going through premature puberty, a condition for which doctors commonly prescribe hormone blockers.
"There are no medical interventions for prepubescent gender diverse children. The only thing to do at this stage is love and support your child," Dr. Jack Turban, resident physician in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he researches the mental health of transgender youth, told the Observer via email.
Even for pubescent kids who do take hormone blockers, the drugs' effects can hardly be described as a medical transition. The drugs have been used for decades, according to Turban, and are safe.
"The risks associated with dysphoria toward puberty are typically much higher," he says.
If a kid elects to go off the blockers, they simply go through puberty.
"The only significant side effect is that the adolescent may fall behind on bone density. For this reason, doctors will regularly check bone density while the patient is on the medication," Turban wrote in an article published by Vox in October 2018. "If the medication is stopped, bone density catches up to normal after a few years as the child goes through the puberty of their gender assigned at birth."
Sex hormones — if they are administered to teenagers at all — are rarely started before a patient is 16, Turban says.
"Endocrine Society guidelines recommend age 16. In some instances where the gender history is very clear, estrogen or testosterone may be started as early as age 14," Turban says.
The only irreversible effects of sex hormone therapy, for teenagers or anyone else, are cosmetic changes like body fat redistribution and changes in body hair, Turban says.
"The greatest predictor of these kids doing well is when their parents love and accept them. Support your child and do not try to change them," Turban says. "If your child has questions about gender-affirming medical interventions, take them to a doctor who is knowledgeable about these options. Do not rely on information online, as much of it is misinformation."
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